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Cover Songs That Beat the Originals

happy mondays Cover Songs That Beat the OriginalsMusic is an incredible art form…can you imagine how monotonous life would be without it? What would a graduation be without “Pomp and Circumstance”? What about a wedding without the “Wedding March”? Songs have impact; this impact often inspires other artists to make their own version of popular songs from the past. Sometimes, the audience gives a negative review of the revision—inspired, no doubt by some fond memory they have of the original. At other times, the cover version makes much bigger waves than the original; sometimes  to the point that everyone forgets who initially sang it.  With all of that in mind, we have compiled a short list of covers that ended up better than the originals.

  • Redemption Song by Bob Marley; revived by Rihanna for the “Hope for Haiti Now” charity campaign. Most of its lyrics were inspired by a speech given by the orator Marcus Garvey. At the time of the song’s writing, Marley had already been diagnosed with cancer. Unlike his usual performance, on this his song, he was singing it with only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment.
  • Mad World by “Tears for Fears”; revived by Gary Jules—this song was the first of the British band’s hits to top the chart on the UK Singles Chart. After 20 years, it was revised by Gary Jules together with Michael Andrews as a soundtrack for the movie “Donnie Darko”. It was recognized as better than the original hit since it sat at the #1 spot in the UK chart and invaded the international charts.
  • Step On by John Kongos; revived by “Happy Mondays”—it was the song first recognized by Guinness Book of Records to be the first to use a sample.  It hit the Top 10 of the UK chart on the same year it was released.  “Step On” (short for “He’s Gonna Step On You Again”) was the title of the cover created by “Happy Monday” when they revised it couple of decades after. The new version incorporated three guitar “sample” from the original. Like its original version, it sent “Happy Mondays” to the top 10 of the UK chart.
  • Always on My Mind by Brenda Lee; revived by “Petshop Boys”— this song was an American country music piece originally recorded by Brenda Lee which won the Song of the Year in 1983. Previously covered by Elvis Presley, John Wesley and Willie Nelson, it was covered yet again in 1987 by the Pet Shop Boys on national television to commemorate the 10th year death anniversary of Elvis Presley. This version introduced harmonic variation to the song. With enough recognition from the audience, the group decided to produce a single of the song, which hit the charts of different countries including the US, UK and Germany.
  • Man Who Sold the World by David Bowie; revived by Nirvana—this was part of the third studio album released in the seventies in the US and UK.  Bowie’s version is recognized as the igniter of a new genre, glam rock. When it was revived by Nirvana two decades after, fans of Bowie’s regularly assumed that he was, in fact, covering a Nirvana song.

The music of yesterday continues to be an inspiration—not just to the listeners, but also to today’s performers; which of today’s popular songs will be covered and re-released in the future…and will they be better than the originals?

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  • About the Author:
    Jeff Bachmeier is owner of, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50’s thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile.

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