The 1980s was a decade that saw some of the most memorable music ever made, with artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince dominating the charts. However, it was also a time when cover versions of classic songs became increasingly popular, with artists reinterpreting and putting their own spin on well-known hits. From rock to pop to R&B, the 1980s produced some of the greatest remakes and covers ever made.
Let’s take a look at the 15 best remakes and covers of the 1980s that are still beloved by fans today.
1. Walk This Way – Aerosmith (1975) | Run-D.M.C. (1986)
“Walk This Way” is a classic rock song by Aerosmith, released in 1975. It features one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock history, and became a hit for the band. In 1986, the hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. covered the song, which resulted in a historic collaboration between the two genres. The cover became a huge success, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and introducing Aerosmith to a new generation of fans.
2. I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll – Arrows (1975) | Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1982)
“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” is a rock anthem originally written by The Arrows in 1975. The song was popularized by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts in 1982, becoming a massive hit and a staple of classic rock radio. With its catchy guitar riff and sing-along chorus, “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” has become a cultural touchstone, featured in movies, TV shows, and commercials. The song’s success cemented Joan Jett’s place as a rock icon and a trailblazer for women in music.
3. Tainted Love – Gloria Jones (1964) | Soft Cell (1981)
“Tainted Love” was originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964 as a soul ballad, but it wasn’t until Soft Cell released a synth-pop cover in 1981 that the song became a massive hit. Soft Cell’s version, with its upbeat tempo and distinctive synth riff, topped the charts in several countries and remains one of the defining songs of the 1980s. The cover’s popularity helped to bring the obscure original version to wider attention, and today “Tainted Love” is regarded as a classic song from both the soul and synth-pop genres.
4. I Feel for You – Prince (1979) | Chaka Khan (1984)
“I Feel for You” was originally recorded by Prince in 1979, but it was Chaka Khan’s 1984 cover that made it a hit. With its funky synth and electric guitar riffs, Chaka Khan’s version was a massive success, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song. The cover is notable for featuring a rap verse from Grandmaster Melle Mel, which helped to bring hip-hop to a wider audience.
5. La Bamba – Traditional | Los Lobos (1987)
“La Bamba” is a traditional Mexican folk song that was popularized by Ritchie Valens in 1958. The song became a hit for Valens, reaching #22 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it was Los Lobos’ 1987 cover that brought it to a new generation of fans. Los Lobos’ version was recorded for the biopic of the same name about Valens, and became a massive success, reaching #1 on the charts in several countries. The cover is notable for its blend of traditional Mexican and modern rock elements and remains a beloved song in both the Latin and mainstream music communities.
6. Every Time You Go Away – Daryl Hall and John Oates (1980, “Everytime You Go Away”) | Paul Young (1985)
“Every Time You Go Away” was a hit song written and performed by Daryl Hall and John Oates in 1980. However, it was Paul Young’s cover in 1985 that became a bigger success. Young’s version, produced by Laurie Latham, was more stripped-down and soulful than the original, featuring a prominent horn section and gospel backing vocals. It topped the charts in the US and UK and became one of the most successful covers of the decade.
7. The Greatest Love of All – George Benson (1977) | Whitney Houston (1985)
“The Greatest Love of All” is a song originally written and recorded by George Benson in 1977. However, it was Whitney Houston’s rendition, released in 1985 for the soundtrack of “The Greatest” that became the definitive version of the song. Houston’s powerful vocals and emotional delivery made it an anthem of self-love and empowerment, and it became one of her signature songs.
8. That’s What Friends Are For – Rod Stewart (1982) | Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder (1985)
“That’s What Friends Are For” was originally recorded by Rod Stewart in 1982, but it was the 1985 cover version by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder that became a huge hit and a fundraising anthem for AIDS research. The song, written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, features the four singers sharing lead vocals and harmonizing on the chorus, with a lush orchestral arrangement. It topped the charts in the US and UK and won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
9. Bette Davis Eyes – Jackie DeShannon (1975) | Kim Carnes (1981)
“Bette Davis Eyes” is a song written and originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1975, but it was Kim Carnes’ cover in 1981 that made it a massive hit. Carnes’ version, produced by Val Garay, features a distinctive drum beat and synthesizer riff that became iconic. Carnes’ raspy voice and catchy melody propelled the song to the top of the charts, where it stayed for nine weeks in the US, making it one of the most successful covers of the decade.
10. Mony Mony – Tommy James (1968) | Billy Idol (1987, Live)
“Mony Mony” is a song originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells in 1968, but it was Billy Idol’s high-energy cover, performed live and released in 1987, that became a classic. Idol’s version features a heavy guitar riff and a pulsing beat, with the crowd chanting the chorus along with him. It reached the top of the charts in the US and UK, becoming one of the most successful covers of the decade. The song’s popularity also led to the creation of the iconic chant, “Hey, hey, what’s your name?”.
11. The Tide is High – The Paragons (1966) | Blondie (1980)
“The Tide is High” was originally recorded by the Jamaican rocksteady group The Paragons in 1966. It was later covered by the band Blondie in 1980, which became a number-one hit in several countries. Blondie’s version is a reggae-infused pop track with a catchy chorus and a new-wave sensibility.
12. Gloria – Umberto Tozzi (1979) | Laura Branigan (1982)
“Gloria” was written and originally performed by Italian singer Umberto Tozzi in 1979. The song became a major hit in Italy and other European countries. Laura Branigan later recorded an English-language version of the song in 1982, which became a top 10 hit in the US. Branigan’s version features a more polished and pop-oriented sound, while still retaining the original song’s catchy melody and infectious energy.
13. Venus – Shocking Blue (1969) | Bananarama (1986)
“Venus” was originally recorded by the Dutch rock band Shocking Blue in 1969. The song became a hit in several countries, including the US. In 1986, the British girl group Bananarama covered the song, giving it a new lease on life and turning it into an even bigger hit. Bananarama’s version features a synth-pop sound and catchy vocal harmonies that complement the song’s playful lyrics.
14. If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Harold Melvin & Blue Notes (1972) | Simply Red (1989)
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” was originally recorded by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in 1972. The song became a soul classic, reaching the top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and winning a Grammy Award. In 1989, British band Simply Red covered the song, giving it a new life and introducing it to a new generation. Simply Red’s version features a smoother and more polished sound, with lead singer Mick Hucknall’s soulful vocals at the forefront.
15. Red Red Wine – Neil Diamond (1968) | UB40 (1984)
“Red Red Wine” was written and originally performed by Neil Diamond in 1968. The song became a minor hit for Diamond, but it was later covered by British reggae-pop band UB40 in 1984. UB40’s version became a massive hit, reaching the top of the charts in several countries. Their version features a reggae-inspired sound and catchy horn section that perfectly complement the song’s catchy melody and lyrics.