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August 7, 2010 12:15 AM   Subscribe

I like listening to different versions of the same song back to back to back to back to back. What songs have been covered many many times?

I have listened to Mack the Knife at least 100 times this week. I have listened to Hallelujah (originally by Leonard Cohen) at least 30 times today. I am looking forward to December when I can listen to 400 versions of O Holy Night, etc, but I don't need any Christmas suggestions now. Likewise, I know a lot of people have sung a lot of national anthems. My ear isn't trained enough to care how many orchestras have played some Mozart symphony. And let's just get this one out of the way: lots of people have covered the Beatles' Yesterday.

I will probably be happiest with songs that have at least 8 versions. I'll also probably be happiest with songs that I might have been exposed to growing up hearing in the backgrounds of commercials or the radio without paying attention too. But I didn't know Hallelujah before and it's a great song, and great songs get covered a lot.
posted by oreofuchi to Media & Arts (62 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Tainted Love
posted by IvyMike at 12:18 AM on August 7, 2010

Stagger Lee / Stack O' Lee
posted by EL-O-ESS at 12:21 AM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: Ring of Fire
posted by sanka at 12:23 AM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: Sunny. Wikipedia says: ""Sunny" is the name of a song written by Bobby Hebb. It is one of the most covered popular songs, with hundreds of versions released. BMI rates "Sunny" number 25 in its "Top 100 songs of the century"."
posted by oxit at 12:23 AM on August 7, 2010

A lot of Jacques Brel covers here. Amsterdam and If you go away/Ne me quitte pas seem to have been covered by practically everyone.
posted by Sourisnoire at 12:25 AM on August 7, 2010

Old blues songs would be perfect. Boom Boom, Crawling Kingsnake, and the like would fit.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:27 AM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: The Postal Service's Such Great Heights, it's been covered by Iron & Wine, Rilo Kiley, Ben Folds, Amanda Palmer, Streetlight Manifesto, just to name a few. And I'm sure you can find a hundred other webcam covers of this song on youtube done on many different instruments.
posted by querty at 12:27 AM on August 7, 2010

I love doing this with old folk songs. My Zune Pass lets me queue a *hundred* different versions of St. James Infirmary (Blues) - covered by everyone from Louis Armstrong to The White Stripes. Same for House of the Rising Sun, etc.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 12:29 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

This FPP from a few days ago links to a comprehensive list of well known songs that have been covered repeatedly.
posted by cgomez at 12:50 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Love Will Tear Us Apart (and another list with videos).
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:55 AM on August 7, 2010

I haven't looked it up, but I bet "Gloria" has been done more than a few times. Not the Laura Branigan one, the other one.
posted by Gilbert at 1:13 AM on August 7, 2010

Ooh, I have Spotify and this is like 60 percent of what I use it for. Are there similar services for Americans? Anyway, I think you should look up some Burt Bacharach songs - there tend to be a bunch of very listenable versions by famous performers; you're probably somewhat familiar with a lot of them just from growing up; and they are often GREAT. Try:

This Guy/Girl's in Love with You
I Say a Little Prayer
I'll Never Fall in Love Again
Walk on By
Baby It's You
I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself

And some non-Bacharach:

Ain't No Sunshine
Son of a Preacher Man
God Only Knows
Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town
The Tracks of My Tears
Je t'aime... moi non plus (Included because there are so. many. covers out there, even though I find them all rubbish)

There are also interesting covers of a lot of Motown songs (for instance), though not usually as many as eight, just from songs being passed around the stable of singers.

So, those are my recommendations, but I think it will go better for you if you just think of some songs you like, and learn to pick out the ones that cover well. I wasted many hours listening to different versions of one of my favourite songs, the widely-covered Can't Help Falling in Love, before finally realising that it's just not that good a song - even Elvis could only sing it right the one time.

Finally, you could get into standards. Pick your favourites and go to town. You could probably spend the rest of your life listening to different versions of I Can't Get Started if you wanted to. Happy listening!
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:25 AM on August 7, 2010

"All Along the Watchtower": Originally by Dylan, made famous by Hendrix, covered incessantly since.
posted by dhens at 1:26 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Blue Moon. Wiki lists around 60 different covers, including Elvis and Cowboy Junkies.
posted by marsha56 at 1:27 AM on August 7, 2010

An old post from the blue: 46 cover versions of The Girl From Ipanema.
posted by dogsbody at 2:42 AM on August 7, 2010

Hallelujah has been covered a gazillion times from Leonard Cohen to Jeff Buckley to Rufus Wainwright to Kurt Nilsen to Tim Urban of American Idol/Alexandra Burke of X Factor fame.

