Lines between country music and rock ‘n’ roll historically have blurred, with each institution pulling from the best of the other to craft expert musical storytelling that leaps beyond genre definition.
Some of rock’s finest architects share appreciation for country music’s “three chords and the truth” by doing what makes most sense — shredding an unforgettable cover.
Some covers are famous, some controversial and others buried deep in digital lore; here’s a look at 10 country music covers.
White Stripes: ‘Jolene’
Covering: Dolly Parton
Belly rumbling garage rock crosses with marquee country music songwriting when Detroit duo White Stripes tackle the Dolly Parton classic. Jack White’s guitar playing haunts as his vocals sell listeners on each word of anguish shared in Parton’s storytelling. This offering proved a precursor to the country roots White would eventually explore as a solo artist — notably alongside Loretta Lynn — and record label entrepreneur.
Not into that cover? Try the ripping live cut from Miley Cyrus, Parton’s goddaughter. .
The Beatles: ‘Act Naturally’
Covering: Buck Owens
Folk, rockabilly and, yes, country music influenced the formative years of music’s Fab Four. No entry into The Beatles’ catalog may give nod to that influence more than the 1965 cover of Buck Owens’ chart-topping hit “Act Naturally.” With a smooth-voiced Ringo Starr on lead vocals, the mop-topped Liverpoolians put a 1960s easy-goin’ rock take on the country toe-tapper. Released in the United States as a B-side during the “Help!” era, “Act Naturally” complemented what would be one of the band’s largest musical legacies — A-side single “Yesterday.”
Not into that cover? Starr and Owens teamed in 1989 for a duet version of the 1963 track.
The Staple Singers: ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’
Covering: A Christian hymn first popularized by The Carter Family
A song rooted in country music lore reaches new spiritual highs with the Staple Singers’ timeless soul take. Led by Pops Staples’ soft voice and graceful guitar playing, the family embedded in Nashville musical history gives listeners one of its finest gifts.
Not into that cover? Try a modern take from folk favorite the Avett Brothers.
Elton John: ‘Stand By Your Man’
Covering: Tammy Wynette
The piano-playing generational rock star lends his uncanny voice to a 1998 tribute of Tammy Wynette’s unshakable storytelling. John infuses a soulful spin on the song, rightfully capturing the booming chorus that outlived the star who first made it a country music legend.
Not into that cover? Tina Turner once put her soulful spin on the song.
Frank Zappa: ‘Ring of Fire’
Covering: Johnny Cash
Zappa does Cash. It’s weird, it’s wild, and, yes, it’s completely fun.
What else needs to be said?
Not into that cover? Try the 2014 version by British power metal outfit DragonForce or the beloved 1963 cut by Johnny Cash.
More: 50 years of ‘Nashville Skyline,’ the Bob Dylan record that transformed country music
Lynyrd Skynyrd: ‘Honky Tonk Night Time Man’
Covering: Merle Haggard
Buried deep in the B-side of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s pivotal “Street Survivors” album, vocalist Ronnie Van Zant kicked off a track by telling the band — and listeners — that it’s time for a “little bit of Bakersfield.” The group proceeds to offer its take on Haggard’s 1974 song, which oozes with a freestylin’ blues guitar and Southern rock spirit.
Not into that cover? Try Haggard’s original version, released as part of the “Merle Haggard Presents His 30th Album” collection.
Megadeth: ‘These Boots’
Covering: Nancy Sinatra
These boots are made for … speed metal? Dave Mustaine and his influential group of head-banging renegades twisted the country-pop crossover into an all-out metal assault on the band’s 1985 debut, “Killing Is My Business … and Business is Good.” Mustaine wrote the song into Megadeth history with pencil, however, erasing his not-safe-for-work first verse in 2018 for a reissue of “Killing …” that instead featured the song’s original lyrics.
Not into that cover? Try the Jessica Simpson version, which peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2005.
Eagles: ‘Seven Bridges Road’
Covering: Steve Young
A trip between country and rock ‘n’ roll music isn’t complete without the Eagles and the “Seven Bridges Road” harmony made famous on the group’s 1980 live record. No, the Eagles didn’t pen this slice of road-worn storytelling — that credit goes to Americana pioneer Steve Young — but the band cemented the song in rock history as a staple opener for marathon concerts in arenas around the world.
Not into that cover? Try the vocal take from country group Home Free.
Toots & The Maytals: ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’
Covering: John Denver
This 1970s cut of reggae rock takes you out of West Virginia and into West Jamaica, where the band’s breezy sound makes country roads feel just as familiar as the Appalachia original.
Not into that cover? Give the Japanese version a try, released in 1995 by singer Yōko Honna.
Janis Joplin: ‘Me & Bobby McGee’
Covering: Roger Miller, Kris Kristofferson
“Me & Bobby McGee” was penned by Kris Kristofferson and first performed by Roger Miller. Janis Joplin’s wailing folk-rock cover posthumously reached No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart in 1971. The real-time dominance of Joplin’s performance became one of the gone-too-soon star’s most cherished gifts to listeners for decades to come.
Not into that cover? Try the 1994 take from heartland rock favorite Melissa Etheridge.