Soul Music Cover Songs: Who Did It Best?

Ever wondered which artists have the magic touch when it comes to soul covers? It’s no secret that soul music has transformed pop and rock songs into deeply expressive versions.

Our blog dives into the unforgettable world of classic soul cover songs, giving you a front-row seat to the most passionate performances.

Get ready for a musical journey that celebrates talented voices and timeless tunes!

Key Takeaways

  • Isaac Hayes’ rendition of “Walk on By” and Otis Redding’s version of “Try a Little Tenderness” are celebrated as some of the best classic soul covers, showcasing their ability to infuse new depth and emotion into iconic pop/rock songs.
  • Soul artists like Smokey Robinson, The Isley Brothers, and Luther Vandross reshaped pop hits such as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” and “Summer Breeze,” adding their distinct touch and emotional depth to these timeless classics.
  • Classic rock bands like Talking Heads and The Animals also left their mark with energetic covers of soul songs such as “Take Me to the River” and “Bring It on Home to Me,” bridging musical genres with their unique styles while paying homage to the original soulful roots.
  • These cover songs illustrate how soul music continues to evolve by bringing fresh perspectives that resonate with audiences across generations.

Top 10 Classic Soul Covers of Pop/Rock Songs (Originally by White Artists)

Isaac Hayes, Quincy Jones, Otis Redding, and other classic soul artists have given us timeless covers of pop/rock songs originally by white artists. Their soulful renditions have added new depth and emotion to these iconic tracks.

Isaac Hayes: Walk on By

Isaac Hayes took “Walk on By,” a song first made famous by Dionne Warwick, and turned it into a soul music masterpiece. His cover stretches over 12 minutes with a lush blend of piano, strings, and his deep voice.

This version brought new depth to the song’s story of heartbreak.

Fans loved how Hayes transformed “Walk on By” into something completely his own. The track shows off his ability to create an emotional journey through music. People still talk about this classic soul cover as one of the best ever done.

It’s proof that a great artist can take a pop hit and fill it with soulful power.

Quincy Jones feat. Valerie Simpson: Summer in the City

Quincy Jones featuring Valerie Simpson‘s cover of “Summer in the City” brought a fresh R&B twist to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s original rock hit. With funky instrumentation and soulful vocals, their rendition added new depth to the song, earning praise for its reimagined sound.

This transformative cover showcased Quincy Jones and Valerie Simpson’s musical prowess, breathing new life into a classic pop-rock track from the 1960s.

Moving on to “- Otis Redding: Try a Little Tenderness“..

Otis Redding: Try a Little Tenderness

From Quincy Jones feat. Valerie Simpson’s “Summer in the City,” we move to Otis Redding’s soulful rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness.” Originally a pop standard, Redding infused his powerful vocals to deliver an emotional and stirring performance that became synonymous with soul music covers.

With its passionate delivery and raw emotion, Redding’s interpretation of this classic song captured the hearts of many listeners and solidified his legacy as one of the greatest soul music artists.

His version of “Try a Little Tenderness” is widely regarded as one of the transformative cover songs that transcended genres.

Smokey Robinson: Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

Smokey Robinson covered the song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” originally by The Shirelles. This soulful rendition showcased his vocal prowess and emotional depth, bringing a fresh perspective to this classic pop song.

With his smooth delivery and heartfelt interpretation, Smokey Robinson’s version added a soulful touch to the timeless lyrics.

The cover of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” by Smokey Robinson exemplifies how soul music artists can infuse new life into popular songs from other genres and make them their own. By incorporating his distinctive style and emotive storytelling, Smokey Robinson’s rendition resonates with listeners, highlighting the power of musical interpretations in shaping the evolution of soul music cover songs.

Isaac Hayes: The Look of Love

Continuing with the soulful covers of pop/rock songs, Isaac Hayes‘s rendition of “The Look of Love” is a standout. The song was originally recorded by Dusty Springfield and Isaac Hayes brought his own unique touch to it.

With his deep, velvety voice and smooth delivery, he transformed the song into a sultry and seductive masterpiece. Incorporating lush orchestration and his signature soulful style, Hayes created an iconic version that stands out in the realm of cover songs.

His interpretation adds layers of depth and passion to the original piece.

