Cover me
December 12, 2013 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I want a definitive list of hit songs that were covers or written by other artists. More specifics inside.

I recently read this article on the A.V. Club about songwriters who wrote hits for other artists. In the comments section people are adding more that I didn't know about -- for example, Dan Wilson of Semisonic cowrote "Someone Like You," and Barry Gibb wrote "Islands in the Stream."

I've found a few "Top 10"-type lists with examples like "Blinded by the Light" (Springsteen), and "Nothing Compares 2 U" (Prince) -- but those are kind of old news to me. I want more examples, and more obscure ones!

This is the type of thing I'd usually count on Wikipedia to provide, but there isn't a list page I can find for what I'm asking. Is there a truly comprehensive list out there somewhere?
posted by overeducated_alligator to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, there is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 AM on December 12, 2013

Clarification questions: how far back? Genera limitations? Because... well it's been going on for a hell of a long time, I suspect a truly comprehensive list would be massive, so kindly ask for some limiting factors
posted by edgeways at 8:58 AM on December 12, 2013

Response by poster: Just to clarify -- I'm not looking for a list of all covers that ever were. Rather, I'm curious about songs that were big hits, but which happened to have been written by other artists who had recording careers of their own.

So, pop songs by someone like Max Martin or Dianne Warren don't count, because they're pretty much strictly behind-the-scenes songwriters; but a hit song by Linda Perry ("Get the Party Started") counts, because she's famous for her own band as well as the songs she writes for others.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:06 AM on December 12, 2013

Blowing in the Wind, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary, written by Bob Dylan.

Same for Leaving on a Jet Plane, written by John Denver.
posted by Melismata at 9:09 AM on December 12, 2013

You're looking for "songs you didn't know were covers." I always find these super interesting, and I don't think I've ever seen a huge, all-encompassing database, but it's a pretty common listicle topic so there's a lot out there to sift through if you're interested.

You didn't ask, but my favorites are Respect (Aretha Franklin/Otis Redding) and Crazy (Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson). They both just seem to be so iconic to the women who sing them, but nope.
posted by phunniemee at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2013

Yeah two Janis Joplin songs are like that: Piece of My Heart (Erma Franklin) and Me and Bobby McGee (I think the first major recording was not Janis or Kristofferson but Roger Miller)
posted by pete_22 at 9:14 AM on December 12, 2013

Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" was written by R. Kelly.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:15 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

But to clarify further, it sounds like what you're really looking for is someone who's already a successful performer, they write a song that's a hit for someone else, but they either don't record it themselves or their own recording isn't a hit?

So in other words, not just someone who was successful first as a songwriter and then as a performer (i.e. Carole King) and not a big star covering a less well-known artist's song (like Bruce Springsteen with Tom Waits' Jersey Girl) but something where the writer is actually equally or more famous than the performer associated with the song?
posted by pete_22 at 9:18 AM on December 12, 2013

Garth Brooks' hit "Shameless" was written by Billy Joel.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:19 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Coincidentally I was humming "Blinded by the Light" this morning (which as you note was written by Bruce Springsteen). Relately, Springsteen also wrote, "Fire," which the Pointer Sisters made into a hit (and which I understand Springsteen originally wanted Elvis Presley to record).

Jimi Hendrix made a hit out of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."

Todd Rundgren wrote "Love Is the Answer," which was a hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley, as well as "Can We Still Be Friends," which Robert Palmer had something of a hit with as well.
posted by aught at 9:20 AM on December 12, 2013

Oh, also, Talking Heads had a hit version of Al Green's "Take Me to the River."
posted by aught at 9:24 AM on December 12, 2013

These were written by Bruce Springsteen and became hits by other artists:

Fire - The Pointer Sisters
Because the Night - Patti Smith (co-writer), 10,000 Maniacs
Blinded By The Light - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Spirits in the Night - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Mansion on the Hill - Emmylou Harris
The Price You Pay - Emmylou Harris
Racing in the Streets - Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin
The Ghost of Tom Joad - Rage Against the Machine
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:24 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tainted Love by Soft Cell was written by Ed Cobb for Gloria Jones.

