The 10 best covers of The Beatles song ‘Something’

The Beatles wrote an array of songs encompassing an eclectic mix of genres in their decade of existence. However, one area they were particularly adept at was the love song. Between the band’s primary songwriters, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, they crafted many moments that pulled at the heartstrings in a way that the world had not fully experienced before. Out of all these instances, ‘Something’ remains particularly powerful.

A significant moment in The Beatles’ career, ‘Something’ was written by lead guitarist George Harrison and is found on their hit 1969 album, Abbey Road. Taken in tandem with his second contribution to the record, the iconic ‘Here Comes the Sun’, it is regarded as the turning point in his career as a composer for The Beatles of the same standing as the McCartney-Lennon partnership. The composition is so good that the rest of the band and their producer, George Martin, heaped praise on Harrison, with the notoriously critical frontman John Lennon going on to deem it the best moment on Abbey Road.

A sort of stoned ballad, the track is remarkably potent. It has retained freshness all these years thanks to the sincerity of Harrison’s lyrics and the incisiveness of the music, which features some of his best guitar playing. Famously, it has long been considered a tribute to Harrison’s first wife, Pattie Boyd, although the moustachioed guitarist would later offer different inspirations.

‘Something’ received the Ivor Novello Award for ‘Best Song Musically and Lyrically’ in 1969, offering the kind of fanfare it was met with upon release. It made such a cultural impact that by the late 1970s, it had been covered by over 150 acts, making it the second-most covered song by the band after ‘Yesterday’.

So without further ado, join us as we list the ten best covers of The Beatles’ ‘Something’.

The 10 best covers of ‘Something’:
10. Lena Horne and Gabor Szabo (1970)
A jazz-inflected cover of ‘Something’, this collaboration between American singer and activist Lena Horne and Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo takes the emotive essence of the original and runs off into the distance with it. Augmented by Horne’s soulful voice and Szabo’s trebly, ethereal soloing, their respective prowess is ballasted by the band’s precision, which features the warm tones of Chuck Rainey’s bass and Richard Tee’s wistful organ.

Whilst Horne and Szabo’s joint album Lena & Gabor from 1970 is one of the finest things either ever released and features several Beatles covers, including ‘Rocky Raccoon’, ‘In My Life’ and ‘The Fool On The Hill’, it is the rework of ‘Something’ that takes the crown as the most memorable moment on the record. Enjoy.

9. Joe Cocker (1969)

There’s no surprise that Joe Cocker is found on this list, as famously, Harrison initially offered him the song after struggling to get his songs onto Beatles albums. Another faithful rework, there’s a transcendental essence to this one, courtesy of the otherwordly nature of the backing vocalists and the gravelly soul of the Sheffield native’s voice. A brilliantly oscillating song, weaving between meditation and anthem, it’s a testament to the late Cocker’s talent.

This cover is found on Cocker’s 1969 second album, Joe Cocker. Another record that features a host of reworks, including ones of The Beatles’ track ‘She Came in Through the Bathroom Window’, and Bob Dylan’s ‘Dear Landlord’, it is the emotional punch of ‘Something’ that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

8. Isaac Hayes (1970)

Soul musician Isaac Hayes was always known as an innovator, with much imagination imbued in all his finest compositions. Whilst not an original, his treatment of ‘Something’ is a feast for the senses. A progressive soul masterwork featured on 1970’s The Isaac Hayes Movement, he stretched the track into a nearly 12-minute sonic odyssey, with a much broader range of instrumentation and the piano placed front and centre.

Striking in every sense of the word, from Hayes’ unmistakable voice to the orchestral flourishes, this is undoubtedly one of the most excellent versions of ‘Something’ and always will be. It oozes artistic verve, with the woodwind solo an absolute sonic delight.

7. Booker T. & the M.G.’s (1970)

One of the most influential R&B/funk outfits of all time, Booker T. & the M.G.’s effect extends far beyond that of the timeless ‘Green Onions’. An instrumental force in shaping the Memphis soul sound, they have many notable moments in their oeuvre that come under their own name and those of other legends such as Otis Redding and Bill Withers. One of their best efforts has to be the stirring instrumental interpretation of ‘Something’.

The track is found on 1970’s McLemore Avenue, an album greatly indebted to The Beatles and Abbey Road. It features primarily instrumental covers of the English band’s 1969 record, with the cover photograph a homage to the iconic one found on Abbey Road.

Pianist Booker T. Jones later said: “I was in California when I heard Abbey Road, and I thought it was incredibly courageous of The Beatles to drop their format and move out musically like they did. To push the limit like that and reinvent themselves when they had no need to do that. They were the top band in the world, but they still reinvented themselves. The music was just incredible so I felt I needed to pay tribute to it.”

