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What Does The Rolling Stone Present As The Greatest Cover Song Ever Recorded What Does The Rolling Stone Present As The Greatest Cover Song Ever Recorded

Cover Song

What Does The Rolling Stone Present As The Greatest Cover Song Ever Recorded

Written by: Emili Byer

Discover the ultimate compilation of the greatest cover songs ever recorded, as hand-picked by Rolling Stone. Explore iconic renditions and timeless classics in this captivating collection.

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Table of Contents


Throughout the history of music, artists have been reinterpreting and reimagining the songs of others, creating what are known as cover songs. A cover song is a rendition or performance of a previously recorded song by a different artist or band. Cover songs have been a staple in the music industry for decades, allowing musicians to pay homage to their favorite songs or put their unique spin on well-known tracks.

What makes a cover song truly remarkable? Is it the ability to capture the essence of the original while adding a fresh perspective? Or is it the artist’s ability to completely transform the song, creating something entirely new? The answer may vary depending on personal taste and opinion.

One publication that has taken on the task of determining the greatest cover song ever recorded is The Rolling Stone. Known for their comprehensive music coverage, The Rolling Stone has been a go-to source for music enthusiasts for decades. Their list of the greatest cover songs provides a fascinating insight into the art of reinterpretation and the influence it has had on the music industry.

In this article, we will delve into what defines a cover song, explore the criteria for determining the greatest cover song, and analyze The Rolling Stone’s choice for the top spot. We will also highlight some honorable mentions and other notable cover songs that have made a significant impact. By the end, you will have a deeper appreciation for the art of cover songs and their enduring popularity in the music world.

So, grab your headphones and let’s dive into the world of cover songs to discover the greatest one ever recorded according to The Rolling Stone.


Definition of a Cover Song

Before we delve into the realm of cover songs, let’s define what exactly constitutes a cover song. In its simplest form, a cover song is a performance or recording of a previously released song by another artist or band. In other words, it’s a new rendition of an existing piece of music.

A cover song can take on various forms. It can be a faithful reproduction of the original, staying true to the melody, lyrics, and overall arrangement. Alternatively, it can be a radical reinvention, completely transforming the song and adding a unique flavor. Some cover songs may fall somewhere in between, combining elements of the original with new interpretations.

Cover songs have been a part of the musical landscape for as long as recorded music has existed. They allow artists to pay homage to their influences, showcase their versatility, and connect with audiences through familiar melodies and lyrics. Cover songs can be found across all genres of music, from rock and pop to hip-hop and country.

It’s important to note that there are legal aspects to consider when it comes to cover songs. While the act of covering a song may be freely allowed, obtaining the necessary licenses from the original copyright holders is crucial to avoid copyright infringement. These licenses can be obtained through organizations such as the Harry Fox Agency, which handle the rights and royalties for cover songs.

Cover songs have become a significant part of the music industry, with many artists finding success and recognition through their reinterpretations of pre-existing songs. Some cover songs even surpass the popularity of the originals, becoming iconic in their own right.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what a cover song is, let’s explore the criteria that goes into determining what makes a cover song truly great.


Criteria for the Greatest Cover Song

Determining the greatest cover song is a subjective task, as each listener may have different preferences and opinions. However, there are certain criteria that can help in evaluating the quality and impact of a cover song:

  1. Faithfulness to the original: A great cover song should retain the essence and spirit of the original while still bringing something fresh to the table. It should pay tribute to the original artists and capture the essence of why the song resonated with audiences in the first place.
  2. Innovation and artistic interpretation: A remarkable cover song goes beyond mere replication. It brings a new perspective, showcasing the artist’s style, creativity, and unique artistic choices. It should offer a fresh take on the composition, arrangement, or instrumentation.
  3. Emotional connection: The best cover songs are often those that evoke a strong emotional response from the listener. Whether it’s through raw vulnerability, powerful vocals, or clever reinterpretation, the cover should connect with the audience on an emotional level.
  4. Relevance and cultural impact: A significant cover song can have a lasting impact on popular culture. It may introduce a new generation of listeners to the original song or artist, or it might reinvigorate interest in a classic. The cover should have relevance and cultural significance, transcending its initial release.
  5. Chart success and critical acclaim: While not the sole indicator of greatness, a cover song that achieves commercial success or garners critical acclaim indicates its wide-reaching appeal. Chart success can demonstrate the song’s popularity and the artist’s ability to captivate a broad audience.

These criteria provide a framework for evaluating and appreciating the artistry and impact of cover songs. It’s important to keep in mind that the significance of a cover song may vary depending on personal taste, cultural context, and the social climate during which it was released. Now, let’s explore The Rolling Stone’s choice for the greatest cover song ever recorded.