Always Something There to Remind Me by Naked Eyes was written by Burt Bacharach and Bert David and originally performed by Dionne Warwick.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:25 AM on December 12, 2013

Neil Diamond wrote several songs covered by The Monkees, including I'm A Believer. UB40's cover of Red Red Wine was also more successful than Neil Diamond's original.
posted by payoto at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lake of Fire and Oh Me are written and originally performed by the Meat Puppets, but often attributed to the Nirvana cover/collaboration.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:30 AM on December 12, 2013

Ooh, I love these types of songs! Off the top of my head:

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston was written by Dolly Parton
Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis was written by Ryan Tedder (One Republic) and Jesse McCartney

I'll be back with more.
posted by yawper at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Crazy Little Thing Called Love was a huge hit for Bonnie Raitt & was written by John Hiatt.
Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower was much more successful than the Bob Dylan original.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:45 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rod Stewart had way more mainstream success with "Downtown Train" than Tom Waits, who wrote and originally recorded it, has ever had. Sadly.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kris Kristofferson wrote Me and Bobby McGee, which, though originally recorded by Roger Miller, was made hugely famous by Janis Joplin.

Kristofferson has written many hits by other artists.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:01 AM on December 12, 2013

Crazy by Patsy Cline was written by Willie Nelson
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:11 AM on December 12, 2013

Three Dog Night "One" Written by Harry Nilssn.

Harry Nilsson - Everybody's Talkin' Written by Fred Neil

Madonna - Don't Tell Me Written by Joe Henry (as 'stop' much better)
posted by edgeways at 10:18 AM on December 12, 2013

The Rolling Stones second UK single (1963) was written by Lennon-McCartney: I Wanna Be Your Man
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everyone knows this, but just in case, "I Will Always Love You" was originally a Dolly Parton song.

"Natural Woman" was written and performed by Carole King. Aretha Franklin's version is way better known. I actually prefer the original...
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:29 AM on December 12, 2013

Pedantically, "covers" are songs re-done by someone else, not original recordings written by someone other than the recording musicians.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:29 AM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Dance With My Father by Luther Vandross and This I Promise You by N Sync were both written by Richard Marx.

Irreplaceable by Beyonce and Unfaithful by Rihanna were written by Ne-yo.

Halo by Beyonce and Already Gone by Kelly Clarkson were written by Ryan Tedder.
posted by yawper at 10:30 AM on December 12, 2013

And on his last (great!) album by Solomon Burke (produced by Joe Henry), which won the Grammy has a bunch of good covers: Don't Give Up on Me.

Waits, has, of course been covered many many times:
Tori Amos
St. Vincent
Neko Case
Violent Femmes
Johnny Cash
Diana Krall
Steve Earle
Peter Gabriel
The Ramones
blind boys of alabama
Shawn Colvin

posted by edgeways at 10:31 AM on December 12, 2013

Johnny Cash did an incredibly cover of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails

Also, clearly I'm confused. Do you want COVERS (which are old songs rerecorded and released by another artist), or do you want songs that were written by someone other than the artist? They are different things. And if you are looking for songs written by someone other than the artist, are you looking for the original writer to be an establish singer/performer? I mean, geeze, most songs out these days are probably not written by the people that are singing them.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:34 AM on December 12, 2013

Oh yeah, Neko Case's cover of Harry Nilsson's Don't Forget Me is just stunning.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:36 AM on December 12, 2013

Florence + the Machine's cover of You Got the Love is far better known than Candi Staton's original.
posted by Urtylug at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2013

Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want To Talk About It" was a cover of a tune off the first Crazy Horse album. Relatedly, Neil Young's "Lotta Love" was a hit for Nicollette Larson.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:53 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Twist and Shout was made famous by The Beatles and The Isley Brothers, and covered by everyone from Salt-n-Pepa to Bon Jovi. The song was originally released as "Shake It Up Baby" by The Top Notes. The original was a flop.

