100 Best Rock Songs to Cover - That Audiences Can't Resist!by Exit 85 on May 22, 2023
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So you've done the hard work of starting a rock band. Congrats! But now you aren't quite sure which songs to put on your setlist? Well you've come to the right place! We've put together a list of the 100 best rock songs to cover, that we have personally performed with cover bands for many years. These aren't just suggestions, they're tried-and-true classics that we've vetted, from five amazing decades of rock. From empowering female-led ballads to tunes every rock fan and their grandma will recognize.
Our criteria for this list as follows:
- The songs MUST rock. No ballads, acoustic guitars or slow songs. They have their place in your setlist, but we'll save that for another article.
- Top-40 songs only. A successful cover band plays songs that people recognize. We all have our underground favorites, but unfortunately they loose an audience.
- Practical to learn and perform. No awkward parts or instruments, sorry Bohemian Rhapsody fans.
Before we jump into the list, take a listen to Exit 85, a local rock cover band out of the Carolinas. They're a great example of a successful cover band that has nailed their song selection, delivering spot-on performances that have made them a fan favorite across the Southeast.
Easy Rock Songs to Cover
As a cover band you need a lot of ammunition in your back pocket, and difficult songs make that hard to accomplish. That doesn't mean you have to compromise on quality for the sake of simplicity. There are a lot of songs that truly rock, that are also easy to play. Having songs in your lineup that you can learn with minimal effort, will make your practices shorter, buy you more time to work on other complex material, and make those long sets much easier to get through.
So whether you're a band just starting out, looking to expand your setlist, or an experienced group aiming for crowd-pleasing favorites, here's a few you can learn quickly to get your audience's heads nodding.
Easy Songs for Bands to Cover
- All The Small Things" by Blink-182 (1999)
With its catchy rhythm and unforgettable chorus, it's a pop-punk favorite that always gets the crowd jumping.
- "Closing Time" by Semisonic (1998)
A simple 4 chord pattern that's a 90s classic, and it resonates with everyone, making it a great closing song.
- "Good" by Better Than Ezra (1995)
Another 4 chord pattern with the bass simply hitting 4 quarter notes on the root of each one. It's a positive feel-good addition that you can learn in minutes.
- "Good Riddance" by Green Day (1997)
A timeless ballad that despite being played with arpeggios in the original, can easily be strummed with basic open chords without anyone noticing.
- "Man In The Box" by Alice In Chains (1989)
It's heavy, audiences love to request it, and the main riff is just one open note... E!
- "Seven Nation Army" by White Stripes (2003)
Crowds love to chant to this hypnotic bass line. And despite their talent level, your bass player probably already knows it.
- "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by The Clash (1982)
An '80s punk classic, with an unforgettable hook and simple riff that's easy to play, even after a few drinks.
- "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana (1991)
A signature '90s track, with a simple and forgiving riff for beginner guitarists, that many already learn during their first lessons.
- "What I Got" by Sublime (1996)
A fun reggae/rock song, that's only 2 chords! If you can't handle that, you shouldn't be performing.
- "Wonderwall" by Oasis (1995)
This '90s classic is universally known and easy to learn, making it an ideal song to cover.
Best Rock Songs for Female Singers to Cover
Selecting the right songs that compliment your vocalist's style and range is critical. For bands with a female lead, navigating the predominantly male-centric landscape of rock music can be a challenge. Fortunately, some of the best rock songs to cover were written and performed by female artists, or recorded in higher vocal ranges that are friendly to female singers. The following songs lend themselves beautifully to the women and men with higher vocal ranges, allowing you to showcase your vocal prowess and versatility.
Best Rock Songs for Females to Cover
- "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence (2003)
A gothic rock classic with powerful vocals, requiring a higher voice for the primary lyrics, and a lower range for the "wake me up" accompaniment parts.
- "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways (1976)
This rebellious attitude-filled rock song from one of the first all-female rock bands.
- "Creep" by Radiohead (1993)
Emotional resonance and powerful dynamics, often hailed as a rite of passage for rock vocalists. Checkout Kelly Clarkson's cover of it for an example of how great it sounds with a female voice.
- "Don’t Stop Believing" by Journey (1981)
An absolute crowd favorite that's great for male and female singers, or both in a breath-taking duo. An excellent closer as well!
