Five Songs You Probably Didn’t Know Were Covers

Cyndi Lauper performs at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota on December 9, 1984 Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

When a song you’ve never heard before emerges as a hit, it’s natural to assume that the recording rocketing to success is the original version. But in the immortal words of Ira Gershwin, who wrote his share of hits in his day, it ain’t necessarily so. You could probably build a whole wing onto the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame filled with crypto-covers — tunes that made pop and rock history the second time around. Here are just a few of the hits that have etched themselves into the collective consciousness via blockbuster covers after the original versions failed to catch fire.

1. Joan Jett, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”

From the signature “Ow!” in between riffs to the growling assertion, “Yeah, me!” Joan Jett seems to make her 1981 Number One hit “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” so much her own that comes as something of a shock to realize the song was written and recorded in 1975 by Arrows, an American glam-rock group that found fleeting fame in England. The band was fronted by Alan Merrill, who is the son of legendary jazz singer Helen Merrill, and had released a cult-classic power-pop solo album, Merrill 1 in 1971. Presumably Merrill’s royalties remain sufficient to keep him from complaining about Jett stealing his thunder, though his position on Weird Al Yankovic’s version, “I Love Rocky Road,” remains unknown.

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