Cold Grits: It’s Your Thing

After establishing soulful covers of pop and rock songs with Isaac Hayes’ rendition of “The Look of Love,” we move to the funk and soul band Cold Grits who gave a groovy twist to The Isley Brothers’ classic “It’s Your Thing.” Renowned for their energetic stage presence, Cold Grits added their signature energy to this cover, infusing it with raw emotion and an irresistible rhythm.

Their vigorous vocal performances and vibrant instrumentals solidified this cover as a defining moment in the intersection of R&B and rockpop song covers. This rendition exemplifies how soul artists adeptly put their own stamp on classic hits, enriching them with new layers while paying homage to the original essence.

The Brothers Johnson: Strawberry Letter 23

Following the energetic cover of “It’s Your Thing” by Cold Grits, another classic soul cover that captivated audiences was The Brothers Johnson‘s rendition of “Strawberry Letter 23.” Originally a song by Shuggie Otis, The Brothers Johnson infused their version with vibrant funk and smooth R&B elements.

Their upbeat tempo and catchy hooks added a fresh twist to the original tune. This soulful interpretation showcased their versatility as artists and solidified their reputation in the music industry.

Diverse skill sets among musicians deliver unique versions of songs which contributes to expanding the appreciation for different genres.

David Porter: I’m Afraid the Masquerade Is Over

Continuing the list of classic soul covers of pop/rock songs, David Porter’s rendition of “I’m Afraid the Masquerade Is Over” stands out. This song was originally a jazz standard but his soulful interpretation brought new life to it.

With deep emotion and rich vocal delivery, Porter’s cover captures the essence of the song in a way that resonates with listeners. His version adds layers of depth and feeling, making it a standout in the realm of soul music cover songs.

David Porter’s take on “I’m Afraid the Masquerade Is Over” showcases his ability to infuse old classics with fresh energy and emotion. The song becomes an authentic expression of soul music through his powerful vocals and heartfelt delivery, making it one of the memorable covers in this genre.

The Isley Brothers: Summer Breeze

The Isley Brothers brought their signature smooth and soulful sound to the Seals and Crofts hit “Summer Breeze.” With its laid-back groove and silky harmonies, The Isley Brothers’ version of the song became an instant classic in the world of R&B covers.

Their rendition captured the essence of summer with a fresh, breezy vibe that perfectly showcased their vocal prowess. It’s no wonder that this cover is still beloved by fans of both pop music covers and R&B covers alike.

Luther Vandross: A House Is Not a Home

Luther Vandross made “A House Is Not a Home” famous through his soulful rendition. The song was originally written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick in 1964, but it was Luther Vandross’ emotional delivery and vocal technique that brought new life to the classic.

Luther’s version resonated with listeners on a deep emotional level, making it one of his most iconic performances. With his smooth vocals and heartfelt interpretation, Luther Vandross turned “A House Is Not a Home” into a timeless soul ballad that continues to captivate audiences.

Top 10 Classic Rock Covers of Soul Songs

From Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River” to The Beatles’ “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” these classic rock covers of soul songs truly showcase the versatility and crossover appeal of soul music.

If you’re curious to find out who did it best, keep reading for more soulful insights!

Take Me to the River by Talking Heads

Talking Heads’ cover of “Take Me to the River” infuses the classic soul song with their unique new wave style, creating an upbeat and danceable rendition. David Byrne’s distinctive vocals combined with the band’s art-rock sensibilities bring a fresh energy to this soulful tune, making it a standout in the world of rock covers.

The syncopated rhythm and infectious groove make this version of “Take Me to the River” a timeless favorite that bridges musical genres and showcases Talking Heads’ ability to reinterpret classic songs with their signature sound.

– Classic rock songs have been covered by soul artists, including “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Ohio/Machine Gun” by Neil Young/Jimi Hendrix.

‘I Can\’t Stand Up for Falling Down’ by Elvis Costello

Moving from Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River,” we come to Elvis Costello’s rendition of “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down.” Originally a hit for Sam & Dave in 1967, Elvis Costello’s cover brought a new wave and punk energy to this classic soul song.

The urgent rhythm and energetic vocals created an electrifying blend of rock and soul genres, showcasing Costello’s versatility as an artist. With its infectious beat and raw emotion, it’s no wonder why this cover stands out as one of the best cross-genre interpretations in music history.

