It takes a lot of balls to cover a song that’s already been a hit for another artist.
A lot of times it just doesn’t work as well as the original. Sorry Mark Chesnutt, but I’m going to leave “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” to Aerosmith. On the other hand, sometimes both versions become huge hits. One in particular comes to mind where I just wish they would stop playing both versions… “Wagon Wheel,” for the love of God, stop playing “Wagon Wheel.”
But sometimes, the cover clearly stands out above the original. And here are eight that do that just:
“Hurt” – Johnny Cash
Maybe the greatest cover of all time. When Johnny Cash recorded this Nine Inch Nails song, even lead singer Trent Reznor said “that song isn’t mine anymore.”
“Summertime Blues” – Alan Jackson
“Summertime Blues” was originally recorded by Eddie Cochran back in 1958, and has since been covered by everybody from the Beach Boys to The Who. But it’s Alan Jackson who will be remembered for his version of this song.
“Ol’ Red” – Blake Shelton
Originally recorded by George Jones near the end of his career, and later covered by Kenny Rogers, Blake Shelton took “Ol’ Red” and made it his signature song – even naming his chain of bars after the song. Let’s be honest – can anybody really see Kenny Rogers on a prison farm in Georgia?
“Amarillo Sky” – Jason Aldean
This song was written and recorded by John Rich of Big & Rich back in 2001, and covered by McBride & the Ride for their album, Amarillo Sky in 2002 – but once Jason Aldean released the song as his third single back in 2006, he managed to take the song to heights that neither of the previous versions were ever able to reach. And in my opinion, it’s still one of Aldean’s best songs.
“The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” – Reba McEntire
This song was a big success for Vicki Lawrence (yes, the same Vicki Lawrence from “Mama’s Family”) when it went to number 1 back in 1973. Unfortunately for Lawrence, her version was destined to become overshadowed when Reba released the song in 1991. Sorry, Mama.
“Callin’ Baton Rouge” – Garth Brooks
I’m a huge Oak Ridge Boys fan. I mean, who doesn’t love “Elvira?” (Giddy up oom papa mow mow). But Garth’s version of “Callin’ Baton Rouge” – man, that song just gets me pumped up. The song has also been covered by New Grass Revival, but “Callin’ Baton Rouge” will forever belong to Garth.
“My Maria” – Brooks & Dunn
The original version of this song, released in 1973 by B.W. Stevenson, actually made it into the top 10 of the pop charts, no matter what, there’s no denying that “My Maria” was one of the biggest hits of the Hall of Fame duo’s career.
“Tennessee Whiskey” – Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton is like a cheat code in country music right now. With a voice like his, any song that he sings is probably going to be better than the original. Just listen to his covers of The Charlie Daniels Band’s “Was it 26,” “Either Way,” which he wrote, but was originally recorded by Lee Ann Womack, and of course, his cover of David Alan Coe and George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey.”
Once Chris Stapleton decides to cover a song, it’s not even a fair fight anymore.