7 Essential Beatles Covers
Some standout selections from the most covered band of all time.
The iconic Beatles lineup of George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr released 13 studio albums from 1963 to 1970 - starting with Please Please Me and ending with Let It Be.
Their critical and commercial success was and still is remarkable. Many of their albums are considered classics, a 2014 CBS News report stated that the group had sold 600 million albums worldwide, and a significant number of Beatles songs remain in frequent radio rotation 51 years after they disbanded.
Like all bands with a vast reach and significant cultural capital, there is some division in how critics and listeners perceive their legacy today. Is the group underappreciated by modern audiences or are they overrated? Do they deserve all the accolades they received over the years or did they overshadow some of their equally/more deserving peers?
Opinions vary and multiple truths to these questions can exist at once. But whatever your thoughts are on the collective and individual talent of George, John, Paul, and Ringo, The Beatles were a force to be reckoned with who greatly influenced artists across many genres and generations. The website WhoSampled currently has 10,188 covers of their songs archived - making them the most covered artist or group of all time.
Here are seven fresh, essential reworks of their music ranging from well-known recordings to the more obscure numbers. Feel free to drop your own favorite Beatles covers in the comments.
1) “Lady Madonna” by Lenny White featuring Chaka Khan (1978)
Known for his work on Miles Davis’ legendary Bitches Brew and Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay, as well as his membership in Chick Corea’s group Return to Forever, Lenny White’s incredible list of collaborative recordings goes well beyond the scope of this article. His solo discography - which includes 1978’s Streamline - is also impressive. Though not a classic record, the LP contains some real gems like this take on “Lady Madonna” from The White Album. Chaka Khan’s vocals help bring the track to another level.
2) “Don’t Let Me Down” by Marcia Griffiths (1974)
In 2014 the Jamaican government awarded Marcia Griffiths with the prestigious Order of Distinction. No wonder - her career spans nearly six decades. It also includes early duets with Bob Marley (“Oh My Darling”), an extended stint with the I Threes vocal trio that supported Bob Marley & The Wailers, a hit cover of Bunny Wailer’s “Electric Boogie,” and an impressive backlist of solo albums. Her ‘74 debut Play Me Sweet and Nice is a great record in its own right, but the 2006 reissue features a beautiful cover of “Don’t Let Me Down” from Hey Jude that listeners won’t want to miss.
3) “A Day In The Life” by Wes Montgomery (1967)
Wes Montgomery was 36 when he put out A Dynamic New Sound: Guitar/Organ/Drums with the Wes Montgomery Trio and created a new sonic space for jazz guitarists. A Day in the Life came out eight years later - about one year before Montgomery died of a heart attack in 1968. Though some critics dismissed the record as a lesser work of his, it’s an engrossing listen with some remarkable numbers. His take on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band classic “A Day In The Life” is absolutely gorgeous.
4) “All My Loving” by Amy Winehouse (2004)
Amy Winehouse performed this incredible Beatles cover two years before the release of her critically acclaimed album Back to Black for the TV documentary Glastonbury Calling. Though she hadn’t yet achieved international superstardom yet, her beautifully stripped down rendition of this With the Beatles favorite was certainly an indicator of things to come. The raw power of her voice shines brightly thanks to the minimalist backing track. As one YouTuber noted in the comments, “A guitar and her voice... All that was needed.”
5) “Come Together” by Richard "Groove" Holmes and Ernie Watts (1970)
The late Jazz organist Richard “Groove” Holmes is perhaps best known for his popular rendition of the jazz standard “Misty.” Two-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist Ernie Watts has cut records with everyone from Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa, earning himself a jaw-dropping 1,000-plus recording credits on discogs. In 1970 the two men joined forces to release Come Together on World Pacific Jazz Records. Holmes and Watts do proper justice to the title track/Abbey Road favorite as a killer bassline blends beautifully with both of them absolutely shredding on organ and sax. This entire record holds up quite well and is just waiting to be discovered by a modern audience.
6) “Yesterday” by En Vogue (1992)
En Vogue’s Funky Divas was a massive record when it dropped nearly three decades ago. Singles like "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)," the Aretha Franklin cover "Giving Him Something He Can Feel," and "Free Your Mind" were such big hits that they may have overshadowed an excellent cover of “Yesterday.” That’s a shame, because group’s reimagining of a standout from Help! serves as the ultimate showcase for their incredible harmonies and remarkable vocal range. Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy produced this one just right - letting vocals ride acapella for 30 seconds before bringing in sparse drums, live keys, and what sounds like a tiny snippet of “Paul Revere.” They also drop the beat out again at the 1:22 mark for a perfect bit of added punch.
7) “And I Love Her” by the Techniques Band (?)
Today’s final cover is a mysterious and beautiful remake of “And I Love Her” from China that I discovered in a six-year-old Reddit thread. Credited to Techniques Band, the song benefits from an interesting bit of twang, some impressive guitar, and captivating vocals. The instrumentation here is really interesting and the song’s opening almost sounds like a slowed down version of the beginning of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” Sadly, I haven’t been able to track down anything about the recording or the band despite my best efforts. If you have any info about either please reach out so I can add it to the article.
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