Feb 232024

Get Back to the beginning.

40. Sullivan Fortner — When I’m Sixty-Four

Paul McCartney’s parlor songs are right in the wheelhouse for pianist Sullivan Fortner. A native/musical student of New Orleans who’s also currently at the vanguard of experimental jazz, Fortner is, like McCartney, equal parts traditionalist and tinkerer — as well-versed with standards and vernacular styles as he is with breaking them apart. His “When I’m Sixty-Four” initially places the McCartney melody in familiar stride-piano territory. But it becomes clear that Fortner is keen to tug the tune to higher planes: some out-there re-harmonizations and, even more so, wild fluctuations of the song’s usually-straightlaced meter. The shifts are impressively woozy, and totally amusing. The cover comes from 2019’s A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper, a compilation released by Verve that features mostly larger jazz ensembles playing with bigger sounds and taking more overt risks. But Fortner’s solo piano cover of “When I’m Sixty-Four” is the album’s highlight, distilling McCartney’s oeuvre of traditional styles and surreal instincts into one fresh, fluid, far-out take. — Ben Easton

39. Rachel Unthank and the Winterset — Sexy Sadie

There is so much to love about this epic cover (three whole minutes longer than the original) that it’s hard to know which element to exult first. There are, of course, the immaculately breathtaking vocals of sisters Becky and Rachel Unthank, who somehow transform the cynical, scathing “Sadie” into something that is genuinely, you know, sexy. But every section of the band emits an equally gorgeous sound, from pianist Adrian McNally to the backing singers to the rhythm section and string team. While the extended coda that hits about halfway through shifts the cover’s direction from the aforementioned sexy place to somewhere more sinister and foreboding, this “Sadie” never ceases to stun. — Hope Silverman

38. Nina Simone — Revolution

“I never went much for the covers,” John Lennon confessed in his classic Rolling Stone interview, claiming he couldn’t think of whose Beatles covers were best. But then he said, “I thought it was interesting that Nina Simone did a sort of answer to ‘Revolution.’ That was very good – it was sort of like ‘Revolution,’ but not quite. That I sort of enjoyed, somebody who reacted immediately to what I had said.”

Lennon’s take was quite generous, considering Simone was taking him to task for his count-me-out conservative take, and in no uncertain terms (“you got to clean your brain”). He’s also right about it being less a cover than an response. Simone (who co-wrote this answer song with Weldon Irvine) kept the song structure and the “it’s gonna be alright” hook, but this song shoves the meaning of “cover song” to its limits. Leave it to Nina Simone to push past boundaries and definitions. — Patrick Robbins

37. Mikey Erg — Mother Nature’s Son

Taking a gentle, earnest pop song and covering it in a hard rock, punk rock or headbanging style has become such a common practice that it’s a genuine cliche at this point. While metallic covers of soft or popular chart-toppers aren’t necessarily being born every day, they are most definitely being born every week (the Cover Me gang can confirm this, can we ever). The silver lining in this ever-growing cloud of sludgy, shredding covers is that when something is good, it stands out—like this absolute gem from 2020. Mikey Erg’s pop-punk dirtbag cover of wistful White Album sweetheart “Mother Nature’s Son” is relentless in the best possible way. It is a two-and-a-half-minute beautiful bastard riff-monster of a cover, full of “swaying (f*cking) daisies” and unbridled love. — Hope Silverman

36. Tommy Emmanuel — Day Tripper / Lady Madonna

This one is pretty simple. If you think that you would enjoy hearing Australian finger-picking guitar virtuoso playing a medley of two classic Beatles songs, then you will love Tommy Emmanuel’s covers. And if you don’t, you should check this out, and it will change your mind. He’s a phenomenal player, and the fact that he’s not universally acclaimed is surprising. He’d performed this medley at least as early as 1990 but released it officially on an expanded version of his 1993 album The Journey called The Journey Continues. Over the years, he’s supercharged the medley with more Beatles covers. This is one of those situations in which the artist brilliantly reimagines the original to fit into his own style. — Jordan Becker

35. Spoke — Eleanor Rigby

I would not be surprised if you do not immediately think “Eleanor Rigby” when you hear the opening big drum syncopation, the deep breath, and the jeering that kick off this cover. But then a pair of vocals drop the “all the lonely people” line and we are pulled in. When the tale of Eleanor Rigby starts, the bass comes in and the drums switch to a more traditional drum kit sound, while keeping the syncopated style. The jeers turn to cheers and briefly appear before melting away again. In the choruses, all but the vocals and the persistent piano key drops out–all the lonely people, indeed. The vocals are echoed, further stressing the emptiness surrounding the singer. This trippy echo effect continues in the second verse, and becomes further distorted in the second chorus. — Sara Stoudt

34. Bettye LaVette — The Word

2010 saw Bettye LaVette release Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook. This exploration into songs that had been classic rock radio stalwarts for decades would seem to be an exercise in futility; how long since R&B versions of rock covers were fresh? But this is Bettye LaVette we’re talking about, she of ragged rasp and emotional whiplash, and she isn’t just finding something new in these chestnuts; she’s filling them herself with fire, glass, and grit. Case in point: “The Word,” which sees her here to show everybody the light, so pay some goddamn attention. And while you’re at it, pay some respect to LaVette, who has spent the 21st century climbing, clawing, and fighting her way to the top. — Patrick Robbins

