Wednesday Open Thread: Worst Cover Songs

Michael Slezak at the EW PopWatch Blog make the persuasive case that the worst cover song of all time is Jessica Simpson’s butchering of “These Boots are Made For Walkin’.” I’d never heard that, but watching the video, it’s hard not to agree with him.

But the reader comments contributed quite a few country artists into the mix, including Faith Hill’s sunny take on Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and Dolly Parton’s countrified “Stairway to Heaven”, both of which I happen to like.

Which isn’t to say that country artists are off the hook with me. Possibly the worst cover I’ve ever heard was David Kersh doing Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” But like Simpson, that’s an easy target. The biggest atrocities are when you match a top-level talent with a classic song, and it’s still a disaster.

Using that standard, I point to Brooks & Dunn’s take on John Waite’s “Missing You.” Ronnie Dunn discards part of the lyric and all of the tension present in the original version, completely going against the denial written in the song when he wails out “I ain’t missing yooooouuuu!!!” Meanwhile, Kix Brooks dutifully recreates the original’s backup vocals like Waite’s still singing lead, resulting in a mess of epic proportions. Yikes.

Enjoy the train wreck that follows, as you ponder today’s question. What do you think is the worst cover song ever?


  1. Haha. I happen to love B&D’s version of “Missing You”, Faith’s “Piece of My Heart”, and I like Kersh’s “Wonderful Tonight” a lot. It is always tough to remake/cover a classic because of comparisons.

    I know someone’s gonna mention Jack Ingram’s “Lips of an Angel” and Rissi Palmer’s “No Air”, but I love those too haha.

    This is a good topic. I have a whole iTunes playlist with these on there. Looking at my list, I’ll say one (although it is ranked 3-stars): I don’t care for Lee Ann Womack’s version of “Waiting for the Sun to Shine” on her There’s More Where That Came From album. Ricky Skaggs originally sang that, if I’m not mistaken. You know I love LAW but I find the song boring and too repetitive. I shock myself in saying and admitting it too lol.

    Another remake I’m not fond of particularly is Jimmy Buffett’s (& Friends) version of “Hey, Good Lookin'”. I love George, Alan, and Clint (and sometimes like Toby, and occasionally, Kenny), but this song was like an insult to Hank’s version. I know they were having fun with it, but it really was not that good IMO.

    I can’t think of any others at the moment.

  2. even though, b&d’s take on “misssing you” is a tough one to beat, elton john’s take on “stand by your man” from the tammy wynette “remembered” album comes pretty close. brave try, though.

  3. There’s far too many contenders, although, as always, that may be a matter of taste. I really liked Roger Miller’s original hit version of “Me and Bobbie McGee” and absolutely detest the Janis Joplin cover version of it, although that’s far from the worst cover I’ve ever heard.

    Probably the worst two I can recall was Mr. Miller’s covers of “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and “Downtown” (the Petula Clark hit). You only think Jessica Simpson butchered “Boots” – Mrs Miller positively disemboweled the song !

  4. I always loved Lindsey Buckingham’s response when asked about the Dixie Chicks’ cover of “Landslide”…. “Well, I’m happy for Stevie.”.
    I hear ya, Lindsey.

  5. For the best cover song of all time, I’d nominate the Rolf Harris version of “Stairway to Heaven”. After hearing Rolf’s near-spoof of the song, you’ll never be able to take the song seriously again.

  6. I would say William Shatner covering “Rocketman” is astounding in its crappiness. Also, “dancing in the streets” by Mick Jagger and David Bowie, especially for its video.

