There is perhaps no bigger star in the world than Taylor Swift. The beloved singer has an endless array of accolades and some of the most passionate fans on earth. Still, the pop star has never let her own achievements cloud the respect and adoration she has for classic rock acts.
Over the year’s Swift has used her sizable platform to honor my of her favorite artists. In some cases she put her own spin on their work, covering some of their best known songs. In others, she collaborated onstage with the artist themself.
Here are 15 Times Taylor Swift Honored Classic Rock Artists.
Swift Joins the Kiss Army (2009)
Back before she became a pop music titan, Swift was predominantly a country artist. In 2009 she was opening shows for Keith Urban and took the opportunity to prank the Australian country star. As Urban began to play his song “Kiss a Girl,” Swift and her band invaded the stage dressed in full Kiss outfits and makeup. Interestingly, the young singer didn’t choose Paul Stanley’s Starchild or Gene Simmons’ Demon, but instead went with Ace Frehley’s Spaceman look.
Swift Welcomes Bryan Adams for ‘Summer of ’69’ (2018)
Swift was in Toronto in 2018 when she decided to bring out one of Canada’s most beloved songwriters. “It’s just one of my favorite songs ever written,” the singer explained to the crowd as she started strumming the notes to “Summer of ‘69.” “It’s not one of mine, but I was wondering… You guys have been singing so loud all night, but I really wanted to see how loud it could be, right?” At that point, Swift began rocking out to the song, as Bryan Adams emerged from an elevator under the stage. The two then proceeded to duet on the track in front of 40,000 cheering fans. Interestingly, it wasn’t the first time Swift covered the tune. She also played “Summer of ‘69” (sans Adams) in 2011, during a stop in Vancouver.
Taylor Honors Her Namesake (2011)
In 2011, Taylor met Taylor. Actually, the connection between the two went back much longer than that. Taylor Swift was named after James Taylor, a fact the singer claimed she didn’t know until many years later when she told her mother how much she adored the song “Fire and Rain.” Jumping back to 2011, Swift told this story to a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York, then welcomed Taylor on stage to join her in a rendition.
McCartney Is a McSwiftie (2015)
Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary TV special in 2015 was a star-studded affair, but the real excitement happened at the afterparty. With a seemingly endless array of talent in the room, many artists got up on stage for impromptu jam sessions. At one point in the evening, Swift joined Paul McCartney for a rocking rendition of her song “Shake it Off,” followed by the Beatles’ classic “I Saw Her Standing There.” Swift and McCartney have enjoyed a mutual admiration over the years, even sitting down for an in-depth conversation for Rolling Stone in 2020.
Taylor and Jack and Diane (2011)
Some touring rules are etched in stone. Case in point, when a major artist performs in Indianapolis, they have to cover a John Mellencamp song. Taylor Swift was in the midst of her Speak Now world tour in 2011 when she stopped by the Crossroads of America. The pop star performed a rendition of Mellencamp’s classic tune “Jack & Diane,” then rolled it into a cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” for good measure.”
Swift Doesn’t Miss a Thing (2015)
At her 2015 stop in Nashville, Swift announced that she would be joined by “an absolute rock n’ roll icon” who had “sold over 150 million albums.” She then welcomed Steven Tyler onstage to thunderous applause, as the familiar intro to “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” began to play. Did the crowd find it strange that Swift chose one of Aerosmith’s songs from an outside writer, rather than one of the many hits the band penned themselves? We think not.
Swift Finds a Kindred Spirit in Stevie Nicks (2010)
“It is a fairytale and an honor to share a stage with Stevie Nicks,” Swift proclaimed at the 52nd Grammy Awards, as the Fleetwood Mac legend stepped to the mic to join her. The two generational talents brought their voices together for a rendition of “Rhiannon,” followed by a bouncy, bluegrass version of Swift’s “You Belong With Me.”
Swift Joins the Stones, Jagger Returns the Favor (2013, 2015)
When the Rolling Stones were touring to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2013, several guest stars joined them along the way. Their June 3 performance in Chicago featured a surprise appearance by Swift, who performed “As Tears Go By” with the band.
