Monday Discussion: Pop Songs that Country Artists Should Cover

While we’re all fans of country music here, many of us enjoy other styles as well, be it rock, rap, jazz, classical or R&B.   Sometimes, the songs from those genres would be perfect fits for country artists.   I’m going to match up a few, and I invite you to do the same in the comments.

I’ll start with John Lennon, the guy who is responsible for 80% of the Beatles songs I love and the only one that I enjoy the solo work of, too.   I was going to recommend “Working Class Hero”, but Green Day’s cover of that acoustic number revealed a pulsating rock edge underneath it.  I don’t know if “Jealous Guy” could be a country hit, but I could imagine Keith Urban knocking it out of the ballpark.

When reviewing Up!, Chris Willman described Twain’s sound as “Abba Gold without all the melancholy.”  I’d like to see Twain tackle the divorce epic “The Winner Takes it All”, which is one of the most nakedly vulnerable songs I’ve ever heard in any genre.  “I apologize,” the woman left for another sings, “if it makes you feel bad, seeing me so tense, no self-confidence.  But you see, the winner takes it all.”

When Elton John performed “Turn the Lights Out When You Leave” on the CMA Awards, it was already a country song.   As good as his performance of it is, this one is begging for a revival by Toby Keith, who would give a kiss-off like this better than any other recording artist I can think of.


  1. I actually keep a running list of these as I discover them. One of my favorites on that list is “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” originally by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. It’s one of those shuffling ditties that could work as either a rock or country song. The original recording already has so much ad-libbed personality that any cover of it would have to take a different comic approach. I’d like to hear some modern country stars – preferably understated singers like Gary Allan, Alan Jackson, George Strait, or Josh Turner – collaborate on a somewhat dryer reading of it.

    The original:

  2. I have always thought that songs from The Who would make great country covers: “Squeeze Box,” “Bargain,” “Goin’ Mobile,” “Join Together,” “Baba O’Riley” – with a real country fiddle at the end, “Behind Blue Eyes” – these would all make excellent covers. Many are so close to being country in the first place.

  3. I’d like to see someone take on Dylan’s “Masters Of War”, but I realize its scathing lyrics must sound very antithetical to the conservative bent of country music. This would be a job for Steve Earle, in my opinion.

    Then there’s “Gallows Pole” and “Hot Dog” by Led Zeppelin, both of which have a distinct country bent amidst the sledgehammer rock. “Hot Dog” is Bakersfield-like (give this to Dwight Yoakam), and “Gallows Pole” not only has a mandolin on it, but Jimmy Page plays some banjo on it (give this to the Dixie Chicks).

  4. I second Springsteen. Any number of his songs would work wonders in a country setting. Off the top of my head, “Human Touch” and “Glory Days” would be some well-known gems to cover, but plenty of his album cuts would also do the trick. His poetic stylings are just the eloquence country music often needs.

  5. It would be great to hear a country artist cover “Winner At A Losing Game” by Rascal Flatts. It’s a decent song but I think it would make a great country song.

    Okay now to be serious (though really a more country sounding artist recording that song would be cool), I just have to say in advance that I’m thinking more pop/country here. I don’t really like the song that much but Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul” would probably sound good with a country production. As long as they don’t do like Rissi Palmer’s “No Air” then we’re good. Make it sound more country and give it to a decent country/pop artist and I think you’d have a winner.

    Somebody doing a cover of a Norah Jones song would also be interesting, I don’t know who could pull that one off, but I’d like to hear that.

    I’m a little tired and can’t think of any really good ones.

  6. I think one of the best covers of a non-country song is Carrie Underwood’s version of “I’ll Stand By You” by the Pretenders. She blew me away with her vocals!!! Just amazing!

    So Jordan Stacey went with a newer song to choose and I’m going to do the same. I would love to hear a country version of Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” It’s been one of the biggest hits of the past year and it would be interesting to hear a country twist on it.