    As for Jessica Simpson, I would say her “take my breath away” was a much worse cover than “Boots”

  7. i would have to add “life is a highway” rascal flatts

    and jessica simpson butchering “angels” by robbie williams

  8. Jeez, how many covers has Jessica done? That’s rhetorical…I don’t really care.:)

    As for RF’s “Life Is A Highway”, it’s funny how a supposedly country group took out a big country element of the song, the harmonica. I agree, it’s a bad cover, indeed!
    I, myself, am not such a big fan of Faith’s cover of “Piece Of My Heart.” I think she does it with more grit in her live shows nowadays, but it’s too late.:)

    I don’t like Travis Tritt’s cover of “I Walk The Line”, because he slows it down to a ballad, which just doesn’t work for me. Perhaps it was creative, but to me, he turned fun into boring.
    And Matt B reminded me (on a different thread) of Collin Raye’s cover of “Open Arms.” Sorry matt, but I can’t stand that version. I’m not exactly in love with the song in general, but Collin didn’t help matters. While it’s interesting how he usually hits high or powerful notes, he didn’t quite succeed in this instance, at least according to my ears.

    This reminds me of Mark Chesnutt’s “I Wouldn’t Want To Miss A Thing” (exact title?). He managed to take an already atrocious song and make it even worse! I’m sure even he cringes when he thinks about those pop days. It’s one thing to cover a popular song to help one’s career, but did he, a fine artist, have to do that song in particular? He doesn’t exactly seem like a pushover, so it baffles me a bit, though I’ve heard that he *was* pushed into recording it.

    Okay, that’s it for now. There’re a lot of cover songs that I like as well…

  9. REVOLUTION…by rascal flatts…for anyone to possibly thinks a worse song exists, you are sadly mistaken.

  10. Leeann,

    we can disagree on that kind stuff, we already proved that on the NS blog @ the9513. As for bad covers, I’d have to concur that there are some bad ones out there like the RF covers.

    I’m not that big a fan of Allison Moorer’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” (because Joni’s own ‘cover’ of it with the orchestra is so stunning).

    The Wilkinson’s covered Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” and I just wasn’t impressed.

    I love Willie Nelson but his cover of “Time After Time” isn’t the best. To be fair, I think that it’d would’ve been better without Matt Serletic’s bombastic production.

    Worst cover ever? It’s too hard to say though I think that Jessica’s butchering of those two previously mentioned songs is very horrible.

  11. My all-time favorite song is “Time for Me to Fly” by REO Speedwagon. It has been for nearly 30 years and probably always will be. I guess I picked it as a child and stayed loyal to it. :) Anyway, when Dolly Parton remade that song, I was skeptical but was willing to give it a chance. It was AWFUL. There have been a lot of bad covers but that one was the worst for me since she totally ruined a song I loved.

  12. And on the subject of Dolly, that take on Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” deserves it due mention here. Probably not the absolute worst ever, but pretty bad.

    Offhand I think I’d have to give the title to Big & Rich’s unlistenable cover of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” You can appreciate that they at least tried to turn their cover into a country song, but the “shuffle” approach just flat-out doesn’t work for a piece about wild sex that hinges on a big note in the chorus. The only good covers I’ve heard of this song have stuck to the original arrangement, which already accomplishes everything the song is supposed to.

  13. I think the worst cover song was done by Chris Cagle. His cover of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” did not work for me, he took a good song and made it boring.

    Matt B.: I actually liked The Wilkinsons’ take on “Fast Car”, It’s not as good as the original but I enjoyed it.

  14. finally, something jessica simpson seems to be really good at: the craft of butchering good songs – that makes her probably the “sexiest butcher alive”. ….a title is a title folks.

  15. Jordan,

    I think I mainly just thought that song shouldn’t be covered. As for the Cagle song, he did ok with it but Montgomery Gentry should’ve had a hit with their version.

  16. I’m going to have to give the “worst cover song” idea some hard thought, but you’re right: this video helps emphasize just what a trainwreck this remake is. And what’s going on with the 40-something ex-stripper girlfriend who’s now a housemom at the Pink Pony, and the payday lender/pawnshop storefronts? AAACK! Someone save me!

  17. All this thread did is remind me of how big a crush I had on Amanda Wilkinson. Is she still around anywhere?

  18. Right. Once I saw Rascal Flatts, I thought about their cover of “Life Is a Highway”. Horrible. Chris Ledoux’s version is much better.