Elvis Costello’s take on “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” skillfully infuses the timeless essence of soul music with his distinct rock style, creating a dynamic musical fusion that captivates audiences across generations.

‘Bring It on Home to Me’ by The Animals

Continuing the journey of classic rock covers of soul songs, let’s delve into The Animals’ rendition of “Bring It on Home to Me.” This iconic song originally by Sam Cooke was given new life by The Animals with their raw and passionate delivery.

With Eric Burdon’s soulful vocals and the band’s bluesy instrumentation, they brought a fresh energy to this timeless track. The Animals managed to capture the heart and soul of the original while infusing it with their own signature sound, making it a standout in the realm of rock covers of soul classics.

This rendition stands as a testament to the enduring power of music in transcending genres and resonating across generations.

‘The Dark End of the Street’ by Percy Sledge

Moving from the rock cover of “Bring It on Home to Me” by The Animals, we delve into Percy Sledge’s soulful rendition of “The Dark End of the Street”. This classic was originally recorded by James Carr and made famous by Percy Sledge.

Known for his emotive delivery, Sledge lends a raw honesty to this timeless song, capturing the essence of deep emotional yearning. His soul-stirring interpretation brings out the longing and secrecy embedded in the lyrics as he croons about forbidden love and clandestine meetings.

With its poignant melody and heartfelt vocals, it’s no surprise that this iconic cover continues to resonate with audiences across generations.

‘Baby Don\’t You Do It’ by The Band

The Band’s cover of “Baby Don’t You Do It” originated from Marvin Gaye’s classic. The Band added their signature rock flavor to the soulful song, bringing out a raw and emotional edge.

With deep vocals and powerful instrumentals, The Band transformed the track into a stunning rock-soul fusion that showcased their versatility as musicians.

This energetic rendition captured the essence of both genres, displaying The Band’s ability to blend soul and rock seamlessly. Their version upheld the spirit of the original while infusing it with their unique sound.

‘Hard to Handle’ by The Black Crowes

Continuing with classic rock covers of soul songs, we have “Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes. Originally performed by Otis Redding, this song was given a fresh twist by The Black Crowes.

Their version maintains the energetic and funky vibe of the original but adds their own rock flair. With punchy vocals and a lively instrumental arrangement, The Black Crowes brought new life to this soul classic.

It’s no wonder that their cover became a hit and remains popular even today. This rendition showcases the band’s ability to infuse their style into a timeless soul track, creating an exciting blend of genres.

The Black Crowes’ rendition of “Hard to Handle” exemplifies how classic rock artists can put their spin on beloved soul tunes while staying true to the essence of the original music.

‘I Want You Back (Alive)’ by Hoodoo Gurus

Hoodoo Gurus’ rendition of “I Want You Back (Alive)” infuses classic rock with soulful energy, making it an electrifying cover. The band’s raw vocals and vibrant instrumentation capture the essence of the Jackson 5 original while adding a gritty, rock-inspired edge.

This high-energy interpretation showcases the versatility of soul music when combined with rock elements, creating a captivating fusion that pays homage to the original track while carving out its own distinct sound.

As we delve into the next section about soul music in the Great American Songbook, Hoodoo Gurus’ unique take on “I Want You Back (Alive)” serves as a powerful example of how artists can breathe new life into beloved classics.

‘Quarter to Three’ by Bruce Springsteen

Moving from the high-energy performance of \”I Want You Back (Alive)\” by Hoodoo Gurus, now we delve into Bruce Springsteen’s rendition of \”Quarter to Three.\” The song captures the electrifying energy of a live performance, showcasing Springsteen’s raw and exuberant vocal delivery.

With its pulsating rhythm and catchy hooks, this cover exemplifies Springsteen’s ability to infuse soulful fervor into rock music. Drawing on his charismatic stage presence, Springsteen breathes new life into this classic track with an infectious spirit that keeps listeners captivated.

An energetic anthem filled with palpable verve, “Quarter to Three” by Bruce Springsteen is a testament to his prowess in reimagining rock classics with soulful dynamism. This adaptation reveals how Springsteen expertly harnesses the magnetic pull of live performances to inject vigor and excitement into his covers.