(If you're looking for covers on YouTube it helps unfortunately to search for the Shrek song.)
posted by ceri richard at 3:12 AM on August 7, 2010

Oh fiddlesticks, I didn't read your last paragraph, you already know of all Hallelujah covers, sorry! (I'm a fellow listen-to-covers-back-to-back fan.)
posted by ceri richard at 3:14 AM on August 7, 2010

I'd be willing to bet there are at least 100 covers of Louie Louie, the Richard Berry classic. Right off the top of my head I know of the (obvious!) Kingsmen version, another by Paul Revere and the Raiders, another by Jimi Hendrix, another by The Sandpipers, another by The Sonics, and if I spent even another 5 minutes I bet I could come up with 5-10 more. If any song deserved to have many, many covers this is that song.
posted by motown missile at 3:42 AM on August 7, 2010

Me and Bobby McGee
Amazing Grace
posted by Eumachia L F at 3:45 AM on August 7, 2010

Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," covered by:

Pearl Jam
John Mayer
Stevie Ray Vaughn
The Corrs
Eric Clapton
Derek and the Dominos
Nigel Kennedy....

it goes on and on.
posted by dzaz at 3:51 AM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: I like covers.

Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin). The Australian programme The Money or the Gun had a different artist cover it each week, so that's about twenty-five versions right there. Wikipedia has a list, of course.

...Baby One More Time and Toxic (Britney Spears). A few years ago, every indy band had an ironic pop cover, and those were two of the most popular. Some of the Toxic covers are excellent songs in their own right; see the Chapman Sisters and Nickel Creek.

I'm on Fire (Bruce Springsteen). Covered by Tori Amos, Heather Nova, Johnny Cash and Tegan & Sara, amongst others.

Landslide (Fleetwood Mac). Covered by Smashing Pumpkins, Dixie Chicks, etc. You might not find eight versions, but the versions that are out there that I've heard are almost uniformly good. The FM song Dreams has also been covered a bunch of times.

Do you know about the Covers Project?
posted by Georgina at 3:55 AM on August 7, 2010

Six Days On the Road
Corinna, Corinna
Rose of San Antone
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:58 AM on August 7, 2010

The Great American Songbook sounds like what you are looking for.
posted by K.P. at 3:59 AM on August 7, 2010

Pink Cadillac
posted by kanewai at 4:30 AM on August 7, 2010

I have a few songs I like to do this with, thanks to this question I'll probably soon have more!

Personal Jesus has been done by Depeche Mode, Marilyn Manson, Johnny Cash & several others including an string quartet version. I really like Pat McDonald's accoustic version. I also enjoy mixing in some pop songs that sample the cover of the day. For this one, Hillary Duff's "Reach Out" is fun.

Ave Maria: I don't think of this as a Christmas song, though I suppose some people might. There are a ton of versions, I like Andrea Bocelli, Christina England and Beyonce.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:53 AM on August 7, 2010

At one point in my life I became borderline obsessed with finding as many covers of The Smith's "How Soon Is Now?" as I could. I think the Snake River Conspiracy version was my favorite. I KNOW the t.A.T.u. version was my least favorite.
posted by Golfhaus at 4:54 AM on August 7, 2010

Dylan covers. Millions of tunes, billions of covers.
posted by Right On Red at 5:09 AM on August 7, 2010

Will the Circle Be UnBroken has... gazillions of versions. As does The Water is Wide. And along with the aforementioned ironic covers, Cry Me a River has several covers as well.
posted by lemniskate at 5:13 AM on August 7, 2010

I'd be willing to bet there are at least 100 covers of Louie Louie, the Richard Berry classic.

Back in the 1980's, I think, there was some beer company that was offering a promotional tie-in -- an album that was nothing but Louie, Louie covers. You may be able to find that somewhere.

