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The 25 greatest Canadian cover songs
By
Jesse Kinos-Goodin

Published

February 17, 2016

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It's no secret that Canada is home to some of the most talented songwriters in popular music, our love of a heartbreaking lyric or witty turn of phrase being second to none.

But sometimes the song itself has a longer shadow than the actual songwriter, living on through some incredible covers that expose it to new audiences. Sometimes the cover is bigger than the original, sometimes it's even better, and sometimes it's an entirely different song all together.

In the list below, we've collected our favourite covers of Canadian songs, performed by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone to the White Stripes and Radiohead. Not surprisingly, there are also plenty of covers by fellow Canadian musicians, who are huge fans of the songs just like the rest of us.


Who doesn't love a good cover song, especially when the original is Canadian? Here are 25 of the best from the likes of Feist, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, the White Stripes and, yes, Jeff Buckley.

‘Secret Heart’

Originally released by Ron Sexsmith in 1995, Feist included this cover on her album Let it Die, her vocals lending it that extra little something that her voice tends to do to, well, everything. 


It’s a testament to his songwriting that Sexsmith probably has as many fans that are famous musicians as he does people like you and me, including the Bublé, who always makes us feel like we’re in the classiest lounge in the country. Bonus points for featuring Sexsmith on harmonies.


‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time’

Bruce Cockburn saw his song rise to number 25 on the Top 40 when it was released in 1984. Seven years later, Barenaked Ladies saw it peak at 16. You know what else? Twenty-five minus seven is almost 16. Whoa.


‘The Weight’

Think this sing-along jam from the Band can’t get any better? How about adding a touch of soul from the one and only Aretha Franklin?


'I Go Blind'

Let’s just say Canada’s unsung heroes 54-40 are probably still receiving decent royalty cheques from when Hootie & the Blowfish made “I Go Blind” one of the biggest songs of the '90s.


‘Nautical Disaster’

We need more great Tragically Hip covers like this. Justin Rutledge’s pared-down treatment just makes Gord Downie’s lyrics all the more devastating.


‘Dark Angel’

Whitehorse released an EP’s worth of cover songs to commemorate their concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall last year, and while there are a ton of great ones on it, such as Sexsmith’s “Strawberry Blonde,” our fave has to be this under-appreciated Blue Rodeo classic.


‘If You Could Read My Mind’

We actually prefer the Gordon Lightfoot original to this dancey cover by Stars on 54 for the movie about the infamous Studio 54, but you can’t deny a whole generation was introduced to the song because of it.


‘Hallelujah’

It would be easier to make a list of people who haven’t covered Leonard Cohen’s spiritual and sensual classic, but Jeff Buckley’s could be the best one out there.


‘Hallelujah’

Imma let you finish, but k.d. lang had one of the best “Hallelujah” covers of all time!


‘Suzanne’

Another Cohen classic, “Suzanne” has been covered by everyone from Judy Collins to Roberta Flack, but Nina Simone’s is by far the most haunting.


‘Needle and the Damage Done’

The genius of U.K. folk singer Laura Marling really shines through on this long, dark cloud of a song by the one and only Neil Young.


‘Take Care’

We’re just grateful Florence and the Machine kept those amazing steel drums on this cover of the Drake and Rihanna hit.


‘On the Beach’

Another great cover out of the U.K., as Radiohead covers my all-time favourite Neil Young song about battling the pressures of fame. Also, doesn’t Thom Yorke sound exactly like Young here?


‘A Case of You’

This one from Joni Mitchell is another of those songs that has been covered by pretty much everyone, but a more recent favourite version has to be from the Mercury Prize-winning Brit, James Blake.


‘American Woman’

Apparently the reason there’s no guitar solo in this Lenny Kravitz cover of the Guess Who hit is because, as Kravitz told Bachman, “I couldn't get the sound. I couldn't get the tone."


‘Courage’

What, acclaimed director Sarah Polley can also sing? Clearly, as she shows us on this sombre cover of a Tragically Hip rocker.


‘Walking with a Ghost’

The White Stripes were so taken with this Tegan and Sara song that they made it the title track for their 2005 EP.


‘Crabbuckit’

This 2004 hit from k-os was always pretty funky; the Good Lovelies made it folky.


‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’

Serena Ryder released an album of Canadian covers back in 2006, including this Paul Anka song that was first recorded by Buddy Holly even further back, in 1958.


‘Don’t Walk Away Eileen’

Royal Wood takes a show-closer from Sam Roberts and strips it down to a lovely piano ballad.


‘Early Morning Rain’

Gordon Lightfoot actually recorded and released this song twice, neither of which were ever as popular as this version from Peter, Paul and Mary.


‘Early Morning Rain’

Elvis's is pretty great, too.


‘One More Colour’

Rheostatics included a pretty punk cover of this popular song from '80s Canadian pop star Jane Siberry on their 1995 album, Introducing Happiness. Absolutely nothing tops theoriginal video though, in which Siberry flaunts her fondness for cows, real and fake.


‘Dance Me to the End of Love’

What an appropriately heartbreaking Cohen cover from the Civil Wars, who are currently, and sadly, on hiatus. 

You can also listen to the songs in one playlist below.

Follow Jesse Kinos-Goodin on Twitter: @JesseKG