‘Respect’ is actually a cover song— is the original better?

Although it inspired the title of the Queen of Soul’s biopic, “Respect” wasn’t originally Aretha Franklin’s own song.

Another soul great — Otis Redding — wrote the tune and released it before Franklin had even made her breakthrough with 1967’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).”

But who did it better? Here, we face off 10 classic covers against their originals — and share which song comes out on top.

Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding


Otis Redding (1965) vs. Aretha Franklin (1967)

Redding’s original was a crossover hit that took his gospel-powered R&B to church — and the masses — but when Franklin put a feminist spin on it, she socked it to ’em in unforgettable fashion, turning it into her signature song.

Winner: Aretha Franklin

Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan

“I’m Every Woman”

Chaka Khan (1978) vs. Whitney Houston (1992)

Few mortals could ever compete with peak Houston on the soundtrack to “The Bodyguard.” But there is a very real reason why Houston shouted out Khan at the end of her glorious cover: Her own mother, Cissy Houston, sang background vocals on the original version of the Ashford & Simpson classic. And although Houston can effortlessly hit all the notes in her housed-up cover, she does not take you through the fire the way that Chaka — and only Chaka — can.

Winner: Chaka Khan

Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston

“I Will Always Love You”

Dolly Parton (1974) vs. Whitney Houston (1992)

Pretty much the whole universe loves Dolly, so it would take a miracle to take a song of hers and claim it as your own. But that’s exactly what Houston — who had already taken “Greatest Love of All” from George Benson — did when she made her version from “The Bodyguard” the one that will forever and always get the most love.

Winner: Whitney Houston

Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen (1984) vs. Jeff Buckley (1994)

All the gospel-meets-goth feels of Cohen’s transcendent tune from his “Various Positions” album can’t match when Buckley strips the song down and inhabits its very spirit. 

Winner: Jeff Buckley

Judy Garland and Patti Labelle

“Over the Rainbow”

Judy Garland (1939) vs. Patti LaBelle (1981)

As much as Garland took us “way up high” on her delightfully fanciful original from “The Wizard of Oz,” anyone who has ever heard LaBelle transform the song from the inside out to a bravura gospel has been given a take-you-to-the-heavens performance for the ages, and they’ll never hear it the same way again. Fight me.

Winner: Patti LaBelle

Tammi Terrell, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (1967) vs. Diana Ross (1970)

While pretty much no one could ever top the Boss — in her first No. 1 solo single after leaving the Supremes — it’s not really a fair fight with the dynamic duo of Gaye and Terrell. They make this song an alps-climbing duet that captures two voices — and hearts — being in complete sync together. Still, this is the closest of calls.

Winner: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

The Arrows and Joan Jett

“I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”

The Arrows (1975) vs. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1981)

The original version by British rock band the Arrows is perfectly fine, but the cover by Jett and crew is perfectly fierce, packing a femme ferocity that completely owns the song in every way that a song could be owned.

Winner: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Donna Summer and Richard Harris

“MacArthur Park”

Ricard Harris (1968) vs. Donna Summer (1978)

The original version of this epic Jimmy Webb tune is melodramatic mush by Irish actor-singer Harris, but in one of the all-time transformations, the Queen of Disco made it a regal display of all that the genre could be in the hands of its finest purveyor.

Winner: Donna Summer

Creedance Clearwater Revival and Ike and Tina Turner
Creedance Clearwater Revival and Ike and Tina Turner

“Proud Mary”

Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969) vs. Ike & Tina Turner (1971)

The John Fogerty-written original is the stuff that classic rock is made of, but once a song has been Tina-fied, you can’t get it back.

Winner: Ike & Tina Turner

Stevie Wonder and the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stevie Wonder and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Higher Ground”

Stevie Wonder (1973) vs. Red Hot Chili Peppers (1989)

That this is even remotely close says a lot about how wildly inventive the Chili Peppers’ cover is. In the history of covers, this goes down as one of the most radical — and fully realized — re-imaginings ever. But Stevie is still Stevie.

Winner: Stevie Wonder

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