- "I Love Rock N' Roll" by Joan Jett (1981)
Another one that should be automatic on any rock cover setlist, and that works for both male and female singers.
- "I Miss the Misery" by Halestorm (2012)
Known for Lzzy Hale's distinctive powerhouse vocals, this track blends emotive lyrics with hard-hitting rock elements, providing a high-energy performance piece that can engage and captivate any audience.
- "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon (2008)
A driving rhythm and soaring vocals originally sung by a male vocalist in a higher register, making it a great option for female singers.
- "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses (1987
Its timeless guitar riff and powerful vocals make for an excellent show-stopping performance. But hitting those high pitch notes can be difficult for singers with a limited or lower vocal range.
- "Wanted Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi (1986)
This rock ballad's iconic opening guitar part offers a great moment for a soloist to shine.
- "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC (1980)
Well-known high-energy vocals, that's great for showing off your vocal range.
Best Decades of Rock Songs to Cover
Rock music is timeless, stretching across decades, each with its distinct sound and cultural significance. Covering multiple decades provides your band with a fantastic opportunity to create a musical journey that transcends time. By performing hits from these varied eras, you can not only pay homage to the greats, but also cater to a broad audience, ensuring there's something for everyone in your set.
2000s Rock Songs to Cover
- "abcdefu" by GAYLE (2021)
Keep your set relevant with this recent viral sensation that not only resonates with younger audiences, but has the clever head-nodding lyrics to be a rock anthem!
- "All My Life" by Foo Fighters (2002)
Known for its quiet-loud dynamic and intense performance, it's a great song to showcase a band's energy and versatility
- "Decode" by Paramore (2008)
Offering a perfect balance of pop-punk energy and moody melodicism, this song is perfect for an emotive and dynamic performance
- "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" by Arctic Monkeys (2005)
This high-energy indie rock classic will undoubtedly get the crowd moving.
- "In The End" by Linkin Park (2000)
With its blend of rap verses and a catchy rock chorus, this song showcases versatility and appeals to a broad audience.
- "Last Nite" by The Strokes (2001)
A garage rock revival staple, its catchy riff and relatable lyrics make it a crowd-pleaser.
- "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers (2004)
This modern classic's infectious rhythm and relatable lyrics ensure it's a hit with every crowd.
- "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons (2012)
With its heavy beat and anthemic nature, this track offers a modern rock option that can be adapted to many band configurations.
- "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers (2004)
This dance-rock tune is guaranteed to get audiences moving with its catchy rhythm and energetic performance.
- "Sugar, We're Goin Down" by Fall Out Boy (2005)
This song's infectious rhythm and catchy lyrics make it a crowd-pleaser that can invigorate your set
- "The Pretender" by Foo Fighters (2007)
Known for its explosive energy and memorable guitar riffs, this song is a surefire way to energize any crowd
- "Uprising" by Muse (2009)
Its synth-driven rhythm, dramatic vocal lines, and socio-political themes make it a compelling cover choice.
- "Yellow" by Coldplay (2000)
This anthemic ballad is a fantastic opportunity for crowd interaction and a shared sing-along moment.
1990s Rock Songs to Cover
- "Alive" by Pearl Jam
Eddie Vedder's powerful vocal delivery in this grunge classic makes it an exciting challenge for aspiring singers.
- "All Mixed Up" by 311
If you're doing 90s rock, you have to have a song combining rock and hip-hop. And there's no better genre-blending opportunity than 311, with this upbeat singalong that everyone loves to hear, regardless of how well they know it.
- "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by Jet
This high-energy song with its infectious beat is sure to have audiences clapping along.
- "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz
The riff-driven classic is a staple at rock concerts, offering the perfect stage to showcase your guitar skills.
- "Bulls On Parade" by Rage Against The Machine
If you're covering 90s rock, there's always somebody that will request Rage! They're a bit aggressive to pull out early in a show, and not everyone can pull off the politically charged high-energy rap lyrics. But if you can, this one is a great 2nd set thriller!
- "Come As You Are" by Nirvana
Its hauntingly distinctive bass line makes it a must-cover song for any band looking to channel the grunge era.
- "Come Out And Play" by The Offspring
Its catchy hooks and memorable chorus can easily engage any crowd, ideal for live performances.
