Best Beatles Covers: 20 Essential Versions Of Fab Four Classics
Ranging across a wide mix of styles and artists, The best Beatles covers are testament to the sheer breadth and quality of their music.
The Beatles are rightly known for the unmatched songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, supplemented by an increasingly high standard of composition from George Harrison. Towards their final years, Ringo Starr also began to pitch in with originals. Together, the group created a body work that raised the bar for everyone – and, in turn, inspired no shortage of covers from those they influenced. Taking in a broad range of styles and artists, the best Beatles covers are a testament to the quality of the group’s songwriting, revealing the sheer breadth and depth of their work. Here’s our selection of the ten most notable Beatles covers, followed by a further ten honourable mentions.
Listen to the best of The Beatles on Apple Music and Spotify, and scroll down to read our pick of the best Beatles covers.
Esther Phillips: And I Love Him
Where better to start than with one of The Beatles’ own favorite covers? When pushed on the subject, Paul McCartney has consistently praised Esther Phillips’ reading of his 1964 song “And I Love Her” (retitled to reverse the gender). She performed the song on The Music of Lennon & McCartney, a 1965 TV showcase of their work, and he still praises her interpretation today.
Ray Charles: Yesterday
The Beatles loved American R&B, and much of their pre-fame setlist comprised music by Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Arthur Alexander, and countless other Black American artists; having their songs covered by such artists was always a thrill back in the 60s. Ray Charles tackled more than Beatles cover in his time, and it was a tough call to pick between his version of “Yesterday” or “Eleanor Rigby.” In the end, we plumped for the former, but both are well worthy.
Wilson Pickett: Hey Jude
Sticking with US R&B acts, Wilson Pickett’s 1969 cover of “Hey Jude” was an exercise in the seemingly impossible – how do you improve on perfection? Pickett enlisted an unknown young gunslinger named Duane Allman to play guitar on the track, which, on top of a brassy arrangement and Pickett’s screaming vocals, was the sweetest icing on a very rich cake. When he heard the record, Eric Clapton was knocked out. He recently recalled, “To this day, I’ve never heard better rock guitar playing on an R&B record. It’s the best.”
Al Green: I Want To Hold Your Hand
On the subject of US R&B covers, next up we salute Al Green’s take on “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” By the time Green came to record the song, The Beatles were wrapping up, and the heady days of Ed Sullivan TV appearances felt like ancient history. And yet the funky soul the Reverend Green infused into the song breathed new life into one of The Beatles’ most seismic moments.
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
There can be few greater compliments for an artist than when respected contemporaries pay homage. Take the moment in June 1967 when The Jimi Hendrix Experience opened their show at London’s Saville Theatre (run by Beatles manager Brian Epstein) with the title track from the brand-new Beatles album, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Doing so with members of The Beatles in attendance showed the Seattle guitar player to be as confident as he was timely. As Paul McCartney would later recall: “Jimi opened, the curtains flew back and he came walking forward, playing ‘Sgt Pepper,’ and it had only been released on the Thursday so that was like the ultimate compliment. It’s still obviously a shining memory for me, because I admired him so much anyway, he was so accomplished.”
Joe Cocker: With A Little Help From My Friends
Sheffield singer Joe Cocker’s cover from The Beatles’ 1967 opus took a little longer to emerge, but has remained one of the most iconic Beatles covers ever since. “With A Little Help From My Friends” went to No.1 in the UK singles chart in 1968, and Cocker’s performance of the song was one of the highlights of the legendary Woodstock concert the following year. It found a new audience in the late-80s as the theme tune to the hit TV series The Wonder Years. Paul McCartney has described first hearing Cocker’s version as “mind-blowing.”
Booker T & The MGs: Medley: Sun King/Mean Mr Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window/I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Such was The Beatles’ love of the Memphis Stax label (home to Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Rufus Thomas) that their manager, Brian Epstein, investigated the possibilities of recording what became Revolver there. While that idea never came to fruition, they remained huge fans of the label, whose artists put out many great Beatles covers. But none could quite surpass the ambition of Booker T & The MGs, who were so enamored by The Beatles’ Abbey Road album that they covered the whole thing in 1970 – including recreating the album cover as they crossed the road in front of the Stax studio on McLemore Avenue, which gave The MGs’ album McLemore Avenue its title.
Stevie Wonder: We Can Work It Out
When Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney first hung out together in a London nightclub in 1966, neither could have predicted where their burgeoning friendship would lead them. Sixteen years later, they would enjoy a No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic with their “Ebony And Ivory” single, and in 2010, Wonder performed his infectiously funky cover of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” in front of Paul and US President Barack Obama at The White House.
Siouxsie & The Banshees: Dear Prudence
By the early 80s, The Beatles had begun to attract new audiences – and from some unlikely quarters. Siouxsie & The Banshees were an uncompromising punk outfit who had already covered The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” in visceral style (on their 1978 LP, The Scream) before returning once more to the Lennon-McCartney songbook in 1983. Featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith on guitar, their jangly version of “Dear Prudence” gave the band its biggest hit, with the single reaching No.3 on the UK singles chart.
Oasis: I Am The Walrus
Britpop in the mid-90s was arguably the brightest time for UK guitar bands since the glory days of the 60s, and nobody flew the flag higher than Manchester’s Oasis. Their self-confessed obsession with all things Beatles saw them reinvent John Lennon’s psychedelic masterpiece “I Am The Walrus” as a brawling, barre-chord powerhouse, infusing it with the swagger for which they would soon become famous.
