It's pretty common for an up-and-coming artist to cover a song by a legendary artist to get themselves going, but there have been many times where these covers of classic songs have come from other legendary artists. Here are 12 legendary artists who have covered other legendary artists.
1. Radiohead - "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young
You wouldn't think that Neil Young's gritty roots rock would be an influence on Radiohead, but they managed to make "Cinnamon Girl" sound like one of their own long lost B-sides.
2. R.E.M. - "Pale Blue Eyes" by The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground have influenced basically everyone who's heard them, including alt-rock originators R.E.M., who covered a few of their songs, the best of these being "Pale Blues Eyes."
3. Bruce Springsteen - "Jersey Girl" by Tom Waits
It's pretty surprising to most people that Bruce Springsteen didn't write "Jersey Girl," since it seems like exactly the sort of song he would have written. Instead, the song was written by California-born Tom Waits.
4. Talking Heads - "Take Me To The River" by Al Green
Perhaps more than any other band from the original punk era, Talking Heads were heavily inspired by black music such as funk, soul, and R&B. In 1978, the band paid tribute to their influences by covering Al Green's "Take Me To The River," which became their first top 40 hit.
5. Aretha Franklin - "Respect" by Otis Redding
Very few artists can cover a song so successfully that they can basically claim it as their own, but that's exactly what Aretha Franklin did with Otis Redding's "Respect." The most famous moment from Franklin's version, the whole "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" bit, isn't even in the original, so she arguably made it better.
6. The Sex Pistols - "No Fun" by The Stooges
Though the Sex Pistols recorded a studio version of the Stooges' "No Fun," the definitive version of the song is the one the performed as the encore to their very last show, where Johnny Rotten basically realizes on stage that he doesn't want to be in the band anymore.
7. The Replacements - "Black Diamond" by Kiss
Though it would seem as if covering Kiss would be pretty unfashionable for an alternative rock band, the Replacements were much more indebted to classic rock than most of their peers. Their version of "Black Diamond" is arguably better than the original.
8. Johnny Cash - "Bird on a Wire" by Leonard Cohen
Johnny Cash covered plenty of artists throughout his career, especially during his '90s-'00s period, but none of the artists he covered matched his own living-legend status quite like Leonard Cohen, whose "Bird on a Wire" was recorded by Cash for 1994's American Recordings.
9. Otis Redding - "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke
Though Otis Redding was a talented songwriter, his classic Otis Blue album consists mostly of cover songs, the best of these being Sam Cooke's civil rights anthem "A Change is Gonna Come."
10. Nirvana - "The Man Who Sold The World" by David Bowie
It's hard to hear much of a Bowie influence in Nirvana's original songs, but they must have been huge fans (honestly, who isn't?), since they covered Bowie's early classic "The Man Who Sold The World" for their MTV Unplugged set, though the fuzz guitar riff kind of defeats the purpose of being "unplugged."
11. Minutemen - "Green River" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
There are stories of the Minutemen performing entire sets of CCR covers, which is something any fan would have shelled out serious money to see. Though the Minutemen recorded some studio versions of these songs, the best is their live version of "Green River," which honestly just sounds like another weirdo Minutemen song when they play it.
12. Led Zeppelin - "Travelling Riverside Blues" by Robert Johnson
Led Zeppelin seemed to have trouble understanding the difference between covering a song and stealing it, but they occasionally did the right thing and credited the original artist, such as on their version of Robert johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues."