The best covers of Beatles songs

Trying to cover a Beatles song and do it justice is not easy, regardless of who attempts it. Still, there have been some memorable covers of classic Beatles tunes. In chronological order, here are some of our favorites.

“Day Tripper” by Otis Redding (1966)

Since the Beatles had great respect for Redding as an artist, it made sense the soul and R&B legend would take his turn at one of the band’s biggest hits. “Day Tripper” seemed like a song made for Redding’s special vocal styling. His soulful take on the classic, with Booker T. & the M.G.’s backing him up, is one of the great covers of all time.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by Jimi Hendrix (1967)

The legend goes that Hendrix was so captivated by the title track from one of the greatest records of all time that he couldn’t wait to play it live on stage. He did so just days after the record was released. In true Hendrix greatness, he shreds from beginning to end without an ounce of pretentiousness. Hendrix was not shy about his respect for the Beatles, and the feeling was mutual, as Paul McCartney would often talk about.

“Hey Jude” by Wilson Pickett with Duane Allman (1969)

Taking on a track as legendary as “Hey Jude” can be daunting for any artist, regardless of stature. Pickett offered his own R&B flair when he covered the song in the late 1960s. Pickett’s brass-tinged version has a gospel-like feel that allows it to stand out among other takes. Having a then-up-and-coming guitarist like Allman play on the track only adds to the legacy of the cover.

“With A Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker (1969)

There are cases where a cover version is better than the original. That’s often hard to accomplish with a Beatles song, but Cocker came close on his May 1969 debut record With a Little Help from My Friends. Cocker’s fame reached new heights later that year at Woodstock, with his memorable version of the Sgt. Peppers’ cut with Ringo Starr on lead vocals. Television fans will remember the song as the opening theme from the 1980s-’90s hit series The Wonder Years.

“Eleanor Rigby” by Aretha Franklin (1970)

It’s always special when legendary artists cover songs by other greats in the business. We’ll highlight plenty of those occasions on this list. Aretha Franklin has often found success through the Beatles with covers of “Yesterday” and “Let It Be,” to name a couple. Yet, her version of “Eleanor Rigby” is simply sensational. Pure Aretha to the hilt and another showcase of her brilliance.

“We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder (1970)

Stevie Wonder didn’t need help from the Beatles to win a Grammy Award, but his rendition of “We Can Work It Out” is considered one of the great covers of all time. And, yes, Wonder took home his fifth Grammy for the effort. To top things off, Wonder performed the song at the White House in 2010 in front of Paul McCartney, who was being honored with the Gershwin Prize.

“Yesterday” by Marvin Gaye (1970)

Gaye’s 1970 album That’s The Way Love Is is filled with cover songs. “Yesterday,” however, seemed to stand out among a bunch that included “Cloud Nine” and “Groovin’.” Like Aretha Franklin’s version of “Eleanor Rigby,” Gaye’s take on the Beatles’ most lauded ballad was unique. It’s all soul and heart.

“Here Comes The Sun” by Nina Simone (1971)

Pretty much everything Nina Simone did during her career was special. Her version of “Here Comes the Sun” might be more beautiful and poignant than the George Harrison-penned classic that the Beatles put out, which is obviously saying a lot. Simone was no stranger to doing covers justice, and this take is at the top of the list.

“Let It Be” by Bill Withers (1971)

Another Rock and Roll Hall of Famer taking his turn at a Beatles tune. And not just any track, but one of the most notable and celebrated songs ever recorded. Withers pulled it off wonderfully with a picked-up pace and soulful groove. In an almost gospel-like fashion, Withers’ voice was in top form.

“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” by Ike and Tina Turner (1972)

There’s no reason to promote or celebrate the male half of this duo. Anybody who’s heard this rendition of the Abbey Road track knows Tina Turner’s participation is nothing short of legendary. Her trademark vocal shriek gave a fresh take on a song that showcased the Beatles’ soulful side.

“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by Elton John (1975)

It wasn’t good enough that Sir Elton covered this Sgt. Pepper trippy classic, but the fact he had John Lennon (under the assumed name of Dr. Winston O’Boogie) play on his version added to the legacy of the song. Elton John’s rendition sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Over time, it just might be his most enduring cover (“Pinball Wizard” is also in the running).

“‘Help” by The Damned (1976)

This was the B-side to “New Rose,” The Damned’s biggest hit from its debut album Damned Damned Damned. The group’s version of “Help” is a fun romp with its signature punk twist, thus making it stand out among other covers of this timeless pop-rock classic.

“Got to Get You Into My Life” by Earth, Wind & Fire (1978)

Earth, Wind & Fire was highly influential because of its collective sound and original tunes. However, this Beatles cover was one of the biggest hits these R&B legends enjoyed. Released as a single in the late 1970s, EWF’s version of “Got to Get You Into My Life” earned gold-record status, went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, and reached the top 10 in the Hot 100.

“Dear Prudence” by Siouxsie & The Banshees (1983)

Siouxsie Sue already earned acclaim covering the Beatles when the band delivered a hauntingly raucous version of “Helter Skelter” in the late 1970s. This time, it went for a more melodic piece with a version that enjoyed more commercial awareness and eventually found its way to MTV. As expected, Siouxsie and her backing band took a classic and made it even more listenable in their way.

“Helter Skelter” by U2 (1988)

“This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.” That’s how U2 kicked off the Rattle and Hum record and film. While others have delivered solid versions (Motley Crue’s stands out) of this up-tempo number from the Beatles’ self-titled 1968 release, also known as the “White Album,” U2’s shines the brightest. Bono’s voice is perfect for the piece, and The Edge’s Stratocaster brilliantly paces the tune.

“Happiness Is A Warm Gun” by The Breeders (1990)

One of the great alternative rock records of the 1990s was Pod, the much-awaited debut by The Breeders. Among the gems on the album was the cover of this underrated Beatles deep cut. Kim Deal, Tanya Donelly, and the original lineup of this quasi-super group offer a raw, dark but direct version. It was a sign of strength that would pave the way for the band to enjoy success in a post-Pixies world.

“Anytime at All” by Dweezil Zappa (1991)

Frank Zappa performed a number of Beatles songs during his illustrious career. However, it was his son Dweezil who delivered a notable and underrated version of this somewhat underappreciated Beatles hit. Dweezil has never been able to enjoy the same success his father did, but his new-wave version of the upbeat “Anytime at All” is worth a listen.

“I Am The Walrus” by Oasis (1994)

It only makes sense that a band that liked to compare itself to the Beatles (well, at least some members did) would aim for something by the Fab Four. One of Oasis’ best attempts at playing the Beatles came on “I Am The Walrus.” Say what one will about the brothers Gallagher, but it was pretty special when they were in form on stage. This version of the single from the Magical Mystery Tour film — and EP — was one of those moments.

“In My Life” by Johnny Cash (2002)

Cash’s American Recordings records showcased “The Man in Black” later in his career, and this cover of another Beatles classic is one of the highlights. At this point in his life, Cash, who died less than a year after its release, seemed ready to put things into perspective. So, it made sense to record this type of song. Done in true Cash fashion, it’s haunting and passionate yet gritty and personal — precisely what we expect from a legend.

“Blackbird” by Elliott Smith (2003)

Smith was a tortured soul who made brilliant music. Among some of his best works were his cover songs. “Blackbird” is one Beatles cover that fans should be eager to hear, regardless of the artist taking it on. Smith’s version is beautiful and emotional, perhaps even more so than the original.

“Paperback Writer” by B-52s (2004)

The B-52s seem like a band made to do a cover of this song. We will overlook that this version was initially done for a car commercial. Regardless, it’s an above-average cover that’s a fun take on a popular tune — a perfect fit for the quirky band that got better with age. Kate Pierson’s vocals flow superbly, and we get some classic Fred Schneider in the background.

“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” by Chris Cornell (2006)

The late Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman performed some exceptional covers during his life (thinking “Stay With Me Baby” or “Nothing Compares 2 U”). This is part of the batch. Like others on this list, Cornell found a Beatles song that fits well with his unique range and added a soulful style to one of the band’s more poignant pieces of work.

“Hello, Goodbye” by The Cure (2014)

The Cure is known for classic melancholy and often dark tunes. So, it was fun to see the band take one of the Beatles’ more up-tempo hits and bring home a fresh, easy-to-listen rendition. Maybe it’s not too much of a surprise the band pulled it off, considering the talented Robert Smith has always surrounded himself with high-quality musicians able to live up to his level of excellence.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand” by Melvins (2018)

The Melvins have always been innovative as grunge pioneers. Its cover of one of the most popular songs of all time is both original and instantly likable. If fans of alt-rock, punk, or hard rock could imagine those versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” it would go something like the one the Melvins cooked up. And we can’t get enough of it.

“Something” by Billie Eilish (2019)

Plenty of music critics and fans insist George Harrison’s greatest writing accomplishment with the Beatles is this melodic gem for Abbey Road. They are not wrong. And Eilish does not disappoint with her slowed-down, drawn-out cover of “Something.” If we needed another reason to celebrate Eilish’s beyond-budding talent, here’s an example.

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