Some covers are so good they rival the performances of the original artist. From Billie Eillish to Bob Dylan, we've found so many great performances we had to split it between a couple lists.
1. Mama, You Been on My Mind - Bob Dylan
as performed by Jeff Buckley
As promised in part 1., Bob Dylan makes another appearance, and it won't be his last on this list. The consummate singer-songwriter makes music to be played by regular people sitting around at home and this recording of Jeff Buckley captures that folk essence perfectly.
2. Where Did You Sleep Last Night - Leadbelly
as performed by Nirvana
Speaking of folk music, there aren't many famous musicians who haven't been influenced by the work of Leadbelly. From The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Tom Waites and Frank Sinatra, everyone has heralded his works, but none as famously as this iconic performance by Nirvana during their MTV Unplugged performance.
3. Bad - Michael Jackson
as performed by Billie Eillish
This cover is by no means faithful, but it shines in two ways: First, it shows that in spite of her young age, Billie Eillish is older than her years in her unmistakably well developed sound. Second, it shows off Michael Jackson's supreme talent as a songwriter by slowing down and exposing just how much soul is packed into his work.
4. With a Little Help From My Friends - The Beatles
as performed by Joe Cocker
You can't talk about covers without mentioning the great Joe Cocker. Maybe its his powerful vocals or his insanely talented backing band and singers, but Joe Cocker is never intimidated by any piece of music and this song is no exception. Joe Cocker finished his set at Woodstock with a rousing cover of a song written by the most famous band in the world and made it look easy.
5. Free Fallin' - Tom Petty
as performed by John Mayer
John Mayer is one of the most underrated guitarists alive, but this cover isn't where he displays his chops. Instead, John Mayer gives us a master class in covering an iconic song. He takes Tom Petty's simple chord structure and melody and tweaks it ever so slightly to produce on of the best interpretations music has ever heard.
6. Jolene - Dolly Parton
as performed by The White Stripes
Speaking of musicians who are keeping the blues alive...
Jack White is not a "good" singer but that doesn't stop this from being a phenomenal cover. Jack White takes on this classic tale of heartbreak with pure raw energy that supersedes any vocal chops he might lack and cuts right to the soul of what Dolly Parton was getting at. There's also something very rad about the gender bendy nature of this cover.
7. Jolene - Dolly Parton
as performed by Miley Cyrus
This rendition is the complete antithesis to Jack White's version. Where White goes rock, Miley goes Country. Where White becomes unhinged, Miley exercises complete control. But, despite their total differences, both achieve the same result: raw soulful heartbreak. This is a testament to both performers, but also, to the brilliant writing of Dolly Parton.
8. Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder
as performed by R.H.C.P
This might seem like an unlikely pairing, but you can't have a rhythm section like R.H.C.P without players heavily steeped in Rhythm and Blues and Funk. Kiedis does his thing as always, but Flea and Chad smith really shine here and help to bring a funky feel to this track reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's "classic period" of the 70's.
9. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
as performed by Patti Smith
Haunting. That's the best word to describe this incredible interpretation of the grunge classic. Smith's yodeling vocals, the banjo picking, the deep sparse drum beat, all serve to bring this song from the Seattle grunge scene into Appalachian hill country. Its strange and damp and edgy....Kurt would most definitely approve.
10. Moon River - Henry Mancini (Audrey Hepburn)
as performed by Frank Ocean
This one is best left to speak for itself.
We've got plenty that didn't make the cut...so stay tuned because we may revisit this list.