I'm pretty sure the song Black Betty has gotten covered more than a few times (just right now I found Meatloaf, a group called Ram Jam, and Tom Jones, and it's a blues standard, so I'm sure others at least have tried it in concerts.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:36 AM on August 7, 2010

Rainbow Connection
God Only Knows
Changes (I can actually only think of the David Bowie and then the Shrek-soundtrack cover by Butterfly Boucher)

Here's a blog that specializes in covers: Cover Lay Down
posted by srah at 5:51 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lefty Frizzell wrote Long Black Veil, which has been covered at least by a hundred bands, I'm sure.
posted by bilabial at 6:02 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Besame Mucho
posted by billtron at 6:06 AM on August 7, 2010

Lou Reed's "Femme Fatale".

original VU version
Duran Duran
Big Star (plus Steve Cropper)
Dramarama god-knows-how-many others
posted by equalpants at 6:22 AM on August 7, 2010

It sounds to me like the very good Coverville podcast was made for you.
posted by artlung at 6:27 AM on August 7, 2010

Seconding Coverville.
posted by Wild_Eep at 6:36 AM on August 7, 2010

Gloomy Sunday (Wikipedia lists around 75 covers). Although given the song's reputation for triggering suicides, listening to 75 versions back-to-back may not be a good idea.
posted by Gortuk at 6:43 AM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: Here's a mixtape I made around 2004 - DJ 6:59 presents Firestarter. Side 1 is all covers of "Light My Fire" by The Doors, mostly jazz and funk and soul but some other oddball versions too - 17 versions in all.

Side 2 is just a straight funk/soul mix. If you play it in iTunes you can see the tracklisting in the "Lyrics" tab of the track's info. Enjoy.
posted by Bobby Bittman at 6:54 AM on August 7, 2010

Prince's fabulous When you were Mine has been covered many times. The Cyndi Lauper version is especially great.
posted by dizziest at 6:56 AM on August 7, 2010

How do you feel about showtunes? Some musicals that have been around for a while have dozens of recordings from casts all over the world and hundreds of singers covering the songs on their solo albums. I once made a "mix tape" of all the available versions of my favorite showtune ballad, and found that it was pretty neat to hear it back-to-back in so many different languages and varied interpretations, so I hear what you're saying.
posted by zerbinetta at 6:57 AM on August 7, 2010

You might like listening to the (very sweet) Irish traditional song The Parting Glass (some "notable" covers listed within the link).
posted by YamwotIam at 6:59 AM on August 7, 2010

Songs with the longest histories often have the most covers. One of my favorites is St. James Infirmary.

I also quite like Waters of March.
posted by artlung at 7:11 AM on August 7, 2010

All of Me
All the Things You Are
Almost Like Being in Love
April in Paris
Autumn in New York
Autumn Leaves
Baby, Won't You Please Come Home
(Back Home in) Indiana
Basin Street Blues
Begin the Beguine
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Blue Moon
Blue Skies
Blues in the Night
Body and Soul
But Not for Me
Bye Bye Blackbird
posted by timeistight at 7:18 AM on August 7, 2010

The Secondhand Songs database has been around for quite a white and is pretty comprehensive. It's also great fun to explore, as you can, for example, start searching for a song like "Bridge over Troubled Waters" and find its 88 cover versions (as well as 7 foreign language versions), then click through to one of the artists (lets say you're curious about the Willie Nelson cover of BOTW), and not only find the details of the recording but also a list of Willie Nelson songs covered by other artists, and covers performed by Willie Nelson.

A lot of the covers are pretty obscure and you probably will have a hard time tracking them down to actually listen to. But it's interesting to know--as yet another example--that AC/DC's Highway to Hell is the band's most popular song for covers, including (predictably) Marilyn Manson, (more intriguingly) Maroon 5, and (completely WTFedly) Tiny Tim and the New Duncan Imperials.
posted by drlith at 7:23 AM on August 7, 2010

C Jam Blues
C.C. Rider
C'est Ci Bon
Cheek to Cheek
Come Rain or Come Shine
Cry Me a River
posted by timeistight at 7:27 AM on August 7, 2010

Dancing in the Dark
Danny Boy (aka Londonderry Air)
The Darktown Strutter's Ball
The Days of Wine and Roses
Do Nothing 'Til You Hear from Me
Don't Explain
Don't Get Around Much Any More
posted by timeistight at 7:38 AM on August 7, 2010

I love to do this. Here are the songs that I have at least ten versions of.

- House Carpenter - a little tougher to find because it's traditional and people randomly cover it more than they put it on albums. Example. Another example.
- Shady Grove - this one is great because it's also traditional but it has both sort of light and dark moods to it depending on the version. Example. Another example.
- St James Infirmary - as Artlung says, here are 100+ versions. If you like that, I'd suggest making a donation and getting the Stagolee collection as well [I have no affiliation, I just love that site and the work that has been put into it]
posted by jessamyn at 8:06 AM on August 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

(to name a few specific songs where I think you can put together an intriguing chain of covers):

Who Do You Love? Originally by Bo Diddley, most famously covered by George Thorogood and the Destroyers, also covered by The Doors, The Band, Townes Van Zandt, Carlos Santana, Hoodoo Gurus, Golden Earring, and the Grateful Dead, among many others.