- "Crazy" by Buckcherry
The raw energy and passionate vocals in this song make it an exciting choice. But know your audience and tread lightly, as this one can be offensive to some.
- "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
This song's infectious rhythm and storytelling lyrics can invigorate any audience.
- "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
Let's be honest, no one would take a list of the "100 best rock songs to cover" seriously, without Enter Sandman on it.
- "Everlong" by Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl wrote this song in just 45 minutes, and its potent emotional punch makes it a crowd favorite.
- "Far Behind" by Candlebox
This grunge-era hit provides an opportunity for bands to showcase their ability to capture deep emotion with 90s alternative nostalgia.
- "Gel" by Collective Soul
Its catchy guitar riff and engaging chorus make this song a lively option for any cover set.
- "Hard to Handle" by Black Crows
This rock rendition of a soul classic is perfect for showcasing a vocalist's range and charisma.
- "I Alone" by Live
This track's soaring vocals and driving rhythm make it an exhilarating cover for any rock band.
- "Inside Out" by Eve 6
Its catchy lyrics and sing-along chorus make it an irresistible choice for any performance.
- "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down
This song's unique sound and heroic theme make it a standout cover choice that fans love.
- "My Own Worst Enemy" by Lit
Its memorable melody and lively tempo can energize any audience.
- "Plush" by Stone Temple Pilots
This '90s grunge hit offers a strong vocalist a chance to really shine.
- "Possum Kingdom" by Toadies
Its intense energy and darkly intriguing lyrics make it a compelling cover choice.
- "Push" by Matchbox 20
This song's emotional rawness and compelling melody can strike a chord with any audience.
- "Say It Ain't So" by Weezer
This song's distinctive guitar riff and emotionally charged lyrics make it a memorable cover choice.
- "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind
Despite its upbeat sound, this song explores serious themes, making it a cover that can engage on multiple levels.
- "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon
Its passionate lyrics and energetic rhythm make it a crowd favorite, perfect for any cover band.
- "She" by Green Day
The high-energy punk rhythm in this song offers a chance for any band to show their rock 'n roll spirit.
- "Slide" by Goo Goo Dolls
This melodic rock hit has a sing-along quality that audiences can't resist.
- "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand
With its sudden tempo shift, this song's unpredictable nature makes it a standout cover.
1980s Rock Songs to Cover
- "Blister in the Sun" by Violent Femmes
Does it "rock"? No, but this folk-punk classic with its infectious rhythm is an exception. Your rock audiences of all ages will love it.
- "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne
A quintessential hard rock song known for its legendary opening guitar riff.
- "Fight For Your Right" by Beastie Boys
Technically a rap song, but it's distortion led guitar riff makes it easy to cover on guitar, bass and drums. And its rebellious spirit energizes audiences, as everyone loves to holler out the memorable one-liner lyrics.
- "Hey Jealousy" by Gin Blossoms
With its relatable lyrics and memorable melody, this song is a '90s classic that audiences love.
- "Hurts So Good" by John Mellencamp
This rock hit's enduring popularity makes it a great cover choice for any performance.
- "Jessie’s Girl" by Rick Springfield
A timeless hit that's sure to resonate with anyone who's ever been in love.
- "Just What I Needed" by The Cars
This new wave rock classic's catchy rhythm and relatable lyrics make it a crowd-pleaser.
- "Message in a Bottle" by The Police
Known for its iconic guitar riff, this song is a challenging yet rewarding cover choice.
- "Nothing But a Good Time" by Poison
A rock anthem that's all about fun, ideal for getting the crowd pumped up.
- "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard
With its iconic lyrics and infectious beat, it's a true crowd-pleaser perfect for a grand finale.
- "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams
A nostalgic classic that never fails to have audiences singing along.
- "Talk Dirty To Me" by Poison
A high-energy song that offers an opportunity to bring some fun and sass to your performance.
- "The Joker" by Steve Miller Band
This laid-back classic always resonates with audiences, making it a great song to cover.
- "The Reaper (Cowbell Skit)" by Blue Oyster Cult
A chance to incorporate humor and the famous "more cowbell" skit into your performance.
- "We Will Rock You" by Queen
Its stomping beat and anthemic chorus make it an unforgettable experience that will have the whole crowd participating.