33. Billy Preston — Blackbird

Only one musician on our list has the distinction of being The Fifth Beatle: legendary keyboardist/singer-songwriter Billy Preston. Much has been made of Preston’s invaluable contributions to The Beatles in their final years together. It’s he who put the wind in the sails of the Let It Be sessions, and who performed alongside the band at the infamous Rooftop Concert. But Preston was always more than just a sideman or a secret weapon. When he comes to center stage himself, there’s a whole vibe worth exploring, not to mention a long and distinctive track record of covering the Beatles solo. In the mid-‘60s he recorded a slinky organ-led “A Hard Day’s Night,” arranged by Sly Stone. A few years later, Preston cut his own smoky, soulful version of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” seemingly a direct answer to the Beatles’ original. (The two renditions were released practically in tandem, in May and September of 1970, respectively.) In the mid-‘80s, he’s even got a charmingly slow-jammed “Here, There and Everywhere.” (Cool tux, Billy!)

But the standout Preston/Beatles cover is unquestionably “Blackbird,” released in 1972, a sweet spot of Billy’s work as a solo artist. Coming off three studio albums for The Beatles’ Apple Records, Preston was no stranger to putting his own signature spin on outside material. He claims some special musical high ground here, elevating “Blackbird” from a humble acoustic ode to a huge and invigorating gospel stomp. His version brims with organ swells and full-throated harmonies; for good virtuosic measure, it’s even tricked out with cheeky interludes on the harpsichord. If McCartney’s spare original was just a ray of sun, peeking tepidly through the clouds, then Preston’s “Blackbird” is the full wash of sunlight, gloriously shining through. — Ben Easton

32. The Black Keys — She Said, She Said

The Black Keys may sell out arenas and have songs on nationally aired commercials, but the Akron duo’s debut was a decidedly less polished version of the garage-blues they soon perfected. That’s not to take anything away from those early songs, many of which were straightforward fuzzier takes on Delta blues tracks. Their version of the Beatles’ mildly psychedelic “She Said She Said” cranks up the distortion and picks up the pace a bit, but there’s nothing too fancy here. Dan Auerbach’s gravelly voice is mixed way up front and Patrick Carney’s austere but insistent drumming drives the song forward. The tasty six-string licks are the icing on top for a simple but compelling cover. — Mike Misch

31. Buddy Rich Big Band — Norwegian Wood

Right now, those of you who think you don’t like big band music may well be scorning this pick. Well, remember how Bill Graham described the Fillmore audience hearing Buddy Rich playing “Norwegian Wood” for them: “The entire room swerved….The room was mesmerized. They were eating something they had never eaten before and they couldn’t believe how good it was.” Even if you have partaken of Buddy’s big-band sound, you’ll still be knocked pretty much ass over teakettle (drum) by the way they wail. The melody, never more familiar, never flew so high before or since. — Patrick Robbins


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  22 Responses to “The 75 Best Beatles Covers Ever”

Comments (22)
  1. oh HELL yes. Looking forward to digging into this.

  2. Esther Phillips… ‘And I Love Him’. just sublime….

  3. Steve Earle – “I’m Looking Through You”
    Richard Barone – “Cry Baby Cry”
    Elvis Costello – any of a number of Beatles covers
    Lou Ann Barton – “Every Little Thing”

    . . . just off the top of my head. Thousands more and these are 75 best EVER? Dial it back a bit. How about some beatles covers instead without the outrageous claim?

  4. Well, I don’t know. There was no way you were going to do this and not have folks take you to task. Reasonable people can disagree and all that, I suppose, but it seems you all went out of your way to be contrary. You certainly warned us where you were going with #75.

    I’ve been collecting covers of the lads’ tunes for some time now. and there’s precious little overlap between what you privilege and what I prefer. Admittedly, I have a (relative)recency bias that you all do not and you all were more eclectic than I am, both in the songs you selected and musical genre in which they were covered. I mean, “Honey Pie” is in the bottom 10 percent of all Beatles songs. Why would I want a cover of it, let alone rank it among the best ever?

    So, here are few I like that you didn’t include.

    I like both of these, one very different than the other, better than the version you selected:



    And this, a beautiful rendition:


    George’s only song on SPLHCB:


    Our Johnny climbs inside his head:


    Pretty Paul:


  5. A few more:

    Margo Timmins renders a lovely jazz lounge version of “Things We Said Today”:


    A nicely arranged version of “Fool on the Hill” by Bruce Cockburn:


    JT and Yo-Yo do George’s “Here Comes the Sun”


    I’m available for consultation should you choose to edit and resubmit your list!

