TOP 10 ROCK COVERS
1. DENZEL CURRY, “BULLS ON PARADE”
In February of 2019, Denzel Curry broke the internet with his cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.” Not only did Curry nail the rap, he delivered just the right amount of energy and aggression on the chorus, making this one of my all time favorite recent rock covers. Curry is known for his energetic performances and spent 2019 opening for Billie Eilish and lighting up festival stages across the world. In addition to his impressive performance on this track, he also added an original verse. With Rage Against the Machine’s recent festival announcements (assuming they still happen- @coronavirus), I’ve got my fingers crossed that Curry might pop out during “Bulls on Parade.”
2. TRAVIS, “BABY ONE MORE TIME”
If you’ve ever thought “wow I wish “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears was dark and melancholy,” Travis has got you covered (haha see what I did there). Just a few months after the original release, the Scottish rockers delivered one of the first covers of this iconic song. Travis’ version is stripped back, featuring only vocals and guitar. Lead vocalist Fran Healy hits all the high notes by skillfully switching between a belt and his higher register.
3. MARILYN MANSON, “SWEET DREAMS”
If you were curious about the scariest music video ever made (according to Billboard), this is it. Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Sweet Dreams” launched the industrial rock band’s career. Allegedly, vocalist (of the same name) Manson fought the band’s label to release this track. They won the battle and the cover became their first hit. Opting for harder guitars and haunting, demonic vocals, this already eerie song only gets darker.
4. WEEZER, “EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD”
With a nod to the original arrangement while still maintaining their sound, Weezer’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” satisfies fans of their own, as well as fans of Tears for Fear. Released in 2019, the band brought this awesome song back into the spotlight. They even performed it live with Tears for Fears at Coachella and on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
5. JOE COCKER, “WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS”
Ah yes, every dad’s favorite. Originally by The Beatles, “With A Little Help From My Friends” is one of those songs that everyone knows, and while the Joe Cocker version is wildly different, it’s just as popular. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out in 1967 and two years later, Cocker released his debut album with his version of the song as the title track. Cocker’s interpretation is soulful, and the arrangement makes an already great song into a totally different, equally as great song.
6. EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE, “GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE”
You guessed it, another Beatles cover! In 1966, the Beatles released Revolver, featuring “Got To Get You Into My Life.” This song marked one of the first sessions in which the band used a horn section. A great song can stand the test of time, and in 1978 (12 years later), Earth, Wind, and Fire released their rendition of “Got To Get You Into My Life.” It reached number one on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart and number nine on the Hot 100. With it’s immediately identifiable horn intro and driving groove, EWF kick the song up a few notches.
7. PATTI SMITH, “SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT”
Patti Smith might be one of the only artists who can capture the raw grit and emotion of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” She doesn’t try to replicate the song- instead, she makes it completely her own. The best acoustic covers of rock songs are able to accentuate the original songwriter’s skill and Smith strips it back to acoustic instruments. By delivering the lyrics with clear diction, we are able to appreciate the songwriting even more.
8. FIONA APPLE, “ACROSS THE UNIVERSE”
Ok- this is the last of the Beatles covers, I promise! “Across the Universe was written by John Lennon in the late 1960s.The song has been covered by artists including David Bowie and Rufus Wainwright, and in 1998, Fiona Apple. Created for the movie Pleasantville, Apple’s cover is a gentle, but pulsing version of this classic, cosmic ballad. Her voice and matter-of-fact delivery of the lyrics add an element of melancholy. The music video shows Apple being seemingly unbothered by the chaos of the world behind her, which I think is a great description of how the song feels.
9. THE WHITE STRIPES, “ST. JAMES INFIRMARY”
“St. James Infirmary” is one of those songs with some pretty fuzzy origins. It’s one of those standards that lots of musicians claim to have written. We might never know who actually wrote it, but we do know who popularized it. Recorded by artists including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway, the song made its rounds through the blues and jazz worlds. In 1999, The White Stripes released their blues rock version of the standard after hearing it in a Betty Boop cartoon. By hiking up the tempo and changing the instrumentation, the song takes on a new life. The meaning of the lyrics can change too depending on who delivers them. In the sadder sounding versions, it’s possible that the love interest is literally dead, but in the angrier ones, they might be metaphorically dead to the singer.
10. JIMI HENDRIX, “ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER”
Originally written by Bob Dylan, “All Along the Watchtower” has taken many shapes. The song tells a story that is rather open to interpretation, but alludes to someone disenchanted with their circumstances. While the original featured acoustic instruments, harmonica, and vocals, Jimi Hendrix electrified it with his 1968 release Electric Ladyland. Allegedly, Dylan loved Hendrix’s version so much that he feels it is a Jimi Hendrix song and has even been seen performing Hendrix’s arrangement.
There you have it- our favorite rock covers throughout time! Rock isn’t dead and will continue to influence other genres for years and years. We hope that you found something new and/or fell in love with a song again.
Arielle Tindel is a Berklee College of Music student from Cleveland, OH. She will graduate in December with degrees in Music Business Marketing and Songwriting. In her free time, Arielle can be found gardening or playing bass.