After the Gold Rush, by Neil Young, covered by The Flaming Lips, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, k.d. lang, Nina, Natalie Merchant

Satisfaction, by the Rolling Stones. Something like 110 covers, including Manfred Man, Aretha Franklin, Devo, The Troggs, Skid Row, Vanilla Ice, the Hampton String Quartet, and Justine Bateman.

You Really Got Me, by The Kinks, covered rather famously by Van Halen, but less famously by Robert Palmer that same year, and at other points in time by Oingo Boingo, Sly and the Family Stone, Iggy Pop, Eve 6, and Mott the Hoople.

Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan, covers include Lester Flat & and Earl Scruggs, Cher, Michael Bolton, Robyn Hitchcock, Drive-By Truckers, Anberlin, and Green Day.
posted by drlith at 8:25 AM on August 7, 2010

One can make a double CD out of Paint it Black covers... There's versions of it in Bollywood, Japanese, Latino, Scream-o, Vampire-esque, Laptop Electronic, Classical, Vegas...
posted by sleslie at 8:41 AM on August 7, 2010

121 versions of St. James Infirmary.
posted by dobbs at 9:45 AM on August 7, 2010

Oh, and if you make a donation to the prewar blues dot org site, you get access to other files, including his stagolee collection.
posted by dobbs at 9:50 AM on August 7, 2010

Tom's Album
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:04 AM on August 7, 2010

Depending on your definition of "song" — here are 79 versions of "Popcorn." Beware, cheese ahead!
posted by hatta at 10:41 AM on August 7, 2010

There are quite a few versions of Sealed With A Kiss.
posted by illenion at 10:47 AM on August 7, 2010

Andrew Oldham Orchestra's version of "The Last One" as ripped off by The Verve in "Bittersweet Symphony" as responded to in Brian Jonestown Massacre's "Bittersweet Irony."

So, you could listen to 311's cover of the Cure's "Lovesong"...but I wouldn't recommend it, ee. And Tori Amos too.

Speaking of, "The Lovecats" was covered by Prince Paul or Handsome Boy Modeling School or someone like that.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart"--Joy Division, the Cure, the Swans, others I am blanking on...

"Ceremony"--New Order of course, Galaxie 500, Xiu Xiu

Xiu Xiu has an EP of covers by the way, called Tu Mi Piaci. I'm partial to "Blueberry Mineshaft" and Bauhaus' "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything."

Cat Power had excellent covers for a long time, ironically not so much on The Covers Album. I like her versions of "Still in Love," "Sea of Love," "Wild is the Wind," "Red Apples," "Bathysphere," what else...
posted by ifjuly at 12:11 PM on August 7, 2010

I collected versions of Besame Mucho for a while when Napster first came out. I was well over 150 before I lost interest.
posted by bink at 12:41 PM on August 7, 2010

Feeling Good -- originally from a rather odd little '60s musical, but mostly associated with Nina Simone (whose version is awesome and from whom most of the other covers take their cue). Wikipedia lists nearly 40 different covers of the song.

(And it really does make me feel good!)
posted by alyxstarr at 1:31 PM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

A really good one to do is Take Me To The River. I made a cd once for someone with many different covers of this, and it was awesome...
posted by markjamesmurphy at 2:15 PM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: Wiiiise mennn sayyyy, only foooools ruuush innn
but I
fallling in loooove wiiiith yoooou

I think everyone ever has covered that song. My favorite is by Lick The Tins.

And loads of people have covered Ballroom Blitz. My favorite is by the Surf Punks. Here, oddly, is their version behind a James Cagney montage on Youtube
posted by Askr at 2:55 PM on August 7, 2010

I know there's at least two covers of Chaz Jankel's Ai No Corrida. I suspect that if there's anymore, most of them are European, aside from the 1981 hit version by Quincy Jones.
posted by droplet at 4:28 PM on August 7, 2010

Off the top of my head I know that I've heard a bunch of covers of Two different Beatles songs "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" (though most that I've found are low quality live recordings) and "With a Little Help From My Friends". The Who's "My Generation" has also been covered by just about everyone.
posted by VTX at 8:10 PM on August 7, 2010

Best answer: I had to go back and search for this thread when I found this website where this guy shows off his collection of 965 versions of A Whiter Shade of Pale.
posted by cali59 at 10:43 AM on August 9, 2010

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