First off, when talking about instrumental covers of The Beatles, I accidentally left off some great work by Booker T and the MGs. Their wonderful disco sounds really made great instrumental versions of some songs, especially Eleanor Rigby (which shows off amazing use of the wah wah pedal).
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of covers of Beatles songs, and it would be impossible to list them all in one place. I took some time over the past few days to listen to some that I have and found a few that I don’t, and came up with this list of 42 examples (in alphabetical order by artist). Some will surprise you. Some are good, some are not so good and some are great, but I think they all deserve notice. Some of the artists covered multiple Beatles songs and I only noting one or two. With a few of exceptions, I am leaving off songs from the movie Across the Universe. I have written about this movie in previous blog posts, and I find all the covers exceptional. The two that are in this list are the most exceptional of the movie. One final note, some of these covers are recorded and some were live performances. All the live performances can be found in youtube so I have included them here.
I will comment on a few at the end.
- Aerosmith – Come Together
- Bananarama – Help!
- Bon Jovi – Here Comes the Sun
- Bono – I am the Walrus
- James Brown – Something
- Jim Carrey – I am the Walrus
- Ray Charles – Let It Be
- George Michael – The Long and Winding Road
- Judy Collins – In My Life
- Phil Collins – Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End
- Sheryl Crow – Mother Nature’s Son
- Dave Matthews – In My Life
- John Denven – Mother Nature’s Son
- Electric Light Orchestra – Day Tripper
- John Farnham – I feel Fine
- Alison Kraus – I will
- Emmylou Harris – For No One
- Emmylou Harris – Here, There and Everywhere
- Eddie Izzard – Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
- Michael Jackson – Come Together
- The Jam – And Your Bird Can Sing
- Elton John – Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
- Kansas (with the London Symphony Orchestra) – Eleanor Rigby
- Cyndi Lauper – Strawberry Fields
- Aimee Mann & Michael Penn – Two of Us
- Sarah McLachlan – Blackbird
- Bette Middler – In My Life
- Alanis Morissette – Norwegian Wood
- Alanis Morissette – Dear Prudence
- Ozzy Osborne – In My Life
- Tom Petty – I Need You
- Elvis Presley – Lady Madonna
- Billy Preston – Get Back
- Otis Redding – Day Tripper
- The Rolling Stones – I Wanna Be Your Man
- Sting – A Day in the Life
- Toto – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- U2 – Norwegian Wood
- Whitesnake – Day Tripper
- Paul Westerberg – Nowhere Man
- Carol Woods – Let It Be
- Yes – Every Little Thing
Some of the ones I like are obvious, but some really surprise me. Like for example Bananarama’s version of Help! This British girl groups had mile success in the US in the late 80′s particularly their remake of the 70s hit Venus. They recorded Help! together with the British comics French & Saunders and Kathy Burke to raise money for comic relief. The record hit #3 on the British Charts. I cannot tell you why I like this version; perhaps it is due to the homage to the Beatles in the comic video of just my love of girl groups in general.
Bono is one of the most successful artists in history and he was recruited to be in the movie Across the Universe. In the movie he play a character called Dr. Robert, loosely based on Ken Kesey. Bono was wonderful in the role, ad-libbing much of his way through his part. He got to sing two songs for the movie, and his I Am the Walrus is amazing.
George Michael has also had an amazing career (despite being part of Wham!) I loved his appearance on the tv show Eli Stone. He performed The Long and Winding Road in concert.
Judy Collins is perhaps one of the greatest living American folk singers. Her voice is extraordinarily beautiful and she recorded a wonderful version of In My Life (forgive the cheesy video)
John Denver had, I believe, one of the best male singing voices in our times. Yes, he was basically a county singer and I loathe country music, but he crossed over to the pop charts so many times, you can easily call him a pop singer. He did a number of different Beatles tunes, but when I heard him sing Mother Nature’s Son, I decided that the song was really meant for him to sing.
Alison Krauss is also a country singer and a fiddler. She has the record for the most grammy awards for a female singer and 3rd over all. This is a beautiful version of I Will.
Cyndi Lauper has always been a favorite of mine. Her wonderful work in her early career earned her 5 hit songs from one album (a first at that time), and she has an amazing voice and makes consistently beautiful music. This video is from a tribute to John Lennon that was performed at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.
Aimee Mann & Michael Penn recorded Two of Us for the movie I am Sam. I think that this is my second favorite Beatles Cover (next to Joe Cockers With a Little Help from my Friends). The song, written by Paul, was about his time with Linda, but if you listen to the lyrics it could be about any couple (perhaps really about he and John).
Alanis Morissette is an amazing singer. She recorded Norwegian Wood which is one of my favorite Beatles songs. The song is perhaps about a Lesbian encounter that leads to nothing and perhaps it is best sung by a woman.
Billy Preston is the only artist who got billing alongside the Beatles on any recording. On the single for Get Back the artists are listed as The Beatles with Billy Preston. He also played the Hammond Organ for much of the Get Back sessions (what later became the album Let It Be). Years later he appeared in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the horrible movie that is loosely based on the album of the same name. He appeared as Sgt. Pepper and his song in the movie, Get Back, is perhaps the only good song in the film.
Lastly Carol Woods was cast as a gospel singer in the Movie Across the Universe to sing Let It Be. The first time I heard this version of the song (before I saw the movie) I was stunned. I mean is it possible for one artist to cover a song better than the original singers? I don’t know the answer, but this Let It Be is about the best I have ever heard. The song was made to be a gospel piece and the scene in the movie is perhaps the most moving of the film.
Well, thank you for indulging me in the fun exercise. I hope everyone enjoys!