Feb 232024

Get Back to the beginning.

30. Bob Dylan — Something

Bob Dylan was buddies with all the Beatles—he famously introduced them to marijuana—but no one more so than George Harrison. When I talked to their shared drummer Jim Keltner, he told me that “George Harrison was Bob Dylan’s biggest fan in the world… He knew the lyrics to every Bob Dylan song, old and new.” Fan though Harrison might have been, when I talked to one of Dylan’s former tour managers, who worked with Tom Petty for decades, he recalled, “There’s only one cat that I can remember who was on the same plane as Bob when they would meet and talk. That’s George Harrison. He respected Bob, but wasn’t in awe of him.”

When Harrison passed away in 2002, his widow and son planned a giant tribute show known as The Concert for George in London. Bob Dylan couldn’t make it. So, at his own concert a few weeks prior, he paid tribute in his own way. He did “Something” again years later, and he’s covered the Beatles other times too (“Things We Said Today,” “Yesterday”), but something in the way this moves attracts me like no other cover. — Ray Padgett

29. Jake Shimabukuro — Eleanor Rigby

Although Shimabukuro’s studio version of “Eleanor Rigby” is perfectly pleasant, there are a number of live takes that show his virtuosic ukulele style. One is example is his HiSessions performance; filled with harmonics and wonderfully captured melody bolstered by a rock solid sense of rhythm, Shimabukuro’s cover is a sensational experience. It’s shockingly full-sounding and even more impressive to watch him wrings such a mountain of sound out of an instrument that rarely gets center stage. Not many others could pull it off, but Jake makes it look effortless. — Mike Misch

28. Calamity Jane — I’ve Just Seen a Face

A dramatic whoosh of the wind, the sound of horses clip-clopping and neighing, and the crack of a whip set the scene for this outlaw country cover. A steady bass pairs with an energetic banjo while the quartet of vocals tell the “I’ve Just Seen a Face” story line. It’s like a song version of the old-timey “wanted” sign you see in Westerns. The vocals dominate, but there is an instrumental break where both the bass and banjo move to center stage. After the break, the vocals come back in, this time making the “I’ve Just Seen a Face” announcement in the round, giving the effect that all of that “fallin’” is contagious. — Sara Stoudt

27. Buddy Guy — I’ve Got a Feeling

The largest bookshop in Liverpool has a giant mural capturing aspects of the history of the city. It points out that blues music sometimes found it easier to travel across the Atlantic than it did to make it to the Northern States of the USA. Thus the music could inspire Liverpool’s Fab Four, London’s Rolling Stones, and a thousand other bands. The story goes that when The Beatles reached the United States in 1964. they were asked who they wanted to meet, and their answer was Muddy Waters (a name not familiar to all the music journalists present).

Buddy Guy was a key collaborator of Waters’ as a mentee and (perhaps) eventual peer and, once again, his influence on UK artists is huge. Eric Clapton calls him the greatest-ever guitarist. His 2022 album The Blues Don’t Lie contains this version of a song known for its pivotal role in the rooftop concert in 1970. The original was born and raised in the frenetic creativity of the band’s disintegration, a merger of two unfinished songs. Here it is slower, but it retains a major key and upbeat rhythm guitar. It’s an older, more considered approach. The music has returned back across the Atlantic and has found a great home. — Mike Tobyn

26. Mary McCaslin — Things We Said Today

“Things We Said Today” saw Paul McCartney writing about what Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks would later call “nostalgia for an age yet to come.” But where Paul pined for a future where he’d remember the present, Mary McCaslin’s cover is turned entirely toward the past. Her intricate guitar pattern is hypnotic, pulling the listener in and down, and you can almost see the sepia tones of the words as she sings them. AllMusic.com called this and her take on “Blackbird” “not only among the few truly fine folk renditions of Lennon-McCartney tunes but among the best Beatles covers ever attempted.” They’re absolutely right. — Patrick Robbins

25. Aretha Franklin — Let It Be

If she wasn’t already the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin might be remembered as one of the greatest gospel singers of all time. Franklin got her start singing the Lord’s music in her father’s church after all, and her 1972 live album Amazing Grace is, well, just downright amazing. So hearing her cover of Paul McCartney’s gospel-inspired “Let It Be” is nothing short of a revelation. The cover holds the distinction of being the first commercial release of the song, as Franklin’s version came out two months prior to the Beatles’ release. Franklin makes no secret of her intentions, taking the song fully “back to church” and bringing every soul who listens along for the ride. — Curtis Zimmermann

24. Grandaddy — Revolution

California indie rockers Grandaddy offer this gnarly take on “Revolution,” released in 2002 on the all-Beatles soundtrack of I Am Sam. Grandaddy’s version comes out of the gate as brooding bedroom pop—buzzy Moog, perfunctory electronic drums, clipped guitar chunking. Jason Lytle’s thin vocals at first recall Lennon’s bite from “Revolution 1,” full of sneering and skepticism. But each chorus here also offers a tonal reset: Lytle and the band recalibrate the tempo and majorly shift gears to a jangly SoCal sing-along. Lytle’s got a pleasing slacker drawl on the hook—elongating the repeated “Alright” with some essential vocal fry to something more like “Awwwwlriiiiiiiiiiight”—and plenty of bright acoustic strums fill out the scene. It sounds snarky, but it’s full of sunshine too. — Ben Easton

23. Gary U.S. Bonds — It’s Only Love

In 1980, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt decided to seek out one of their heroes: rhythm & blues singer Gary U.S. Bonds. Bonds was well-known in the early ’60s for his hit singles “Quarter to Three” and “New Orleans,” but by the dawn of the ’80s he had fallen off the radar and hadn’t released an album in twenty years. Enter The Boss and Miami Steve. The E Street duo signed on to co-produce Bonds’ comeback album, Dedication, and contributed four new songs between them. The rest of the record was made up of covers, including this inspired take on “It’s Only Love” from Help!. You’d never have guessed there was a stirring soul tune inside this unassuming album track, but Bonds takes it to new heights, propelled by an E Street Band running at full power. — Tim Edgeworth

22. The Cactus Blossoms — This Boy

With their airtight harmonies and retro-country style, the brothers duo known as the Cactus Blossoms have often been compared to the Everly Brothers. This certainly holds true on their 2013 cover of “This Boy.” The duo plays it as a dark, atmospheric country song that could have been performed at the Opry before the British Invasion. It’s a haunting track that captures the hopelessness simmering in the lyrics. — Curtis Zimmermann

21. The Singers Unlimited — Michelle

Until Rubber Soul came around, The Beatles weren’t exactly preoccupied with great vocal technique. Especially in the early ‘60s, their youthful frenzy—being out of breath as they rushed off-stage—was often the thing. It’s on mellower, more mature mid-career tunes like “Michelle” that Paul and John gave themselves space for a proper inhale-exhale on record (in the case of fellow Rubber Soul cut “Girl,” quite literally), allowing the arc of a breath to help them intuit a melody’s path, rather than simply chasing a rock ‘n’ roll thrill.

Following this lead, jazz vocal ensemble The Singers Unlimited offer an invigorating and fully a cappella version of “Michelle.” Released in 1972 and arranged by Hollywood vocal legend Gene Puerling, the Singers let McCartney’s breezy melody rise and fall with both grace and control. Though the song eventually became common currency as a jazz standard, this “Michelle” is far from the realm of dissonance. The Singers Unlimited’s harmonies feel restorative, hovering in precise, wide-open intervals. — Ben Easton


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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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