Have you ever heard a song for the first time yet, it sounded awfully familiar like you’d heard it before? Today, I’m going to list extremely popular songs that you likely didn’t know were remakes.
What are some songs you didn’t know were remakes? Here are some songs you didn’t know were remakes:
- Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky Heart”
- Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”
- Jimi Hendrix – “All Along the Watchtower”
- Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”
- Aretha Franklin – “Respect”
- Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”
- The Clash – “I Fought the Law”
There’s a lot more where that came from! Keep reading for more remakes you might not have been aware weren’t originals. I’ll tell you who the original recording artist is too so you can go seek out their work!
15 Songs You Had No Idea Were Covers
Billy Ray Cyrus – “Achy Breaky Heart”
You couldn’t turn on the radio in the early 1990s and not hear Billy Ray Cyrus’ soulful crooning on the romantically relatable song “Achy Breaky Heart.”
While the name of the song is his own, the song itself is not, and its history is rather interesting.
The original artists are a country act from California called the Marcy Brothers. They were active between 1983 and 1999 and signed to Warner Bros. Atlantic.
The three brothers recorded a song called “Don’t Tell My Heart” and released it in 1991.
Then, a year later, Billy Ray Cyrus recorded it, named it “Achy Breaky Heart,” and put it on his first album.
Cyrus simply heard the song, liked it, and chose to record it even though it was brand new.
It was a wise choice, too. “Achy Breaky Heart” went triple platinum in Australia–the first single to ever do that–and experienced major success in the United States as well.
It’s also Cyrus’ signature song!
Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”
The soulful crooner Whitney Houston is beloved for such tunes as “How Will I Know,” “Run to You,” and of course, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
Equally as well-known is her rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”
As great as the song is, it’s not Houston’s. Rather, country recording artist Dolly Parton originally released the song in 1973 as an ode to her choice to embrace a solo music career.
The song charted very well for Parton during its original release. When she re-recorded it in 1982, the song charted again.
Houston recorded her version not for an album of her own, but for a film called The Bodyguard which was released in 1992.
With Houston’s passionate take on what was originally a gentle and delicate song, the cover became one of the best-selling in music history. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks.
Jimi Hendrix – “All Along the Watchtower”
The Seattle guitar guru Jimi Hendrix is one of the most beloved musicians of all time. Part of that is bolstered by the success of songs such as “All Along the Watchtower.”
Unlike “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady” though, “All Along the Watchtower” does not belong to Hendrix.
Another act who was as popular in his own way, Bob Dylan, produced the song in 1967 for his eighth album.
His version had 12 lines of lyrics that were supposed to be dialogue from a thief to a joker.
About six months after Dylan released the song, Hendrix hit the studio to record his version.
Dylan on Hendrix’s take said “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using.”
It’s always nice when the original recording artist is a fan of the cover!
Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire”
One of the most distinct and beloved songs in Johnny Cash’s vast catalog is “Ring of Fire.” With that soulful twang and Cash’s rough country vocals, it’s a match made in heaven.
While it would be cool if Cash wrote it, he didn’t. Instead, the credits go to Anita Carter.
Anita Carter is the sister of June Carter, also known as June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s wife.
Her song was called “(Love’s) Ring of Fire” and was released in 1962. The song didn’t chart, so Cash decided to record it. The Carter Sisters were both in the song.
Cash had no problem getting the song to chart. His version hit the top spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles!
The Clash – “I Fought the Law”
The British rock band the Clash has a slew of short, catchy songs such as “Rock the Casbah,” “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” and “I Fought the Law.”
The latter tune has songwriting credits attributed to Sonny Curtis though, not any members of the Clash.
Sonny Curtis was a member of the Crickets, a band in which he replaced Buddy Holly. Curtis wrote the song in 1958 and released it on the Crickets’ 1960 album called In Style with the Crickets.
It wasn’t a very well-loved song at the time until the Bobby Fuller Four covered it in the mid-1960s. Over a decade later, the Clash released its rendition.
The band members had heard the Bobby Fuller Four version of “I Fought the Law,” not the OG, and decided to record it.
The crossover appeal of the tune allowed the Clash to finally get airplay in the US.
Even though the Dead Kennedys have also recorded a cover of “I Fought the Law,” The Clash’s version is among the most accepted versions.
The Beatles – “Twist and Shout”
The Beatles have written hundreds of songs, but do you know which one the Fab Four didn’t write? That would be “Twist and Shout.”
Instead, the songwriting credits go to Phil Medley and Bert Berns, who is also known (and credited) as Bert Russell.
The writers didn’t record the song, though. Instead, that distinction goes to the Top Notes, an R&B act from the US that was recorded between 1960 and 1963.
The short-lived group was on three labels during its career, including Atlantic. The Top Notes’ version of “Twist and Shout” didn’t chart.
In 1962, the Isley Brothers, an Ohio-based group that’s been active for over six decades, produced a version. Russell or Berns was the producer.
The Beatles didn’t hear the Top Notes’ release of “Twist and Shout,” but rather, the Isley Brothers’ version.
They decided to record the song in a single take, and even though John Lennon didn’t love his vocals, the rest of the world adored the song.
It’s been hailed as “the most famous single take in rock history,” which is saying a lot!
Aretha Franklin – “Respect”
The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin has sold more than 75 million records over her illustrious career.
She has so many chart-topping songs like “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,”, “Respect,” and “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).”
Guess which of those songs is a cover! It’s Franklin’s most instantly recognizable song, “Respect.”
Otis Redding, who is hailed as the King of Soul, wrote, recorded, and released the song, “Respect” first. That was in 1965 for Redding’s third album.
Redding’s recording of “Respect” was a hit, but not as much as Franklin’s version.
Now, it’s not as though Aretha just copped the song and recorded it the same way as Redding did. Far from it!
Instead, she rearranged the song, retooling the music and upgrading the lyrics.
For example, the Otis Redding version, which you can listen to below, never gets into the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me” part because Franklin wrote those lyrics. She really brought the song to life.
Aretha’s cover of “Respect” became not only her signature song but a feminist anthem.
Led Zeppelin – “Dazed and Confused”
As one of the most seminal rock acts of all time, you might be surprised to learn that Led Zeppelin has a remake in its vast catalog that includes tunes like “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Black Dog,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Stairway to Heaven.”
It’s none of those songs that’s a remake, but rather, “Dazed and Confused.”
So who wrote this behemoth of a song titled “Dazed and Confused”, if not Zeppelin? Jake Holmes is the original composer.
Holmes, born in 1939, is a jingle writer and singer-songwriter. He created such catchy jingles as “I’m a Pepper” for soft drink manufacturer Dr. Pepper as well as “Be All that You Can Be” for the US Army.
Yes, somewhere among all the jingle writing, Holmes wrote and recorded “Dazed and Confused” as well.
Then the Yardbirds recorded a version of the song after listening to Holmes’ version. Jimmy Page was a part of the Yardbirds, keep that in mind.
Later, when Page joined Led Zeppelin, the band recorded “Dazed and Confused” for its eponymous debut album. Zepp added an extra vocal line and some more lyrics.
It wasn’t long before it was the staple tune of the band’s song collection.
Now, was the song stolen? Some say so since Page didn’t provide proper credits to the Yardbirds. Zeppelin has always courted controversy though, and this is just another example of that.
Cyndi Lauper – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”
When you listen to Cyndi Lauper’s version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” it’s a bouncy bubble-gum anthem about girls’ night out, right?
Or is it?
Lauper, who is a mega-star in her own right, did not originally write the song. Instead, it’s written by Robert Hazard.
Hazard wrote a lot of hit songs, mostly in the new-wave style, and tasted some success with his group Robert Hazard and the Heroes for singles like “Change Reaction” and “Escalator of Life.”
Now, Hazard’s recording of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was only ever a demo, so if it sounds rough around the edges to you, that’s why.
Interestingly, Hazard’s take lyrically was presented from the male perspective.
The demo came out in 1979. By 1983, Lauper had covered the song on her first album called She’s So Unusual. She retooled the lyrics to better suit the female perspective.
The song took home the 1984 American Video Award for Best Female Performance and the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video.
It’s loved as a feminist anthem and has been recorded by more than 30 other musicians.
Lou Bega – “Mambo No. 5”
In the late 1990s, Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” permeated the airwaves. It was such a catchy song with classic vibes that you could almost forget the lyrical content was about juggling multiple women.
The song put Bega on the map, but it’s not his song to take credit for, at least not 100 percent.
Damaso Perez Prado is the original songwriter and the creator of the mambo dance as well.
The Cuban artist has a slew of singles with his name attached, including “Mambo No. 8” as well as “Mambo No. 5.”
Now, Prado’s “Mambo No. 5” is an instrumental, so all the lyrics about multiple girlfriends are Bega’s own.
Bega’s song charted around the world, even reaching the US’s top 40 hits.
Unfortunately, Prado’s estate sued the producers of Bega’s cover over legal rights. The court ultimately ruled that Bega’s version of “Mambo No. 5” was its own original song with cowriting credits by Bega and Prado.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”
By the time Joan Jett formed the Blackhearts, she had already had commercial success with the Runaways for songs like “Cherry Bomb.”
Arguably her most popular Blackhearts hit is “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which is a cover.