Years later, Mick Jagger returned the favor. Swift was in Nashville for a concert and heard via word of mouth that the Stones frontman was also in town. “So I texted Mick and said ‘Hey are you in Nashville, do you want to come out and do the show?’” Swift later recalled. Jagger was game, but he had one concern: “He texted back just saying ‘Oh what will I wear?’” Swift admitted. “My band and I are just trying not to pass out. He shows up for showtime and absolutely shuts down Nashville. I’ve never seen anything like it before.” Amid a blaze of fireworks, Jagger strutted onstage with Swift and performed an electrifying rendition of “(I Can’t Get No Satisfaction).”
Swift and Friends Jam on Clapton Classic (2009)
In 2009, Keith Urban organized his first All for the Hall benefit concert, an annual event to raise money for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The inaugural year included a long list of stars, including Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Lady A and a teenaged Taylor Swift. Here Swift joins Urban and an all-star collection of artists on a rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally.”
Swift Celebrates ‘Brilliant’ Don Henley (2011)
If you’re looking for a trend, it’s that Swift loves honoring rock legends in their home state. Another example happened in 2011 when the superstar was performing in Dallas. “There’s so much music that’s come out of Texas. So much amazing music,” the singer declared. “One of my absolute favorite songwriters lives here. He’s a brilliant man named Don Henley.” Swift then delivered a heartfelt acoustic rendition of Henley’s 1984 classic, “Boys of Summer.”
Swift Names ‘You’re so Vain’ the ‘Best Song That’s Ever Been Written’ (2013)
Throughout her career, Swift has made a habit out of welcoming surprise guests during her concerts. During a 2013 stop on her Red tour, the singer brought out Carly Simon to join her on a rendition of “You’re So Vain.” It’s easy to see a parallel between Simon and Swift, as both women are incredible lyricists who know how to handle a breakup song. Nine years after their onstage duet, Swift recorded a video message as part of Simon’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In it, the pop star referred to “You’re so Vain” as “the best song that’s ever been written” and “the best way anyone has addressed a breakup, it’s amazing.”
Swift and Def Leppard on ‘CMT Crossroads’ (2008)
The TV show CMT Crossroads brings together famous musicians from various background to collaborate and share the stories behind their material. In 2008, Swift was paired with British arena rock legends Def Leppard. Together, the unlikely pairing performed such famous rock songs as “Photograph,” “Hysteria” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Swift said the experience fulfilled a “childhood dream,” and the guys in Def Leppard were pretty excited about it as well. “Us and Taylor Swift was perfect because it shouldn’t work,” Joe Elliott later recalled. “And it absolutely did.”
Double Dose of New Jersey’s Finest (2011)
During a 2011 stop in New Jersey, Swift decided to pay homage to two of the Garden States most beloved musicians. While strumming her acoustic guitar, Swift began belting out the familiar lyrics to Bruce Springsteen‘s “Dancing in the Dark,” much to the delight of the New Jersey crowd. After about a minute, she switched to a different rock legend, Bon Jovi, delivering the chorus to “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Swift Proves She’s an ‘American Girl’
Count Swift among the many many musicians who were heavily influenced by Tom Petty. “To me, Tom Petty represented a kind of songwriting I idolized: complex simplicity,” the singer explained to Rolling Stone following Petty’s death. “It said so much in the lyrics, the concepts, the stories, the message, the nuances … but always brought you back to a hook that got stuck in everyone’s head.” Years earlier, Swift released a cover of Petty’s “American Girl,” part of a promotional collaboration with the now-defunct streaming service Rhapsody. She covered it again years later during an appearance on SiriusXM.
Swift Inducts Carole King Into the Hall of Fame (2021)
At the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, Swift did the honors of inducting singer-songwriter Carole King. “I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know Carole King’s music,” the singer declared. “I was raised by two of her biggest fans who taught me the basic truths of life, as they saw it: That you should treat people the way you want to be treated, that you must believe you can achieve whatever you want to in life and that Carole King is the greatest songwriter of all time.” Later in the show, Swift delivered a moving rendition of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” which brought the house down.
Swift Celebrates Beach Boys (2011)
One more of Swift’s stately tributes. During a 2011 stop in Los Angeles, the singer celebrated the “amazing music” that has come out of California. She then revealed the first act that came to her mind when thinking of the Golden State. “The Beach Boys. That is California.” The singer proceeded to deliver an earnest rendition of “God Only Knows,” the classic tune made famous on the Beach Boys seminal 1966 album Pet Sounds.