It’s no secret that the music industry is rife with imitation – and in most cases, it really is the highest form of flattery. From samples to remakes, artists pay homage to others in myriad ways – but you may not know that some of our most beloved pop songs are outright covers.
Here are ten popular songs that we all know and love, that are not as original as we may have thought.
1. Tainted Love by Soft Cell
Easily one of the most recognizable synthpop tunes ever, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is an iconic 80’s anthem. But what if we told you that not only was the song first recorded by a soul singer named Gloria Jones, but that it’s not a 1980’s song at all? The first recording of “Tainted Love” was, in fact, released in May 1965.
2. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
It’s hard to imagine “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” being sung by anyone other than Cyndi Lauper, and even harder to imagine it being sung by a man. But the song was actually first recorded by Robert Hazard in 1979. Cyndi made a few minor lyrical changes to tell the story from a female perspective, and turned the song into a smash hit.
3. Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
The song that catapulted Natalie Imbruglia into superstardom wasn’t originally hers. It was first released by Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Ednaswap in 1995, but very few people ever heard that version of the song on the radio. A few years later, it was virtually impossible to be stuck in traffic without hearing Natalie’s cover at least once.
4. Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Conner
One of Sinead O’Conner’s most powerful ballads was written by Prince – and while you may have already known that, you probably didn’t realize that the song was also recorded by someone other than Sinead first. In 1985, Prince’s side project The Family made the original.
5. Step By Step by Whitney Houston
British soul singer Annie Lennox originally recorded and released this song in 1992, but it didn’t take off the way she likely wanted it to. Instead, it gained far more traction after Whitney recorded a cover for the chart-topping soundtrack for The Preacher’s Wife.
6. Superstition by Stevie Wonder
No, don’t worry – we’re not saying that Stevie Wonder didn’t write this song. He did, but as a commission piece for guitarist Jeff Beck. Jeff created the drum beat and recorded the track in 1972 – but at the insistence of his record company, Stevie took the song back and recorded his own version. And the rest is history.
7. Cum On Feel The Noize by Quiet Riot
One of the hair rock movement’s most celebrated anthems is typically associated with Quiet Riot, whose breakout hit lit the airwaves on fire in 1983. But “Cum On Feel The Noize” was actually first recorded a decade earlier, by the British glam rock band Slade.
8. It’s My Life by No Doubt
The catchy, upbeat rock anthem released by No Doubt in 2000 instantly became a favorite of karaoke bars and road trip sing-a-longs. But have you ever sung along to the original? It was first released as a new-wave synthpop song by British band Talk Talk in 1984 – and once you hear that version, you might just fall in love with it as well.
9. Time Is On My Side by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones released “Time Is On My Side” in 1964 but just a year earlier, someone else beat them to the punch. Soul singer Irma Thomas recorded the original vocal version – and just a year before that happened, trombonist Kai Winding and his orchestra played an instrumental version of the song. Listen to all three versions in chronological order for an illuminating musical experience.
10. Whatta Man by Salt-n-Pepa
Would you believe us if we told you that one of Salt-n-Pepa’s most famous songs was originally recorded by a white girl? Well, it’s true. Linda Lyndell sang the original for Volt Records in 1968, over two decades before the hip hop trio put their funky spin on the song.
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