The original was recorded by a rock band from the UK known as the Arrows.
The Arrows had other hits as well, including “My Last Night with You” and “Touch Too Much.”
The band’s version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” was released in 1975. The Arrows stated that they were inspired by “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It),” a Rolling Stones song.
Jett saw the Arrows perform the song on a show called Arrows that aired in the UK (no, it wasn’t the band’s own show; the name is a coincidence) during a UK tour with the Runaways.
In 1979, Jett worked with Paul Cook, Steve Jones, and a few members of the Sex Pistols to record her first cover of the song.
Then, several years later in 1981 came the Blackhearts version that everyone knows and loves to this day.
The cover was a Billboard Hot 100 top single, staying there for seven weeks.
Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah”
Jeff Buckley was a New York-based recording artist acclaimed for his acrobatic vocal range.
As the son of singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, Jeff sought to make his own name for himself in the music world.
Buckley has one finished studio album called Grace which has several covers, but the one that was his ticket to fame was “Hallelujah.”
The ultra-popular tune was written by Leonard Cohen and released in 1984.
Surprisingly–at least for a song that’s been covered more than 300 times, including in several different languages–Cohen’s version wasn’t too successful.
Later, the Welsh musician John Cale took a stab at it, and it’s his version that Buckley (and likely many others) heard and emulated.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – “Blinded by the Light”
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, a progressive and jazz-rock band that was formed in 1971, has a unique spot on this list.
You see, it’s not only “Blinded by the Light”–one of the group’s top songs–that is a cover.
So too are “Spirit in the Night” and “For You.”
All three songs were written by the inimitable Bruce Springsteen.
The New Jersey rocker recorded his OG take of “Blinded by the Light” for his debut album in 1973 called Greeting from Asbury Park, N.J.
Only a few years after that, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band put out its version of the same song on its latest album.
The Earth Band did retool some of the lyrics, such as switching “cut loose like a deuce” to “revved up like a deuce.”
The small change worked! The Manfred Mann Earth Band version of “Blinded by the Light” was a number one Canada RPM Top Single, a Billboard Hot 100 top single, and a US Cash Box Top 100 single at number one.
Quiet Riot – “Cum on Feel the Noize”
The heavy metal band Quiet Riot is regarded as one of the best in its genre. That’s due in part to such strong songs as “Cum on Feel the Noize,” “Metal Health,” and “Slick Black Cadillac.”
Quiet Riot owes its success in part to Slade, a rock band from England that originally wrote and recorded “Cum on Feel the Noize” in 1973.
Slade’s version of the song charted well in the UK and even had some crossover appeal in America. That’s likely how Quiet Riot heard the song.
A decade after Slade released the song, Quiet Riot recorded its version in 1983. The cover sold millions of copies!
UB40 – “Red Red Wine”
The UK pop and reggae act UB40 has sold more than 70 million records.
The band is also incredibly diverse, with Yemeni, Scottish, Jamaican, Irish Welsh, and English heritages all represented.
You may know the act for the song “Red Red Wine,” a chill, relaxing reggae tune. UB40 can’t take songwriting credits for the hit song though, as it’s a Neil Diamond original.
Admittedly, Diamond’s song didn’t charge so well, landing only 62nd in the Billboard Hot 100.
Another version was recorded by Tony Tribe, which is what the members of UB40 heard.
UB40’s take is a lot less somber and serious than Diamond’s, which gave the cover instant appeal.
That’s probably why the cover was number one in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the US for a spell.
While every one of the above remakes or “covers” I’ve listed are 100% real, it’s worth pointing out that “deepfake remakes” or “fake covers” are something to look out for.
Sometimes you’ll read about a song that was rumored to have been previously written or performed by another artist prior to the version you’re familiar with.
Louis Armstrong Deep Fake “Oops!… I Did It Again”
In the past, people promoting this online gossip often attempted to give these rumors credit by recreating realistic album covers. They did this with the hopes that people would see the fake album covers and actually believe someone else “originally”, released the song or album.
Using today’s technology, people often use text-to-speech programs that are able to produce computer-generated models based on another artist’s speech patterns. Combining the sound of their voice with the artist’s speech patterns allows them to produce a song that truly sounds as if it’s been sung by another person.
When this is done using the voice of a person who has been dead for over to further support the fake claims.
This is the case with the extremely popular song, “Oops!… I Did It Again” which was recorded by Britney Spears.
The title track to Brittney’s second album was in fact written by Karl Martin Sandberg, professionally known as Max Martin and Rami Yacoub.
In the early 2000s, there was a rumor being perpetuated online that Britney Spears’s song “Oops!… I Did It Again” was originally written and released by Louis Armstrong, also known as “Satchmo”, or “Pops”.