Aretha Franklin: Respect (1967)
One of the greatest pop songs of all time by one of the greatest singers covering yet another all-time great in Otis Redding. It couldn’t fail – and it didn’t.
Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas: Hey Joe (2009) This is a pyrotechnic acoustic version of the famous Hendrix song (which is itself a cover). If you only listen to one piece of music on this list make it this one. Impossible not to smile and sit back and admire the musicianship.
The Allman Brothers Band: Done Somebody Wrong (1971) The number of blues covers is endless but this one showcases the dynamic brilliance and unique tone of slide-guitar supremo Duane Allman. Thom Doucette on harmonica and Dickey Betts on guitar also shine.
Cream: Crossroads (1968) This is the song that made me want to swap my acoustic guitar for an electric. After nagging my mother for months (‘I'll buy you one when you can play like that’ – she wasn’t stupid!) I finally got my best-ever Christmas present, in 1970. Clapton’s solo here has, in my opinion, never been bettered. It was also the song that made me seek out the original, introducing me to the Delta blues.
Derek Trucks Band: Anyday (2007) Clapton, naturally, has covered countless blues numbers – including a whole album of Robert Johnson songs. However, his own compositions have also been covered and nowhere better than this version of the Derek And The Dominos song, recorded at Clapton’s Crossroads Festival. I particularly like the moment on the video (at 1:18) when the camera catches Clapton singing along on the sidelines. Guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks was named after the original album.
Chicago Transit Authority: I’m A Man (1969) When they first started out Chicago weren’t the purveyors of poppy ballads they became but instead brilliant innovators of jazz-rock. This cover of the Spencer Davis Group’s 1967 hit features the superb vocals and guitar of Terry Kath.
Cara Dillon: Garden Valley (2007) A complete change of pace here – to one of the most beautiful and haunting voices around today. This sad tale of the plight of refugees from the Highland clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries is a cover of Scottish folk legend Dougie MacLean’s song with lyrics that are still highly relevant today.
Elton John: Love Song (1971) Elton John doesn’t do many cover versions so this gem is well worth a listen. Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in May 1974 in front of an audience that included Princess Margaret – and me (not together, of course) – this also features the song’s writer, Lesley Duncan, on harmony vocal.
Joe Bonamassa: Fire And Water (2012) I’m stretching the definition of cover version here as this fantastic live performance at the Beacon Theatre features the song’s original writer and singer Paul Rodgers (one of the few to sound just as good now as he did way back when). However, I’ve chosen it for the guitarist: Joe Bonamassa is a chameleon – he can play and sound like just about anyone and here his collection of Paul Kossoff-style chords, bends, vibratos and sustains send shivers down the spine of this long-time Free fanatic.
Stevie Ray Vaughan: Little Wing (released 1991) This is a bit of a cheat too as it is an instrumental version of the Hendrix classic. Never released in Vaughan’s lifetime (he died in a helicopter crash in 1990), it is a recording of a jam before the real work began in the studio. However, it is simply magnificent – and if this was just the warm-up…