  19. Rascal Flatts covered “Revolution”??!! That is so very, very wrong on so many, many levels.
    As if I needed a final nail for the coffin containing my interest in RF.

    The other day, Gerry House was axing if any country artists had covered a Beatles song and they could not come up with an answer until someone finally called in (perhaps from hearing me yell at my radio) that Rosanne Cash covered “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”.
    That goes on my list of likeable cover tunes.

  20. We’ve now established that Dolly Parton is probably the worst offender for bad cover songs — give a listen to “She Drives Me Crazy” by the Fine Young Cannibals on her latest album. It’s odd that she butchers them, since her own material and her distinctive voice are so fine.

  21. Jim, I haven’t heard that cover by Singletary, but I’m very willing to believe you. Why would anyone feel compelled to cover that song? Why?

  22. Leeann… Someone mentioned that entire tribute album but they were talking outside of that, if anyone had had a hit covering a Beatles song.
    Interestingly, as big a Beatles fan as I am, I was not familiar with said cd. Seems like it’s just as well.

    Brooks & Dunn covering “Missing You”: The ONLY thing redeeming about that is that it was co-written by a cool guy named Chas Sandford.

  23. Ah, Matt, I tell ya what…:) You’re right that the whole album wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like it as a whole. So, essentially, we’re saying the opposite thing.:)

  24. LJ – I urge you to give “Missing You” another shot; it’s pretty solid pop in its original incarnation, as well as in the duet version with Alison Krauss (which sounds exactly the same, except for featuring Alison Krauss).

  25. There have been a handful of hit covers of Beatles songs in country music. As mentioned earlier, Rosanne Cash had a #1 hit with “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party.” Anne Murray had two hits with Beatles songs, a top ten pop hit with “You Won’t See Me” and a top thirty country hit with “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You.”

    Johnny Rodriguez had a top ten hit with “Something”, and Sweethearts of the Rodeo scored a top ten with “I Feel Fine.”

    There have also been scores of album cuts. Emmylou Harris is often praised for her cover of “For No One” on her first disc, but it’s her take on “Here, There and Everywhere” on her second album that floors me.

    Cash also covered “I’m Only Sleeping”, and Dolly Parton covered “Help!” I think they’re both available on iTunes. The Parton cover is cool because it’s from the late seventies, but it could have fit in perfectly on one of her recent roots albums.

    Well, I guess tomorrow’s open thread has to be about the best covers, doesn’t it?

  26. Reba recorded The Beatles’ ‘If I Fell’ on one of her UK releases – I forget which one. But I thought she did a great job on that one.

    As for bad covers, Blake Shelton singing ‘Goodbye Time’ was one cover that made me change the station every time it came on. Thankfully, it’s not a recurrent song in my area.

  27. Jordan and Jim- Thanks for the information. I’ll have to check that out.

    Also important- is she still pretty cute?

  28. I think she’s adorable.
    FYI–there’s a really cool show called The Wilkinsons what aired on CMT Canada for two seasons. It’s a fake reality show, and it’s hilarious, if you can get ahold of it anywhere.

  29. As a long-time die-hard Fleetwood Mac fan, I have to give a big “just. no.” to Waylon covering their / Stevie Nicks’ work.
    Don’t get me wrong, I like Waylon alright but for me personally, Fleetwood Mac is bordering on “Thou Shalt Not….” territory.

    I know Little Big Town will cover “Go Your Own Way” and a couple of years ago at the CMA Fest stadium show, Sara Evans did the same.

  30. While it may not be the popular wisdom to say it, I did not at all care for what Faith Hill did to “Piece Of My Heart.” She turned a gut-wrenching piece of 1960s blues-rock into a hoedown, and committed an act of sacrilege, in my opinion.

    I’m also not high on Terri Clark’s overtly twangy take on “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me.” For one, she misses the jet-black humor of this Warren Zevon-penned number, which is basically an ode to suicide and rape. For another, it may be redundant to say it, but Terri’s not Linda Ronstadt.

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