Tainted Love, Hallelujah and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: 10 covers that you probably know better than the originals

Tainted Love, Hallelujah and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: 10 covers that you probably know better than the originals


How many times in your life have you found yourself listening to a song that you think you know inside out, only to discover that that’s not even the original version? We’re guessing at least once; indeed, it happens to us all. Most commonly when it’s a cover of a cover. Here are ten iconic songs that gained more popularity as a cover than as an original…

Johnny Cash at Glastonbury 1994 / Photo Credit: Empics Entertainment/PA ImagesJohnny Cash at Glastonbury 1994 / Photo Credit: Empics Entertainment/PA Images

Tainted Love – Soft Cell
Original: Gloria Jones
Other notable covers: Marilyn Manson

There has to be a lot of people out there who are still unaware that Tainted Love, from the album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, is not in fact a Soft Cell original. The new wave duo took a liking to a 60s Northern soul number originally recorded by Gloria Jones, and their cover became their first and only number one hit, propelling them to international stardom. It still remains an iconic 80s floorfiller.

Hurt – Johnny Cash
Original: Nine Inch Nails
Other notable covers: Mumford & Sons

It sounds like the most unusual pairing of all; an industrial rock number being re-recorded by a country legend; but the Man in Black has always had something of an edge to him. This rendition of the Grammy nominated song from Nine Inch Nails’ 1994 second album The Downward Spiral came in 2002, as one of Johnny Cash’s final big hits before his death. It featured on his iconic album American IV: The Man Comes Around, along with a number of other extraordinary covers.

All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
Original: Bob Dylan
Other notable covers: Devlin ft. Ed Sheeran, Neil Young, U2

Probably one of the most famous things about this track is Hendrix’s distinctive guitar riff, which renders the 1967 Bob Dylan original pretty unrecognisable as the same song. It has to be said, the guitarist’s rendition from his Electric Ladyland album in 1968 is a hundred times better than Dylan’s, and no-one’s matched it since.

I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Original: The Arrows 
Other notable covers: Britney Spears

Undoubtedly the most recognisable song from Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ back catalogue, the song topped charts for seven weeks in 1982 – gaining a great deal more popularity than The Arrows’ 1975 version. In fact, you’re unlikely to hear many singing along with the original pronouns, especially with the popularity of Britney Spears’ 2001 cover for the movie Crossroads.

Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
Original: Leonard Cohen
Other notable covers: John Cale, Rufus Wainwright, Alexandra Burke 

While it’s probably fairly common knowledge that Leonard Cohen was the original maestro behind this soaring ballad, most of us are probably more familiar with the alternative final two verses written by John Cale, which added a slightly more secular edge to the track. Jeff Buckley’s rendition of John Cale’s re-write is still probably the most popular version out there, but Rufus Wainwright brought it back for the iconic Shrek soundtrack in 2001, and Alexandra Burke made Christmas number one with the song in 2008 following her X Factor win.

Respect – Aretha Franklin
Original: Otis Redding 
Other notable covers: Diana Ross & the Supremes with the Temptations

This is a huge feminist anthem and signature song from the iconic Aretha Franklin, but as powerful as it is, it was originally recorded by Otis Redding as a plea for respect from his woman. Aretha’s version includes the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” chorus and the “Sock it to me…” refrain, which is arguably what makes it such an infectious tune.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Original: Robert Hazard
Other notable covers: Emilie Autumn

Cyndi Lauper slightly altered the lyrics to the original and it has to be said that it’s much more effective sang from a woman’s point of view than a man’s. Cyndi’s version came in 1983, just four years after Robert Hazard dropped the track, as her first major single release and it’s still probably the track she’s associated with most, next to True Colors and Time After Time.

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
Original: Dolly Parton
Other notable covers: Sarah Washington, Kristin Chenoweth with Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers

Dolly released this country track in 1974 as an ode to her former partner and mentor Porter Wagoner, but the melisma-filled rendition performed by Whitney Houston for 1992’s The Bodyguard is on a completely different level. Both are tear-jerkers, but it’s easy to see why the latter is one of the best-selling singles of all time. It even holds the record for the best-selling single by a woman ever in music history.

Valerie – Mark Ronson ft. Amy Winehouse
Original: The Zutons
Other notable covers: Panic! at the Disco

Valerie is probably the only song we’ll ever remember from ’00s indie rockers The Zutons, and that’s by and large because Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse teamed up for a cover a year later in 2007 which ended up reaching number 2 in the UK charts. Musically they’re very similar, but Amy’s rich soul vocals added a depth that could be matched by few artists in her short career.

The Tide Is High – Blondie
Original: The Paragons
Other notable covers: Atomic Kitten 

Some of us are of a time where the Atomic Kitten version of The Tide Is High (which topped the charts in 2002) will always stand out more in our minds, but for many others it’s Blondie who had the most historic version in 1980. It certainly kept the charm and personality of the original 1967 reggae version by The Paragons and is certainly harder to get tired of than Atomic Kitten’s version. 





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