If you’ve ever learned to play an instrument, especially the guitar or piano, odds are you’ve spent countless hours trying to master the rhythms and melodies of your favorite songs. And odds are at least one of those songs was written by Messrs. Lennon & McCartney. If you’re anything like me, you probably realized early in the exercise that The Beatles weren’t only praised as great songwriters because of their lyricism and social and romantic insights. Their songs are also packed with ingenious chord changes, unexpected time shifts, unusual hooks, etc.
What may seem at first listen like a simple tune reveals itself as highly challenging for the amateur musician. I well remember sweating over two of my favorites—“Julia” and “Martha My Dear”—for many days.
Even in modified versions that simplify difficult voicings, I struggled to master the letter of the songs while still conveying the spirit. Surely, that’s a testament to my own lack of skill, and yet the trouble I’ve had pulling off my favorite Beatles’ songs has given me all the more respect for musicians who make it look easy.
Even a straight-ahead blues like “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road” ain’t easy to sell—far from it. But I’ve never heard anyone do it better than Tulsa, Oklahoma-born bluesman Lowell Fulsom (top). Further down, St. Vincent does a stellar live rendition of another of my favorites, “Dig a Pony.” A great song can take all kinds of bending, stretching, and pulling and still retain its essence. In Paolo Nutini’s smooth, stripped-down, organ, voice, and drums take on Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down,” above, the passion remains, even if the impassioned shouts have been tamed.
There are hundreds more great Beatles’ covers out there, and probably hundreds of terrible ones, too—and many an oddball interpretation that sharply divides opinion in either direction (such as Marc Ribot’s machine-shop “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which I happen to love). Just above, we’ve put together a Spotify playlist of over 80 great cover versions of Beatles’ songs, culled from suggestions made by @openculture followers/fans on Twitter. (You can download Spotify’s software here.) And in the list below, find links to 20 fabulous cover versions on Youtube. (Those weren’t available on Spotify, but they’re definitely worth hearing). In total, you’ll find 100 tracks, by artists ranging from Ray Charles, to Joe Cocker and Sarah McLachlan, to Patti Smith, David Bowie, and Johnny Cash. It makes for 6 hours of Beatles bliss.
If we’ve missed an essential cover, let us know in the comments below, and drop in a link if you can.
Jimi Hendrix – Sgt. Pepper
The Pixies – Wild Honey Pie
David Gilmour – Here, There and Everywhere
Alice Cooper and the Bee Gees – Because
Kris Kristofferson – Paperback Writer
Bryan Ferry – She’s Leaving Home
Paolo Nutini – Don’t Let Me Down
The Fall – A Day in the Life
Elliot Smith – Because
Elvis Costello – Penny Lane
Marc Ribot – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Ben E. King – Don’t Let Me Down
Ike & Tina Turner – She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
St Vincent – Dig a Pony
Peer Frampton and the Bee Gees – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (soundtrack)
Ray Charles – The Beatles Covers
Booker T. & the MGS – McLemore Avenue (Covers of Abbey Road)
George Benson – The Other Side of Abbey Road
The 15 Worst Covers of Beatles Songs: William Shatner, Bill Cosby, Tiny Tim, Sean Connery & Your Excellent Picks
Peter Sellers Covers the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night,” “She Loves You” & “Help!”
Beatles Tribute Band “The Fab Faux” Performs Live an Amazingly Exact Replica of the Original Abbey Road Medley
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
There is also the music from the movie I Am Sam.
Bob Dylan singing “Help”
Karen Carpenter – Ticket to Ride https://youtu.be/7OEgz-t5ZFg
Also, Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude… And Yuseff Lateef’s as well. Very different.
Siouxie and the Banshees “Dear Prudence”
Great idea. Enough music for an entire Monday.
Amy Winehouse: All My Loving
Deep Purple: Help
All Beatles songs in fabulous versions in order of original release.
I always enjoy lists of Beatles cover versions, but my personal favourite is rarely mentioned: Sandy Shaw’s ‘Love Me Do’. One of The Beatles’ lesser songs as recorded by themselves, but Sandy Shaw gives it such yearning! And the musical arrangement is very cool IMHO. Enjoy.
So, from the first to I think the last of The Beatles’ singles… see Cilla Black’s ‘The Long And Winding Road’ TV performance. I still don’t like the song much, but it’s the best version I’ve come across. I believe McCartney said it was how it was meant to be sung.
I think the Caetano Veloso covers are essential:
Not a second time – Terje Rypdal
Something – Larry Coryell
I Will by Alison Kraus is a masterpiece
One of my all-time favorites:
Yoyo Ma, Carlos Santana and India Arie doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is profoundly beautiful for a cover song! Yoyo Ma is not visible except on the TV screen a couple times during the video while India Arie and Carlos Santana play & sing throughout. Check it out and see if you agree that it is incredible:
Beatles Medley – Type O Negative
The Feelies – Everybodys got something to hide…
The Feelies – She Said, She said
Ray Charles- Long and Winding Road
Ray Charles- Something
Motley Crue – Helter Skelter
Roseanne Cash- I dont want to spoil the party
Stevie Wonder – We can work it out
Joan Baez, let it be:
And after all watch this very funny version of a lot of Beatlers hook lineshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqVV1uURKYk
Dion singing “Drive my car” maybe this version it’s better than the original…ops!
Dear Prudence – Siouxsie & The Banshees
also… The Runaways ( Feat JOan Jett)- Eight days a week
Holly Cole’s I’ve Just Seen A Face is brilliant: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ngm29TVagMc
I agree, John, the best Beatles cover is Dear Prudence, by Siouxie and the Banshees. She really nails it!
Please please me performed by wyckham porteous produced by Andrew Loog Oldham
Where the heck is John Denver on this list? John Denver covered several Beatles songs on his records: When I’m Sixty-four, Eleanor Rigby, Mother Nature’s Son, Junk, Let It Be,Blackbird, Here,There and Everywhere,Yesterday, And I Love Her, In My Life, Hey Jude, Lady Madonna,Golden Slumbers, and Let It Be.
I’m partial to this cover of “I Want You” by The Beatles ;)
Every Little Thing covered by Yes
hi stumbled upon your site ..soon we will be doing cover of a Janis song
Mercedez Bendz,music added, i can let you know when done and perhaps add us to list Thanks,enjoy weekend.
Eleanor Rigby – Godhead version is an awesome brash version of this emotive some taking the desolate despair to another place. Don`t be just another `fool on the hill` check Youtube out.
Within You Without You/Blue Jay Way by Steve Khan
Peter Gabriel does “Strawberry Fields Forever”:
Two more for you
Eleanor Rigby – The Zoot
She’s a Woman – Jeff Beck
Here is a new cover of “I Will” maybe you can add it to your Beatles covers playlist. Thanks so much!
All My Loving – THE DOWLands – a Joe Meek production.
From Todd Rundgren’s “Faithful” album: “Rain” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” both faithful to the originals.
There’s a guy on Youtube that does 106 Beatles covers. His are the best I’ve heard. His cover of Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End is amazing.
Hello, I was listening to The Beatles channel a few months ago and heard a cover of either I want to hold your hand or she loves you..I forget, but it was in German and it sounded totally different than any other versions. It sounded like Bobby Darren singing and there was a very upbeat jazz rock sound to it. Does anyone know who the artist was and if it was I want to hold your hand or she loves you..but it was definitely in German. Please and thank you.