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Cover Me: 20 Famous Songs You Had No Idea Were Covers

We've all been there. We take a song and love it as our very own. We believe that it came straight from the mind of our favorite artist, expressing their innermost emotions and views. Every note, every chord progression, every lyric is born from their talent. And then comes the fateful day that we learn that the track you adore is actually that most forlorn of musical objects. Yes, that song is...just a cover version.

At first it almost feels like a betrayal. Our favorite rock star lied to us! What are they doing trying to pass off someone else's tune as if it's their own? How dare they!? They're just copying! Don't they have their own stuff to say!? But after that initial mind-blowing shock wears off, you start to see the upside: There's a totally different (and often totally unique) version of a song that you already love. And that's pretty cool. It's like learning that your best friend has a twin! Kind of.

This happens more often than you'd think. Don't believe us? Well we'd like to share with you 20 beloved songs that we had no ideas were covers! Some are wayyy better than the famous version, and other times not so much, but they're always unexpected. Read (and listen) onward!

20. You Know It As: "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Conner 

But It's Actually...

A lot of folks know that Prince wrote this one, but most don't realize it was recorded prior to Sinead by his side project, The Family in 1985. The killer sax solo makes it totally worth it.

19. You Know It As: "Dazed And Confused" by Led Zeppelin 

But It's Actually...

A folky freakout song by Jake Holmes! He was opening for the Yardbirds in 1967 when their guitarist Jimmy Page heard the number...and filed it away in his mental Rolodex. It came in handy when he formed Led Zep a year later. Holmes name appears nowhere on the original record, leading to lots of copyright feuds.

18. You Know It As: "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell

But It's Actually...

This song always sounded SO fiercely '80's that it kind of blew our minds when we learned that it was an old soul song by Gloria Jones from May 1965.

17. You Know It As: "It's My Life" by No Doubt

But It's Actually...

...a fine piece of  new-wave synthpop by British band Talk Talk from 1984. Seems so obvious now, doesn't it!?

16. You Know It As: "Whatta Man" by Salt-n-Pepa

But It's Actually...

Linda Lyndell delivered this Volt Records masterpiece in 1968, a good 25 years before it was sampled by S 'n' P. That's a hell of a lot of funk for a 20-year-old white girl!

15. You Know It As: "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse 

But It's Actually...

Yeah, the hint was in the fact the tune was on Mark Ronson's album called Version, but most people don't know that the original was by a brassed-up band from Liverpool called The Zutons in 2006.

14. You Know It As: "Blinded By The Light" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band

But It's Actually...

This wordy and otherworldly epic was written by Bruce Springsteen and appeared on his 1972 album Greetings From Asbury Park. Bruce wrote the track after exec Clive Davis complained that the record lacked a hit single. Who's The Boss now, Clive?

13. You Know It As: "Emotion" by Destiny's Child

But It's Actually...

Samantha Sang doing a  smooth disco groove out of '77 written by Bee Gee Barry Gibb (who provides the distinctive backing vocals).

12. You Know It As: "If I Were A Boy" by Beyonce

But It's Actually...

Not to pick on the lovely Mrs. Carter, but 20-year-old songwriter BC Jean wrote this anthemic track out of personal experience. Her version was originally rejected by the record company and it wasn't until later that she learned it had been recorded by Bey. Although initially a bit annoyed at having her song essentially stolen, they've apparently buried that hatchet.

11. You Know It As: "Crazy" by Patsy Cline

But It's Actually...

Willie Nelson wrote the classic ballad in 1961 and recorded it just before Patsy made her iconic version.

10. You Know It As: "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia

But It's Actually...

Two years before Natalie's chart topping version, Los Angeles alternative band Ednaswap recorded the original.

9. You Know It As: "Time Is On My Side" by The Rolling Stones

But It's Actually...

Irma Thomas released her soulful version in 1963, a year before the Stones. If you want to get technical, the tune got its start as an instrumental for trombonist Kai Winding and his Orchestra earlier that year.

8. You Know It As: "Ray Of Light" by Madonna

But It's Actually...

It's not a total cover, but definitely more than a sample! Madge "borrowed" the first few verses...and pre-choruses...and pretty much everything but the chorus from this 1971 acoustic song "Sepheryn" by English folk duo Curtiss Maldoon. 

7. You Know It As: "Hey Joe" by Jimi Hendrix

But It's Actually...

...a garage rock classic from The Leaves back in 1965.

6. You Know It As: "It's Oh So Quiet" by Bjork

But It's Actually...

Officially the track dates to Germany in 1948 when Horst Winter performed it as "Und Jetzt Ist Es Still." But Betty Hutton gave us the first English version of this unhinged barnstormer in 1951. Watch the volume controls on this one...

5. You Know It As: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper 

But It's Actually...

Well this is weird...Somehow hearing a guy singing a song about girls just wanting to have fun makes the tune take on the creepy subtext of a guy at a bar giving you unwanted (and inaccurate) lady advice. But that's exactly what Robert Hazard did in 1979. Cyndi made some minor lyrical changes to accommodate the female perspective, transforming the tune entirely.

4. You Know It As: "The First Cut Is The Deepest" by Rod Stewart (and a zillion other people)

But It's Actually...

Soul singer P.P. Arnold recorded the earliest version of this Cat Stevens original in 1967. He did one himself a short time later.

3. You Know It As: "Step By Step" by Whitney Houston

But It's Actually...

Annie Lennox really doesn't get her due as one of the all time great British soul singers (or soul singers, period). But when Whitney recorded this song for The Preacher's Wife soundtrack, the tune became forever hers.

2. You Know It As: "Cum On Feel The Noize" by Quiet Riot

But It's Actually...

The hair rock anthem started life as a glam rock anthem in 1973 for the British band Slade.

1. You Know It As: "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder

But It's Actually...

Obviously only Stevie Wonder could pen a groove this good, but he originally wrote it "to order" for guitarist Jeff Beck, who created the drum beat. Beck recorded the track on 1972's Beck, Bogert & Appice, but Stevie took the song back (at Motown head Berry Gordy's insistence) and recorded his own landmark version that we know and love today. We always knew it had funk, but we never know how hard it could rock until we heard Beck's version.

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