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Can You Judge a Song By Its Cover?

The radio is always turned on in my car. If nothing good is playing, I’ll pop in a CD. I just want to be listening to music. I drive my husband crazy when I start flipping stations to avoid commercials.

Previously, I posted a list of my favorite “guilty pleasure” songs. Today, I want to talk about covers. Sometimes they’re good; other times… not so much. Some are more popular than the originals. Then there are some songs, like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” that are so great they get covered over and over.

I’m ashamed to admit that I used to think “The Man Who Sold the World” was a Nirvana original. Imagine my surprise when I put in a David Bowie CD and heard it. It’s fun to discover things like that, to hear how different artists interpret the same music and lyrics (or sometimes change the lyrics).

Here is a list of some of my favorite covers. I don’t necessarily like them more than the originals, but I find them to be worthy in their own right. Some bring a very different sound to the piece, often decades later. Share your own favorites in the comments.

Because the Night” – 10,000 Maniacs (originally performed by Patti Smith Group)


“Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede (originally by B.J. Thomas)

“The Man Who Sold the World” – Nirvana (originally by David Bowie)

All Along the Watchtower” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (originally by Bob Dylan)


Hurt” – Johnny Cash (originally by Nine Inch Nails)

The Sound of Silence” – Disturbed (originally by Simon & Garfunkel)


“Hallelujah” – Rufus Wainwright (originally by Leonard Cohen)

I’m a Believer” – Smash Mouth (originally by The Monkees)

Dancing in the Street” – David Bowie and Mick Jagger (originally by Martha and the Vandellas)

So, returning to the question in the title of this post: can you judge a song based on a cover made by another artist? Good songs tend to make good covers, but not always. In my opinion, the original and the cover should be judged as separate pieces. What do you think?


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Megan is a Children’s Library Assistant at CLP – East Liberty. When she isn’t reading fantasy, magical realism and/or pretty much any children’s book, she enjoys gaming, watching movies and writing fiction, some of which has been published.

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