  6. Sublime, Paul Brady covers “You Won’t See Me”:


  7. Guitar, cello (or is it bowed upright bass?), voice and a terrific arrangement:

    Lisa Lauren covers “Look What You’re Doing”:


  8. Paul Weller and friends rock “Come Together” (check out the keyboard player):


  9. And though I appreciate George’s songs getting some slots on your list, when it comes to Thea and Beatles covers, I very much prefer this one:


  10. Respect your choices, love the reader comments, and have to say that any list titled Best Beatles Covers should most definitely include these 25 (in alphabetical order or She Loves You by Peter Sellers would be first, best Beatles cover ever).

    1. Come Together by Axl Rose and Bruce Springsteen
    2. Come Together by Roberta Flack
    3. Come Together by Sophie Urista
    4. Eleanor Rigby by Aretha Franklin
    5. Golden Slumbers By Gracie Abrams
    6. Got to Get You Into My Life by Earth, Wind, and Fire
    7. Help by Alejandro Escovedo
    8. Help by Little Wayne
    9. Helter Skelter by Aerosmith
    10. Her Majesty by Chumbawamba
    11. I am the Walrus by Oasis
    12. I am the Walrus by Spooky Tooth
    13. I Feel Fine by Leslie West
    14. I Need You (acoustic version) by Steve Perry
    15. I Want to Hold Your Hand by T.V. Carpio
    16. I’ve Got a Feeling by Pearl Jam
    17. I’ve Got a Feeling by Billy Preston
    18. Long, Long, Long by Tim Bernardes
    19. Long, Long, Long by Tanya Donelly
    20. Sexy Sadie by Rachel Unthank and dThe Winterset
    21. She Loves You by Peter Sellers
    22. Something by James Brown
    23. While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Girl in a Coma
    24. Yesterday by Marvin Gaye
    25. You Never Give Me Your Money by Tenacious D

  11. And… 26. She Said She Said by The Black Keys; 27. Tomorrow Never Knows by Junior Parker. Both essential Beatles covers.

    • Stan, that Junior Parker cover of Tomorrow Never Knows is one of my personal all-time faves! Perfectly eerie and gorgeous! We just didn’t have enough room this time :) And Rachel Unthank and the Winter Set’s epic Sexy Sadie is in there, at #30. Love your lists and gotta add that while I do adore Marvin’s Yesterday, Donny Hathaway’s is the one that steamrolls my heart :)

  12. Okay, okay — I’m not trying to suggest the Alternative 75 Best Beatles Covers Ever, but also: 28. Yes it Is by Don Henley; and All You Need is Love by Noel Gallagher, which even though it was done for the Teenage Cancer Trust belongs in the Irony Knows Know Bounds Hall of Fame given the loving, graceful, forgiving nature of the Gallagher Bros relationship.

  13. Yeah, more covers to sort through! Thanks, Stan.

    So, sometimes I like covers that translate well to other genres (and in this case languages):

    A French gypsy jazz offering of George’s “If I Needed Someone”.


    • Thanks for all the sharings, Kevin. Like you I’m a fan of that “John, Paul, George, & Django” gypsy jazz album. Not sure if you noticed, but we selected a different song from it (see #64).

  14. Aargh, Forget this one; it’s a masterpiece. Across the Universe by Laibach. The version by AURORA is excellent too, but the Laibach version…whew. (You’re welcome Kevin…in the hands of masters these interpretations from the shoulders of giants can be pretty fulfilling to listen to, hope it does that for you and others).

  15. Can I please, like, get banned from posting on this site? I run a company, have other stuff to do! And yet…Things We Said Today by Dwight Yoakam. Sigh. LAST ONE, I SWEAR.

  16. Yeah, I can’t stop just yet, either:

    John (effing) Entwistle rocks George’s “Here Comes the Sun”


    Whereas JT and Yo-Yo give it a distinctly different treatment:


  17. As an Australian I’m pleased to see that Tommy Emmanuel made the list. Perhaps I’m biased (I don’t think so) but I would always include in a list of this size Zoot’s heavy cover of “Eleanor Rigby” and Doug Parkinson in Focus with “Dear Prudence”, a big hit in 1969. Oh, Lowell Fulson’s chugging “Why Don’t We It In the Road” is a personal fave.

  18. Now I’m just flat out using posting here to procastinate.

    Margo Timmins renders a sultry jazz “Things We Said Today”


  19. And allow me to use Ms. Timmins to pivot to covers of the boys’ offerings after they regrettably chose to go separate ways:

    George — “I’d Have You Anytime”


    Paul’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Brian Vander Ark:


    John’s “Working Class Hero” by Hilton Valentine


    I say regrettably chose to separate only because they did so in such a definitive way that led to them never really working together again as a quartet. I understand and respect their need for individuation. But, with a little perspective, I think they might have instead announced an extended hiatus that would give them the space needed, but also more readily allowed for reuniting. Bands don’t need to formally “breakup”. Why not leave it more open ended?

    Of course, the effect was that we have four solo careers to enjoy. So, there’s that.

  20. So I just stumbled upon this. Had no idea about its origins and at first thought about whether I wanted to share a cover of this great song from an animated series about bugs. And the lead singers voice, well, I wasn’t sure about that either. But I gave it couple listens and have come to quite like it:


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