5 Song Covers More Popular Than the Original

Remakes are bogus. Nine times out of ten, if word gets out that a classic song is being remade, my eyes roll because I can already chalk it up as being a gigantic letdown. But that’s not always the case. In fact, there are times when the remake can outshine the original. With that in mind, here are five classic songs that only got that distinction after getting a makeover.

5. Killing Me Softly With His Song
: The song was recorded by Roberta Flack, going to number one on the Billboard Pop charts for four weeks and winning three Grammy’s in 1973. Looking back, Flack’s version is pretty well-known, but the Fugees took it nuclear when they re-recorded it in 1996. It was the best-selling single of the year and became the signature hit of a group that seemed to find its stride and fall apart all at the same time.

4. Walk this Way
was a top ten pop hit in 1977 bean town’s finest, Aerosmith. In 1986, producer Rick Rubin suggested an updated version of the song that would be the ideal rap/rock crossover hit for Run DMC’s second album Raising Hell. Run DMC, the reigning Kings of Rock, were hesitant to the idea at first but the tune ultimately solidified their status as raps first mainstream pioneers. And with Joe Perry and Steven Tyler guesting on the track, the collaboration also kick started Aerosmith’s second coming that has been going on for about (checking my watch) the last 25 YEARS.

3. With a Little Help from My Friends is actually the second half of the title track for the epic Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band. Originally the song is sung by Ringo Starr and has been covered quite a bit. But me and my generation know it best as the theme song to an all-timer of a television show known as The Wonder Years. While Ringo’s 1967 stab at the song is sort of a mid-tempo happy little number, Cocker’s take is slow and soulful and feels like it is being belted out from the tips of his intestines.

2. I Will Always Love You was originally recorded in 1973. Dolly Parton released this song three times over a 15 year period, but could only reach number one on the country charts. The song was also covered by Linda Ronstadt, but it wasn’t until Whitney Houston needed a signature single for “The Bodyguard” original soundtrack that the song became what we know it as today. The single sold 15 million copies (you know back when people actually bought music at stores), was number one in the US for a then-record 14 weeks, and tested the lung capacity of many a wannabe diva.

1. Respect.
Do you curse Aretha Franklin for turning this innocent ditty about common human courtesy into a seemingly clichéd female empowerment tune? Well boys, we can thank one of our own for this one. Otis Redding, who gets a pass  based on the hot fire that is “Try A Little Tenderness” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,”  was the original writer and performer of this song in 1965. But then Aretha got her horse powered lungs on it in 1967,  a classic was born.


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  1. […] 5 Song Covers More Popular Than the Original […]

  2. Jeff from Colorado says:

    I'd nominate anything by UB40: "Red Red Wine", "Can't Help Falling in Love" and "I Got You Babe".

  3. Sanji-Kun says:

    I'd say Proud Mary By Credence made popular by Tina Turner

  4. Evan McCarthy says:

    Hmmm I think a lot of people will agree with this.. how's about hendrix's cover all along the watch tower by dylan

  5. dexter says:

    where's "blue suede shoes"?

  6. joey says:

    I would have to go with Bruce Springsteen who wrote and first performed Blinded by the Light, and then had it covered by Manfred Mann.

  7. jeff says:

    elvis presley – hound dog

  8. joey says:

    Bobby McGee easily deserves this nod.

  9. Meg says:

    I would have said "Piece of my Heart" by Janis Joplin – – original by Erma Franklin. Good list though.

  10. brandonG says:

    off the top of my head, i'd say, manfred mann's blinded by the light, a cover of springsteen's tune. Manfred changed the hell out of it to good effect, and I love The Boss. Jackson Browne's take it easy, as covered by The Eagles. Cream's version of Cross roads blues, written by original blues man robert johnson, although this one is debatable if they did it better, but it was certainly more popular.

  11. CT3 says:

    Walk This Way hit number 10 on the Billboard 100 when first released, and the RUN DMC one hit number 5. I'd hardly call it that much more popular.

  12. brandonG says:

    and of course nothing compares 2 u written by prince, killed by sinead. Great tune.

  13. PondScum says:

    Number 4 and 5 are ridiculous examples. First off, "Killing Me Softly With His Song" was originally recorded by Lori Lieberman, so Roberts Flack's version is a cover itself. Her version won three Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Female Performer and it was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. In 1999, Flack's version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The Fugees version only reached number two on the U.S. airplay chart. So it may have been a huge success for the Fugees, I wouldn't say it was more popular than the original.

    "Walk this Way" (Aerosmith version) is a classic. The Run DMC version may have made it higher on the charts, but I seldom, if ever, hear it anymore on the radio. The Aerosmith version is played on all the classic rock stations. The Run DMC cover never reached that status and I never hear it anywhere anymore.

    For a good example that was left out, how about "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band released in 1977. Song was originally done by Bruce Springsteen in 1973 but you don't ever hear his version. The Manfred Mann version is a classic.

  14. Kim Drew says:

    I'd add a few oldies:

    Black Magic Woman – Santana remaking a fine song by the early Fleetwood Mac;

    All Along the Watchtower – Hendrix energizing Bob Dylan;

    Blinded by the Light – Manfred Mann maximally warping Bruce Springsteen's folksy little number; and

    Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Dylan once more rocked up by Guns ‘N’ Roses’

  15. Russ says:

    "Jet Airliner" written and originally recorded by Paul Peña in 1973. Covered by The Steve Miller Band in 1977 and reached #8 on Billboard.

  16. Rob says:

    And let's not forget Sinead's version of Prince's song Nothing Compares 2 U

  17. Dude says:

    Hurt by NIN covered by Johnny Cash

  18. Angelo says:

    How about Kanye West's "Stronger" which is a cover of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk which is a remix of "Cola Bottle Baby" by Edwin Birdsong.

    I think that without such insane riaa-laws we would see a lot more of this. And thats a good thing.

  19. shadow says:

    Definitely Last Kiss by J Frank Wilson and the Cavilers covered by Pearl Jam was huge in the 90s. In fact most people don't realize its a cover.

  20. Qix213 says:

    Wow, no Louie Louie…
    "Louie Louie is an American rock 'n' roll song written by Richard Berry in 1955."

    "A recording by The Kingsmen in 1963 is the best-known version. The Kingsmen's edition was also the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed but non-existent obscenity of the lyrics, an investigation that ended without prosecution.[2] The song is ranked #55 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

    You would think being one of (if not the highest) cover song in the Rolling Stone 500 would qualify as something.

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