I’ll admit, I put this post off for a long time. The Beatles are widely acknowledged as one of the most, if not the most, influential music band of all time. They’re a little intimidating to tackle. There are documentaries, tribute bands, theses and dissertations, dedications, theories, and anything else I can think of about this band. About the individual members, about their careers, about their music, lyrics, influences, hidden meanings, etc. Multiple movies have based solely on their music; Across The Universe, anyone? This is possibly the most talked about group in the modern history of music.
I’m not about to try and add to that mass of information with my extremely limited knowledge.
Instead, I’m going to share with you some Beatles songs performed by artists who are not the Beatles.
There is a massive amount of artists who have recorded or performed Beatles songs, ranging from just about every genre there is. I have heard their music redone as jazz, metal, rock, trance, soul, R&B, ukulele, piano, Hawaiian, bossa nova, blues, country… you name it and it’s been done.
I’m not really listing these in any order, and they’re not what I would consider a “best of” list either. These are just songs I liked. Many of them I have fond childhood memories of, some I found as an adult. Some are from movie soundtracks. Honestly, I heard lots of Beatles music before I ever knew who the Beatles were.
I’m pretty pleased with the variety of artists I was able to include in this post. So let’s get started.
“Across The Universe” – Fiona Apple’
This version of “Across The Universe” is well known and is likely the most popular of this list. It’s truly lovely to listen to, and I enjoy Fiona Apple’s voice immensely. This was on the soundtrack for Pleasantville which I remember watching in high school. Great song, great artist. It may just be the most successful Beatles cover song ever.
“With A Little Help From My Friends” – Joe Cocker
Legendary version of this song, it’s a soulfull, solid performance. I haven’t listened to a lot of Joe Cocker, but this song is so amazing I really should fix that oversight. The video above is from Woodstock 1969, the Beatles released the recording in 1967. A lot of artists all over the world recorded the Beatles music almost immediately after it was released.
“Blackbird” – Sarah McLachlin
As a teenager learning to play the guitar, I was always especially intrigued by picking patterns. I loved this song enough to learn how to play it (kind of similarly) on my guitar. I still have the picking pattern memorized, though it might take me a minute if I haven’t played it in a while. I always felt this was such a peaceful and hopeful song. Lyrically, there have been multiple accounts as to it’s meaning, but as with any art, the meaning you get from it yourself is the most important. I love this song, and Sarah McLachlin does a worthy rendition.
“In My Life” – Keali’i Reichel
When I was younger, my mom had this CD she got in Hawaii and I remember hearing it a lot as a kid in the 90’s. The music production is a little cheesy, but I have such happy memories tied to this music that it doesn’t matter to me. I haven’t listened to this for more than a decade, but I still love it. His songs in the Hawaiian language are quite beautiful, by the way.
“Hey Jude” – Wilson Pickett
If you like documentaries, watch Muscle Shoals. It’s such a good film, and shares a lot of history about an amazing time in music recording and sheds a lot of insight on musicians and the music industry. This song was recorded there and hearing the account of how it came about was amazing. Until I heard this version of “Hey Jude” I didn’t have a very strong opinion on it, it was good but I din’t really think about it; I love this song now. Wilson Pickett knocked it right out of the park with this one.
“Got To Get You Into My Life” – Earth, Wind, and Fire
So much fun! This is a very recent discovery for me (I heard it the first time getting ready for this post) but it’s a fun danceable song that feels right at home with Earth, Wind, and Fire. Seriously, I love those horns, they are so tight!
“Dear Prudence” – Siouxsie and the Banshees
I heard this one on my favorite local radio station. I don’t have a lot to say about it, other than I really enjoy the vibe in this song, and that it fits incredibly well with this band. I am beginning to think that songs by the Beatles are just well suited to be done in any style.
“Eleanor Rigby” – Aretha Franklin
I found this one when I was working on my Aretha Franklin post. I love this version, it gives it a lot of bounce and drive that makes it very fun. Aretha also sang a lovely version of “Fool On The Hill” and I highly recommend that one too. I won’t add a link here, but please check it out on your own! It’s very upbeat and so very Aretha.
“My Guitar Gently Weeps” – Jake Shimabukuro
This is one of the first “viral” videos ever. It has well over 16 million views, and for good reason. This is possibly the most beautiful version of this song I have ever heard. This man’s skill with his ukulele is amazingly impressive. The arrangement is complex and interesting with extremely well done build ups and payoffs. I have rarely seen someone shred so hard on a ukulele before, and never with this level of talent and skill. If you haven’t seen this video, for your sake watch it now.
“My Guitar Gently Weeps” – Regina Spektor
Not much can top the version of this song above, but this one is pretty dang good. If you haven’t seen the movie Kubo and the Two Strings you should absolutely watch it. It’s a fantastic movie all around, original and well written with great production quality and soundtrack. I loved this movie, and most people who have seen it feel the same. This version of the song, as performed by Regina Spektor, was a beautiful different take on it. I’m pretty happy to hear this one anytime.
“Fool On The Hill”, “Daytripper”, “Norwegian Wood” – Sergio Mendez & Brasil ’66
When I was younger, we had a CD by Sergio Mendez & Brasil ’66 that I adored. I listened to it a lot and that is probably where I got my love for Bossa Nova music. These three songs are fantastic renditions that bring a different world to mind. I imagine this would be the soundtrack to 70’s cocktail parties, or an old school visit to some South American beaches.
I heard these songs by this group before I heard the originals. So for me, this seemed the natural way it should be played. It was fascinating for me when I heard the originals and other versions as well. I will always have a special place in my heart for this music, any way it’s played.
“Two Of Us” – Aimee Mann
At some point after I moved out of the house I ended up inheriting a huge book of CD’s from a roommate who had left them behind. Among them was the soundtrack to I Am Sam which is comprised of Beatles cover songs. They are all great songs preformed by great artists. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail here, but I’ll put links to a few of the songs that I especially liked. “Two of Us” by Aimee Mann is the first.
“I’m Looking Through You” – The Wallflowers
“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” – Eddie Vedder
“Mother Nature’s Son” – Sheryl Crow
(Also check out the version by John Denver or the one by Jack White)
“Nowhere Man” – Paul Westerberg
That’s all I’m gonna share right now, but know that there is a ton more where that came from. If you want to hear more, check out the soundtrack for the movie I am Sam, or just do a google search, you’ll find a treasure trove, I’m sure.
I find it fascinating how the culture of the music world has changed over time. Looking back to the 60’s and 70’s it seems as if anyone could perform or record any song, no matter the original artist. Going back further, it was unusual for most singers to write their own songs, which would have been written by professional songwriters. Today there are still plenty of singers whose songs are written by songwriters employed by various record labels and other companies, but people also seem to expect most musicians to write their own songs. Of course, this is all just conjecture based on my own observations and I have done absolutely no research into this subject. I would like to learn more about it though, so if anyone has any good resources, please send them my way.
I hope you enjoyed these songs, like I said at the top, these are not necessarily my favorites or what I consider the best, I just like them. There are tons more songs by the Beatles (they were pretty prolific for a band that was only together 10 years) and likely all of those songs have been recorded or performed by other artists over the years. Find what you like! If you have any recommendations for songs I didn’t include here, send them my way, I’d love to hear the songs and your thoughts on them.
If you want to know more about the Beatles, go listen to them. Til next time, happy listening!
Childhood memory post-script: I didn’t post “Yellow Submarine” since I haven’t heard a cover of it I liked, but if Mary or Becca are reading this, I’m thinking of you 😉