6. Elvis Presley (1973)

‘The King of Rock and Roll’ Elvis Presley undertook many covers in his time. Hell, even the momentous ‘Hound Dog’ from 1956 was a rework of a blues classic by Big Mama Thornton, but that’s a story for another day. Whilst there is an extensive list of impactful covers by the Mississippian icon, his approach to George Harrison’s ‘Something’ is wonderful and criminally overlooked.

A swooning rework spearheaded by the timeless warmth of his voice, this one emerged as part of his 1973 live album, Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite, which came only four years before his death. Effortlessly stirring in the way that Presley’s tracks often are, the way his voice dovetails with the orchestral section is nothing short of majestic.

5. Smokey Robinson (1970)

Regarding R&B and soul, you don’t get many figures more consequential than Smokey Robinson. Making his name as the founder and frontman of the pioneering Motown group The Miracles, he also served as their chief songwriter and producer in an explicit show of the breadth of his talent. Boasting a distinctive, high-register voice, the likes of ‘The Tracks of My Tears’ and ‘My Girl’ are two of his most important offerings.

Then we have the 1970 version of ‘Something’, which is an emotionally affecting reading. Taken from The Miracles’ A Pocket Full of Miracles, the record features various covers of prominent songs, including Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. What catches the eye about ‘Something’, though, is that Robinson configured it as a medley with Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown’s ‘Something You Got’, in another clear reflection of his genius. Harrison was an open fan of this treatment.

4. James Brown (1972)

James Brown was the master for many reasons. He is mainly known for his pioneering effect on the funk and soul forms, which helped bring them to the masses. Whilst his most famous moments speak for themselves, his extensive back catalogue is awash with songs that should have got more praise. This includes his cover of ‘Something’. Apart from the lyrics, one of the most inventive remakes, it is quite distinguishable from the original in parts, thanks to the funk edge he instilled in it.

A B-side, found on The Singles Vol. 8: 1972-1973, this cover is so brilliant that even George Harrison himself was such a fan that he called it “the best” of the bunch.

During a 1988 interview with MuchMusic, Harrison discussed the song’s luminance. “The best one I ever heard was (from) James Brown, and he did it in 1972, but he did only as the B-side of a re-recorded version of ‘Think’, which is a very old song of his,” he said. “So it was only on the B-side. I sent him a postcard and said: ‘You should make it the A-side, it’s a killer!’ It’s really good.”

3. Frank Sinatra (1980)

One of the most majestic reworks found on this list, Frank Sinatra imbues real panache into ‘Something’ and some of that old-world nostalgia that seems so distant from the sound of contemporary times. The power of his voice, the sparse brush strokes and the lavish orchestra all work together to take the track in a different direction from the original, and one that is remarkably hypnotic. Famously, Sinatra was such a fan of Harrison’s composition that he labelled it “the greatest love song of the past 50 years”.

Surprisingly, at first, Harrison wasn’t overawed that Sinatra had covered his work but would come to change his mind. “At the time, I wasn’t particularly thrilled that Frank Sinatra did ‘Something’,” he wrote in Anthology. “I’m more thrilled now than I was then. I wasn’t really into Frank – he was the generation before me”.

The former Beatle then said he was much more interested “when Smokey Robinson did it and when James Brown did it. But I’m very pleased now, whoever’s done it. I realise that the sign of a good song is when it has lots of cover versions”.

2. Chet Baker (1970)

Whilst 1970’s Blood, Chet and Tears was derided at the time of release for the eminent Chet Baker apparently trying to sound like someone he wasn’t, it’s actually a masterwork. Comprised of covers of classic songs, the album features an all-star band, including Mike Deasy on guitar, Joe Osborn on electric bass and the eminent Hal Blaine behind the drum kit.

Whilst there are various moments of note, the dream-like rework of ‘Something’ is undoubtedly the finest. Fusing Chet Baker’s genius with that of George Harrison’s composition, this languid interpretation perfectly captures the essence of 1970, when the counterculture was dying, but the sunshine hadn’t yet completely faded into the black. Baker’s solo here is glorious, the sonic equivalent of floating on a cloud.

1. Shirley Bassey (1970)

There was to be no other cover of ‘Something’ that held the number one spot on this list. This one is just perfect in every sense. Taken from the 1970 album Something by the Welsh songstress Shirley Bassey, her career had been in decline towards the end of the last decade. However, the record proved to be her comeback after it was released in August, with the title track her biggest hit in the UK for years, peaking at number four and spending 22 weeks on the chart.

Toeing the line between introspective and uplifting seamlessly, the counterbalance between both sides in this cover is superb. Then there’s Bassey’s vocal performance, which is indisputably one of the finest of her long and celebrated career. Strong, emotive and defiant in the face of her career decline, she was more than deserving of a comeback after this. Just take the way she belts out “Something” at the song’s end. Glorious.

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