The Rolling Stone’s Choice for the Greatest Cover Song Ever Recorded

After careful consideration and analysis, The Rolling Stone has declared their choice for the greatest cover song ever recorded: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Originally written and recorded by Otis Redding in 1965, Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” became an iconic anthem and a defining moment in music history.

Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “Respect” took the soulful qualities of the original and injected it with a newfound energy and empowerment. She transformed the song into an anthem for women’s rights and became a symbol of the civil rights movement. Franklin’s powerful vocals, backed by a fervent rhythm section and gospel-inspired backing vocals, added a whole new dimension to the song.

The Rolling Stone’s choice is a testament to the impact and enduring legacy of “Respect.” It not only showcased Franklin’s astonishing vocal ability but also redefined the song, making it a cultural touchstone. The cover reached number one on the R&B charts and became Franklin’s signature song, earning her multiple accolades, including two Grammy Awards.

Franklin’s interpretation of “Respect” not only elevated the song itself but also propelled her career to new heights. It became an anthem for marginalized communities, resonating with people seeking empowerment and respect in a turbulent era. The Rolling Stone acknowledged the transformative power of Franklin’s cover and its lasting influence on music and society.

While “Respect” holds the distinction of being The Rolling Stone’s choice for the greatest cover song ever recorded, it’s important to recognize other notable cover songs that have made a lasting impact. Let’s explore some honorable mentions and other noteworthy cover songs that have shaped the music industry.


Analysis of the Chosen Cover Song

Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Respect” is a prime example of a cover song that not only pays homage to the original but also elevates it to new heights. The impact of Franklin’s rendition goes far beyond a mere replication of Otis Redding’s version. Let’s delve into the key elements that make this cover song truly remarkable:

Vocal Power and Expression: Aretha Franklin’s soulful and commanding vocals are at the forefront of the cover. She infuses the song with raw emotion and power, delivering each line with a level of intensity and conviction that demands attention. Franklin’s ability to effortlessly transition between delicate nuances and explosive vocal runs showcases her range and artistry.

Reinterpretation of the Lyrics: While Otis Redding’s original version of “Respect” was from a male perspective, Franklin’s cover gave the song a transformative feminist twist. By changing the lyrics and adding the iconic “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” chorus, Franklin made the song a feminist anthem that resonated with women around the world. It became an empowering call for equality and respect.

Musical Arrangement: The instrumentation and arrangement in Franklin’s cover also played a significant role in its success. With a prominent rhythm section and infectious groove, the song takes on a more energetic and vibrant feel compared to the original. The addition of gospel-inspired backing vocals adds a touch of spirituality and emotional depth.

Cultural and Societal Impact: Beyond its musical brilliance, the cover of “Respect” holds a powerful cultural significance. Released during the civil rights movement and feminist wave of the 1960s, the song became an anthem for marginalized communities, embodying the demand for equality and respect. It transcended its time and became a timeless symbol of empowerment.

The choice of Franklin’s “Respect” as the greatest cover song ever recorded by The Rolling Stone is a testament to its enduring legacy and influence. It not only showcased the talent and artistry of Franklin herself but also became a pivotal moment in music history, igniting conversations about social justice and civil rights.

Franklin’s cover of “Respect” exemplifies the power of reinterpretation and the way cover songs can breathe new life into familiar material. It solidifies the importance of artistic expression and the ability of musicians to reshape and reimagine existing songs, creating something that resonates deeply with audiences.

Now, let’s explore some other notable cover songs and honorable mentions that have left a significant impact on the music industry.


Honorable Mentions and Other Notable Cover Songs

While Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Respect” holds the title of the greatest cover song ever recorded according to The Rolling Stone, there are many other noteworthy covers that have made a significant impact on the music industry. Here are some honorable mentions and standout cover songs:

Johnny Cash – “Hurt”: Johnny Cash’s haunting rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” is a testament to the power of interpretation. Cash’s weathered voice and the stripped-down arrangement add a level of vulnerability and raw emotion, transforming the song into a reflection on mortality and personal struggles.

Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah”: Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is often hailed as one of the greatest covers of all time. His ethereal vocals and heartfelt delivery bring a sense of longing and melancholy to the song, captivating listeners and cementing its place as a modern classic.

Jimi Hendrix – “All Along the Watchtower”: Jimi Hendrix’s electrifying rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is a testament to his guitar virtuosity and unique interpretation. With his signature psychedelic sound and powerful guitar solos, Hendrix took the song to new heights and made it his own.

Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”: Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” became an iconic rendition that showcased her unparalleled vocal range and power. Her emotional delivery and the addition of soaring crescendos turned the song into a timeless ballad that resonates with audiences to this day.