- "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister
An anthem of rebellion that's always a hit with rock-loving audiences.
- "Your Love" by The Outfield
This '80s classic's catchy melody and lyrics make it a crowd favorite, perfect for any cover band.
1970s Rock Songs to Cover
- "American Girl" by Tom Petty
This energetic classic offers a feel-good experience that's perfect for any cover band to get the crowd moving.
- "Blitzkrieg Bop" by Ramones
Known for its simple, powerful chords, this punk rock anthem is always a crowd-pleaser.
- "Rock And Roll" by Led Zeppelin
Known for its iconic guitar riff, it's a testament to the spirit of rock and roll, and a must-cover for any rock band.
- "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
This Southern rock classic always gets crowds on their feet, clapping and singing along.
- "Gimme Three Steps" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
With its catchy guitar riffs and relatable narrative about a close call in a bar, this Southern Rock classic provides an opportunity for engaging storytelling, while getting the crowd moving to its upbeat rhythm.
- "Tush" by ZZ Top
This rock classic's memorable riff and catchy chorus make it a crowd-pleasing cover choice.
- "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith
With its instantly recognizable opening riff, covering this song is a great way to showcase guitar skills.
- "Hotel California" by The Eagles
An epic narrative song known for its iconic dual-guitar solo, this is a challenging but rewarding pick for any cover band.
- "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin
This hard-hitting classic, with its call-and-response structure, is a great opportunity to showcase vocal prowess and stage interaction.
- "Layla" by Derek and the Dominos (Eric Clapton)
This song is known for its iconic opening riff, followed by a beautiful and contrasting piano coda, making it a versatile choice.
- "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" by Pink Floyd
Known for its compelling anti-establishment message, it's a crowd-engaging tune that builds to a powerful climax.
- "More Than a Feeling" by Boston
With its unforgettable opening guitar riff and soaring chorus, it's a classic rock staple and crowd favorite.
- "Baba O'Riley" by The Who
You need a keyboardist or sampler for this one's unforgettable synth intro, that is sure to thrill any crowd.
- "Radar Love" by Golden Earring (1973) & White Lion (1989)
Pro-tip: Learn the White Lion version while calling it a Golden Earing song. It will be one of the most driving rock songs in your set, despite being 50 years old!
1960s Rock Songs to Cover
- "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
If you're playing older rock songs, you've got to include some CCR. And this catchy, upbeat song is a classic that's sure to get the crowd clapping along.
- "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash
Actually from the 1950s, this song offers a unique opportunity to add some old-school, outlaw country flair to your rock set.
- "Light My Fire" by The Doors
Known for its mesmerizing keyboard intro and sultry vibe, this song can add a touch of psychedelia to your set
- "Paint It, Black" by The Rolling Stones
With its haunting melody and compelling rhythm, this song adds an exotic flavor to any rock cover set.
- "Pinball Wizard" by The Who
Known for its lively tempo and dynamic guitar parts, this is a fun and upbeat song to cover that the crowd will love
- "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix
A no-brainer. Every rock cover band should know it, to showcase intricate guitar skills and pay homage to the legendary "Voodoo Child" musician.
- "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones
This iconic rock anthem, with its easily recognizable riff, is a must-play for any rock cover band
- "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin
With its unforgettable riff and driving rhythm, this song offers a powerful, high-energy opening to any set
- "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks/Van Halen
This iconic rock song provides an opportunity to showcase raw energy and musicianship.
If you cover more than just rock, make sure to check out our top 100 list that covers all genres. A successful cover band requires not only great music, but great marketing as well. And Band Pioneer exists help musicians bridge that gap, with advice on distribution, finance, social media campaigns and more, to help musicians turn their love for music into a lucrative career or side-hustle. Or use our AI driven My Studio tool to learn how you can meet your unique music goals.
The magic of the 100 best rock songs to cover lies not only in performing it accurately to the original, but also in the unique flair your band brings to it. Rock music is a celebration of individuality and authenticity - an echo of the heart's deepest desires. And it's the personal touch you bring that transforms a great cover into an unforgettable performance. Rock on!
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I still remember that Twister Sister video from when I was a kid! It was sooooo funny, and my parents hated it :D