12 iconic songs you didn't realise were actually covers

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images‘I Will Always Love You’ wasn’t originally performed by Whitney Houston.

Many musicians have put their own spins on songs that came before them. In some instances, their updated versions become even more famous than the originals.

From “I Will Always Love You” to “Twist & Shout” and many in-between, here are 12 songs you know and love – but didn’t know were originally sung by someone else.


“I Will Always Love You” was originally an acoustic serenade by country legend Dolly Parton.

GettyThe song was written and originally performed by Dolly Parton.

While Whitney Houston’s belting vocals made this tune a smash, Parton wrote and released the original in 1974. Rather than the romantic ballad it’s known to be, “I Will Always Love You” was first meant to show appreciation for Parton’s friend and mentor Porter Wagoner.

Listen to the original.


The somber, piano-driven “Mad World” was a cover of Tears for Fears’ more upbeat, pop-goth tune.

Steve Finn/GettyGary Jules’ version is heard in ‘Donnie Darko.’

Although it’s hard to imagine the 2001 film “Donnie Darko” without this song, singer-songwriter Gary Jules’ haunting version of “Mad World” was recorded as a rough cover of a slightly peppier Tears for Fears tune from 1983.

Listen to the original.


Counting Crows revived Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.”

Frederick M. Brown/Getty ImagesJoni Mitchell’s original version was successful, too.

Joni Mitchell had success with her “Big Yellow Taxi” in 1970, but Counting Crows released its most successful recording in 2002.

Listen to the original.


“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” wasn’t originally sung by a girl.

Neilson Barnard / Getty ImagesCyndi Lauper’s version song is popular.

Cyndi Lauper’s first solo single was originally a demo by a singer-songwriter named Robert Hazard, but when she sang it, it became iconic.

Listen to the original.


The Beatles weren’t the first band to “Twist and Shout.”

The Beatles have The Isley Brothers to thank for pioneering the blues-rock jam that would become one of their earliest hits in 1963 (and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” for putting it back on the charts in 1986).

Listen to the original.


And Natalie Imbruglia wasn’t the first one to be “Torn.”

Scott Barbour/Getty ImagesNatalie Imbruglia did a pop version of the track.

The founders of rock band Ednaswap were the writers and first recorders of this ’90s hit about lying naked on the floor. Imbruglia’s pop version became the more successful rendition two years later in 1997.

Listen to the original.


Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” came about 20 years after Gloria Jones’ soulful original version.

Getty/Vianney Le CaerMarc Almond of Soft Cell in 2018.

Despite becoming a 1980s pop staple, soul singer Jones was the first to record the moody heartbreak jam “Tainted Love.” Her version was released in 1964.

Listen to the original.


The ‘80s influence of No Doubt’s “It’s My Life” seems especially obvious when you realise it’s actually from British synth-pop band Talk Talk.

Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for LOS ANGELES LGBT CENTERNo Doubt updated the song in 2003.

Gwen Stefani wasn’t the first to declare her independence with this catchy 1984 tune, but her band No Doubt updated it in 2003 and subsequently made it a Top 10 hit.

Listen to the original.


Joan Jett isn’t the only one who proclaimed her love for rock ‘n’ roll.

Thos Robinson/Getty Images for USO of Metropolitan New YorkJoan Jett’s version made it to the number one spot in the US.

“I Love Rock and Roll” was first recorded by a band called The Arrows in 1975, who wrote it as a clap back to the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Jett apparently agreed, bringing her version of the track to Number one in the US in 1981.

Listen to the original.


The Clash made a hit out of the first version of a song by The Crickets.

Getty/Hulton ArchiveThe Clash released their version in 1979.

After Buddy Holly’s death in 1959, the remaining members of his band The Crickets recorded the first version of “I Fought the Law.”Eventually, it became better known as a tune from UK rockers the Clash, earning them more fame in the US after releasing it in 1979.

Listen to the original.


Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” had two previous recordings — one being in German — before becoming her biggest hit.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty ImagesBjork recorded two versions of the song.

The first English version of this German-penned jam was released in 1948 by a singer named Betty Hutton. It wasn’t until Bjork came out with her own rendition in 1995, becoming the Icelandic artist’s biggest hit to date.

Listen to the original.


“Hallelujah” had a quiet first round before being covered by Jeff Buckley and becoming a hit.

Leonard Cohen wrote and recorded“Hallelujah” in 1984.

According to Rolling Stone, on writing the song Cohen once said, “This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled,” Cohen has said, “but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.'”

Ten years later, Buckley gave his successful spin on the tear-jerking track. It gained even more popularity after Buckley’s death in 1997. Though both tracks are well-known, you may not have realised that Buckley’s version was the cover.

Listen to the original.

Visit

INSIDER’s homepage

for more.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.