Hound Dog was made famous by Elvis Presley. The song was originally released by Big Mama Thorton, and did mildly well as Blues song in the 1950s, but was largely unknown to most people until Elvis re-recorded it.
posted by Flood at 11:00 AM on December 12, 2013

John Hiatt also wrote "Angel Eyes," which was a hit for The Jeff Healy Band in the late eighties. Hiatt didn't release a recording of it until his Live At Budokan album, which was in 94 or so. The Healy version is best known.
posted by PussKillian at 11:25 AM on December 12, 2013

Rick Springfield covered Sammy Hagar's "I've Done Everything for You", and had a bigger hit with it.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:55 PM on December 12, 2013

Bleeding Love was written by Jesse McCartney and Ryan Tedder for his own album but the label didn't believe in it at all so they sold the song to Leona Lewis which obviously became a big hit.
posted by thischarmingirl at 1:07 PM on December 12, 2013

Devils Rancher: "Crazy Little Thing Called Love was a huge hit for Bonnie Raitt & was written by John Hiatt."

Passionate Kisses - written and originally recorded by Lucinda Williams; later a huge hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Mama Told Me Not To Come", written by Randy Newman (for Eric Burdon) but a hit for Three Dog Night.
posted by nicwolff at 4:38 PM on December 12, 2013

Cathy Dennis (who was a singer in her own right, not sure how well known she is outside Britain) wrote "Toxic" (Britney), "Can't Get You Out of My Head" (Kylie) and co-wrote "I Kissed A Girl" (Katy Perry).
posted by billiebee at 5:06 PM on December 12, 2013

Van Morrison wrote and recorded "Have I Told You Lately", which was covered by Rod Stewart.
posted by HeyAllie at 5:44 PM on December 12, 2013

Oh come on, if this is just merely a list of someone singing something written by someone other than the singer, then the list would be not quite be longer than infinity, but (almost) as long as a list of all of the songs ever sung.

(which actually, would make an interesting thread/list in itself, and also maybe win an award for one of the longer lists of all time).

I am interpreting this question as songs written by a songwriter specifically for one special performer in mind, and kind of dedicated to them, loosely speaking. It's an interesting question.
posted by ovvl at 6:01 PM on December 12, 2013

Emotion by Samantha Sang was written by the brothers Gibb.

Ginger Rodgers said that George Gershwin wrote Embraceable You for her, but I'm not sure about that.
posted by ovvl at 6:09 PM on December 12, 2013

More Nilsson: Without You was written by a couple members of Badfinger.

More Gibb's: I was surprised to discover How Can You Mend a Broken Heart was written by the Bee Gees. The Al Green version just rules.

(I interpret the question to be covers that completely supersede the originals, even if written and performed by highly accomplished artists in their own right.)
posted by Bron at 6:58 PM on December 12, 2013

"Red Rubber Ball" was written by Paul Simon and became a hit as sung by Cyrkle.
posted by melesana at 8:54 PM on December 12, 2013

Iron & Wine wrote "Waitin For Superman", for The Flaming Lips, which he then did a cover of.
posted by hellojed at 12:19 AM on December 13, 2013

Dave Grohl just wrote a song for Joan Jett called "Any Weather."

Here is a list of songs Prince wrote for other artists.

Billy Corgan wrote much of Hole's "Celebrity Skin." You can hear Billy's signature all over this song.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 12:50 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lennon-McCartney gave a number of hits to other people: 'World Without Love' to Peter & Gordon, 'Goodbye' to Mary Hopkin, 'Step Inside Love' to Cilla Black, 'I Wanna Be Your Man' to the Rolling Stones.
posted by andraste at 4:17 AM on December 13, 2013

This is common enough that it wouldn't fill up a list so much as an encyclopedia. Off the top of my head, Sia Furler is a performer who is now a very prominent songwriter. Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, and Katy Perry have all co-written Kelly Clarkson songs. Drake has written for Alicia Keys, and I think some of the new Beyonce that dropped last night? There's also the world of hip-hop ghostwriting which is an insane web you probably don't want to step into. It's endless.
posted by Smallpox at 7:11 AM on December 13, 2013

You Really Got Me by Van Halen is considered by many to be better than the original Kinks version.
posted by bonofasitch at 12:05 PM on December 13, 2013

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