  7. I blogged about this while at The Lost Highway.

    and a country band DID do “Squeeze Box!” McBride & The Ride covered it earlier this decade.

    I love this song “Colorful” by Rocco Deluca & the Burden and think it’s ripe for a country cover (it already has dbor in use with it).

    Aaron, To tie yours and Jordan’s posts together, Jesse McCartney co-wrote that song .

    I also think that somebody like Keith Urban could cover “How To Save A Life” by the Fray. It’s such a lyrically strong song.

    I also think this beautiful song by the Gabe Dixon Band could be covered by a strong vocalist (male or female):

  8. Wow, I wrote really crappy when talking about Rocco Deluca’s “Colorful.” I meant to say that he plays the Dobro in it so it already could be countrified.

  9. Faith Hill covering The First Cut Of The Deepest // Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens like Sheryl Crow do in her Very Best Of

  10. About 75% of the Beatles stuff I like was penned by Paul McCartney – T can see Keith Urban doing “Yesterday” to good effect

  11. I’m having deja vu.. did we do this topic recently?

    All Saints – Black Coffee or Pure Sures (Krauss?)
    Amy Winehouse – Rehab
    Black Eyed Pees – My Humps (Sara Evans.. Alanis’ version was hilarious!)
    Belinda Carlisle – Heaven is a Place on Earth
    Brandy – The Boy is Mine [Feat Monica]
    Jennifer Lopez – Ain’t it Funny

  12. A pair of songs that were hits for Blood, Sweat, and Tears back in the day: “And When I Die”, and “Hi-De-Ho (That Old Sweet Roll).”

    For the women, though, I’d be very careful in reworking any more of the contemporary material that Linda Ronstadt did in her 1970s heyday; they’re a literal minefield, not only because of Linda’s reputation but also because of the nature of some of the songs themselves, especially “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me”, the Warren Zevon-penned classic that, perhapss unbeknownst to Terri Clark, is a blackly comic ode to rape and suicide, perfect in keeping with Linda’s own sense of humor.

  13. Hmmmm… let’s go with “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas. I think that could make a great record if someone like Gary Allan covered it.

  14. Melanie C’s B-Side “Can’t Stay Tonight” would be great in Carrie’s version.

    “What’s Up” in a Sunny Sweeney version could be funny, but good!

    I can’t think in more examples, but this is a great idea!

  15. McBride would have a killer vocal on “Walk Away” by Kelly Clarkson… but thats just me ;)

    …no others I can think of right now..

  16. Another song I have considered is an R&B/gospel classic from the 1950s, “Without Love (There Is Nothing).” Its message of how someone could conquer the world but still have an empty life without that one precious thing is something that has clearly struck those legendary artists who have recorded it: Clyde McPhatter; Ray Charles; Little Richard; Elvis Presley; and Tom Jones. But it really does require a strong voice for it, and I don’t know of too many who could plumb its emotional depths.

    Maybe a woman ought to do it now–possibly Trisha or Martina; certainly Linda Ronstadt, who’s no slouch at big, deep, powerful singing.

  17. Turn The Page Bob Seger/Gary Allan

    She’s Gone Hall&Oates/Little Big Town

    Lay Lady Lay Bob Dylan/Dirks Bentley

    Someone to Lay Down Beside Me Linda Ronstadt/Patty Loveless

  18. Call me crazy, but I’ve always wanted to hear a country artist do Cher’s ‘Just Like Jesse James’. After thinking about which artist in our genre could pull it off, the only one I could think of in contemporary country music is Miranda Lambert.

  19. I want Patty Loveless to sing Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good To Me”. Patty says on her new album she’s a combo of Webb Pierce, George Jones and Tina Turner. :)

    I think a number of Cyndi Lauper songs would make good covers but I would especially love to hear “All Through the Night” and “Money Changes Everything” if done right.

    Also, REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You”.

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