‘You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me’ by The Beatles

The Beatles covered “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” originally by The Miracles. Released in 1963, this soulful rendition showcased The Beatles’ ability to infuse their rock style with a touch of soul, highlighting their musical versatility.

The song’s lively tempo and emotional delivery captured the essence of Motown soul, earning accolades for its seamless transition from R&B to the British Invasion sound. Sold over one million copies and making it into the top ten charts, this cover solidified The Beatles as more than just a pop rock band.

(I Know) I\’m Losing You by Rod Stewart

Moving from The Beatles’ “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” we come to Rod Stewart’s rendition of “(I Know) I’m Losing You.” Originally performed by The Temptations, this soulful track was successfully covered by Rod Stewart.

With its raw emotion and powerful vocals, the song showcases Stewart’s ability to infuse rock elements into soul music. His unique interpretation brings a new depth to the classic tune, solidifying his place in the realm of soul music cover songs.

Considering the significance of both The Temptations and Rod Stewart in shaping the landscape of soul music, it’s fascinating to witness how this cover contributes to the rich tapestry of soul covers.

Soul Music in the Great American Songbook

Discover how classic soul artists put their own unique spin on timeless American songs, and how these covers have become iconic in the world of music. Explore the unforgettable renditions of Etta James, Lou Rawls, The Supremes, James Brown, and Amy Winehouse as they take on beloved classics from the Great American Songbook.

Etta James: At Last (Rod Stewart version)

In 1960, Etta James recorded her rendition of “At Last,” a song originally written in 1942 and made famous by Glenn Miller. This soulful ballad showcases James’ powerful, emotive vocals and became one of her signature songs.

Rod Stewart’s version adds a rock edge to the classic tune while maintaining the emotional depth of the original. Both versions capture the essence of longing and love with their own unique flair, making them timeless covers in the world of soul music.

Lou Rawls: Stormy Weather (from Tobacco Road, 1964)

Lou Rawls‘ rendition of “Stormy Weather” from his 1964 album Tobacco Road is a soulful and heartfelt cover. This classic song was originally performed by Ethel Waters in the 1930s and has been covered by many artists, but Lou Rawls’ version stands out for its powerful delivery and emotional depth.

With his smooth, velvety voice, Rawls brings a new level of passion to the song, making it one of the iconic soul covers that showcase the rich history and influence of soul music.

This cover resonates with its raw emotion and showcases Lou Rawls’ vocal prowess, solidifying his place as one of the great interpreters of classic songs.

The Supremes: The Lady Is A Tramp (from The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart, 1967)

Moving from the soulful rendition of “Stormy Weather” by Lou Rawls to The Supremes’ lively cover of “The Lady Is A Tramp,” it’s evident how soul artists breathed new life into classic tunes.

The Supremes, led by Diana Ross, infused this Rodgers & Hart song with a fresh, vibrant energy that resonated with their audience. As one of the most successful female singing groups in the 1960s, The Supremes showcased their versatility through this cover and solidified their impact on both soul music and American pop culture.

James Brown: Nature Boy (from Cold Sweat, 1967)

James Brown’s rendition of “Nature Boy” from the album Cold Sweat, 1967 showcased his unique ability to infuse soul and passion into a classic song. The track demonstrated Brown’s versatility as an artist, reinterpreting a well-known melody with his signature style.

With his raw and powerful vocals, he breathed new life into the song, making it a standout in the realm of soul music covers.

Moving forward to the next segment on our list: Soul Music in the Great American Songbook.

Amy Winehouse: Moody’s Mood for Love (from Frank, 2003)

Amy Winehouse’s rendition of “Moody’s Mood for Love” from her album Frank showcases her soulful and jazzy voice, bringing a fresh interpretation to the classic song. The track captures the essence of Amy’s unique musical style, blending elements of jazz, R&B, and soul with her powerful yet emotive vocals.

Amy’s delivery adds depth and emotion to this timeless piece, making it a standout in the realm of soul music covers.

Next up: Soul Music in the Great American Songbook


In conclusion, soul music has a rich tradition of covering pop and rock songs, with artists like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin showcasing their talents through transformative covers.

The crossover between genres has produced iconic reinterpretations such as Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” These covers not only pay homage to the original versions but also bring a unique soulful perspective that resonates with audiences.

As soul music continues to evolve, these cover songs remind us of the genre’s enduring influence on popular music.