The Fugees – “Killing Me Softly With His Song”: The Fugees’ version of “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” originally recorded by Roberta Flack, brought a fresh hip-hop twist to the beloved ballad. Lauryn Hill’s soulful vocals, combined with the group’s rhythmic arrangement, breathed new life into the song and turned it into a chart-topping hit.

These are just a few examples of cover songs that have left an indelible mark on the music industry. Each of these covers has its own unique qualities, whether it’s through exceptional vocal performances, innovative arrangements, or a transformative reinterpretation of the original.

Cover songs have the power to introduce audiences to new artists, revive forgotten classics, and create new interpretations that resonate with listeners. They serve as a testament to the creative and transformative nature of music, allowing artists to pay homage to their influences while making the song their own.

Now that we’ve explored some notable covers, let’s consider the broader impact that cover songs have had on the music industry.


Impact of Cover Songs on the Music Industry

Cover songs have had a profound impact on the music industry, shaping the way artists express themselves, introducing new audiences to classics, and even launching careers. Here are some key ways in which cover songs have influenced the music landscape:

Exposure and Discoverability: Cover songs provide a platform for artists to showcase their talent and gain exposure to a wider audience. It allows them to tap into the familiarity and popularity of existing songs, capturing the attention of listeners who may not have discovered their original material. This exposure can lead to new fans, increased visibility, and opportunities for career growth.

Revitalizing Classics: Cover songs have the power to breathe new life into timeless classics. By reinterpreting and reimagining well-known songs, artists can reintroduce them to a new generation, sparking renewed interest and appreciation. This not only ensures the longevity of beloved songs but also keeps them relevant and resonant across different eras.

Creative Adaptations and Genre Blending: Cover songs provide a space for artists to experiment with different genres and musical styles. They can take a song from one genre and transform it into something entirely unexpected, blending different sounds and influences. These creative adaptations push the boundaries of musical expression and foster innovation within the industry.

Bridging Generational Gaps: Cover songs often bridge generational gaps, allowing younger audiences to connect with older music and vice versa. The familiarity of a well-known song in a new rendition can spark conversations and create a shared appreciation for the artistry of different eras. It fosters a sense of continuity and intergenerational dialogue within the music community.

Paying Homage to Influences: Cover songs serve as a way for artists to pay homage to their musical influences and predecessors. They can honor the artists who have inspired them by putting their own spin on their songs. This not only showcases the artist’s range and versatility but also perpetuates a sense of admiration and respect within the music community.

Overall, cover songs have been a driving force in the ever-evolving music industry. They provide an avenue for artists to express themselves, connect with audiences, and breathe new life into existing material. The versatility and reinterpretation inherent in cover songs foster creativity, collaboration, and the continuous evolution of music as an art form.

As the music industry continues to evolve, cover songs will undoubtedly remain an integral part of the musical landscape, connecting artists and audiences and forging new paths of musical expression.

Now, let’s wrap up our exploration of cover songs and reflect on their enduring appeal.



Cover songs have undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the music industry. They provide a platform for artists to pay homage to their influences, showcase their creativity, and connect with audiences on a deep emotional level. Whether it’s through faithful renditions, innovative reinterpretations, or cultural transformations, cover songs have the power to captivate and inspire.

The Rolling Stone’s choice for the greatest cover song ever recorded, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” symbolizes the transformative nature of cover songs. Franklin’s powerful vocals and feminist reinterpretation turned the song into an anthem of empowerment, reaching beyond the boundaries of music and becoming a cultural touchstone.

However, other notable cover songs such as Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” have also made a lasting impact. Each cover showcases the unique interpretations and artistic choices of the artists involved, demonstrating the power of reinvention and the ability to breathe new life into familiar material.

The impact of cover songs extends beyond individual tracks. They have the ability to bridge generational gaps, introduce new audiences to classic songs, and push the boundaries of musical expression. Cover songs provide a platform for emerging artists to gain exposure, and they can serve as a vehicle for social and cultural commentary.

As the music industry continues to evolve, cover songs will remain an integral part of the music landscape. They remind us of the importance of creative interpretation, inspire dialogue across generations, and keep the spirit of storytelling alive. Whether it’s through the faithful rendition of a timeless classic or a radical reinvention of a well-known hit, cover songs will continue to captivate listeners and leave a lasting legacy in the world of music.

So, the next time you hear a familiar melody in a different voice, take a moment to appreciate the artistry and transformative power of cover songs. They remind us that great music is not limited to its original form, but can transcend time, genre, and even language, touching our hearts in ways we never anticipated.

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