If our Top 10 has whet your whistle, here are ten more outstanding reinventions worthy of inclusion among the best Beatles covers:
Nina Simone: Here Comes the Sun
Taken from her 1971 album of the same name, Nina Simone’s spin on George Harrison’s song is even brighter and more positive than the original.
The Rolling Stones: I Wanna Be Your Man
Lennon and McCartney gave this 1963 song to their friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who used it as The Rolling Stones’ second single, which they took to No.12 on the UK chart.
The Beach Boys: I Should Have Known Better
Their paths would cross many times over the years, with California’s greatest harmony group covering The Beatles no less than three times on their 1965 Party! album alone.
The Jam: And Your Bird Can Sing
While not hugely different to the original, Paul Weller and co brought a punk energy to this Revolver track.
Alison Krauss And Tony Furtado: I Will
This gentle, lilting reading of Paul McCartney’s 1968 love song adds a country tinge to the original.
The Breeders: Happiness Is A Warm Gun
The US alt.rock outfit that comprised members of Pixies and Throwing Muses brought a dark edge to John Lennon’s 1968 composition.
Candy Flip: Strawberry Fields Forever
This 1990 acid house cover came out of the underground rave scene and into the UK singles chart, peaking at No.3.
David Bowie: Across the Universe
For his 1975 Young Americans album, David Bowie enlisted the help of John Lennon, who co-wrote the hit single “Fame,” as well as contributed to the Thin White Duke’s cover of his Beatles song.
U2: Helter Skelter
Ireland’s biggest band opened their 1988 live album, Rattle and Hum, with a swaggering cover of Paul McCartney’s “White Album” song.
Otis Redding: Day Tripper
The brilliant Georgia soul singer adds sweet horns and his urgent vocal stylings to the 1965 Beatles hit.
Looking for more? Discover the best Motown Beatles covers.
June 20, 2019 at 2:45 pm
No Todd Rundgren no Steve Hillage?
June 20, 2019 at 7:23 pm
I like Richard Cocciante’s version of “Michelle”, making it a latin power ballad
July 10, 2019 at 7:43 pm
C’mon….Elton’s Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds should be #1
November 15, 2019 at 4:50 pm
Absolutely. Best ever.
June 23, 2020 at 1:28 am
July 11, 2019 at 4:23 am
McLemore Avenue does not include two songs from Abbey Road; missing are Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Octopuses Garden.
June 23, 2020 at 11:10 pm
Where is Jeff Beck’s version of ‘A Day in the Life’? And for that matter, his brilliant instrumental of ‘She’s a Woman’?
July 12, 2019 at 1:54 am
What about Amy Winehouse’s “All My Loving”?
July 18, 2019 at 6:22 am
Richard Carpenter turned “Ticket To Ride” into a haunting ballad. Of course Karen sang it beautifully. It was their 1st single release and peaked at #47, I believe.
August 8, 2019 at 3:29 pm
Great Top 10. Questionable 11-20. Where was Aretha Franklin’s “Eleanor Rigby”?!
August 19, 2019 at 2:20 am
Earth Wind & Fire did a killer version of “Got to get you into my life”
December 16, 2019 at 1:04 pm
I was here just to say the same thing
October 7, 2019 at 11:47 am
Soundgarden’s Come Together
October 11, 2019 at 9:33 am
Has anyone heard Oh Darling by Robin Gibb……..stunning !
June 22, 2020 at 3:44 pm
Emmylou Harris – “Here, There and Everywhere” is another contender
June 22, 2020 at 3:57 pm
Judy Collins, “In My Life.”
The Dillards, “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”
June 23, 2020 at 3:04 am
Richie Havens “Here Comes The Sun”
Yes “Every Little Thing”
June 23, 2020 at 6:50 am
A Day in the Life Jeff Beck
June 23, 2020 at 1:41 pm
Help John Farnham
Eleanor Rigby, Zoot, with Rick Springfield
June 23, 2020 at 3:46 pm
“Fool on the Hill” Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66
Gary R Battista
June 23, 2020 at 5:27 pm
Nothing from Cheap Trick? Really?
June 24, 2020 at 1:35 am
Richie havens here comes the sun
June 24, 2020 at 6:02 am
Brazil 66 Fool on the Hill
June 24, 2020 at 6:19 am
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window by Joe Cocker has always been one of my favorites.
June 24, 2020 at 10:06 am
It may be an obscure one, but Wes Montgomery’s version of A Day in the Life deserves mentioning
June 24, 2020 at 10:23 am
Check out an Australia band called the Zoot that did a cover of Elenor Rigby. They had a young Rick Springfield in their band before he west to the US
June 24, 2020 at 4:11 pm
Wonder why there’s no mention of Chet Atkins instrumental rendition of a bunch of Beatles’ tunes in his 1966 album “Chet Atkins Picks on the Beatles”.
An entire album of Beatles’ covers in 1966, that is to say when the Beatles were not classics yet, and many thought that they would soon be forgotten!
June 25, 2020 at 4:29 am
What, no Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds by Elton John. Lennon, using a pseudonym, provided reggae guitar. It remains the only Beatles cover to reach number one on the US Billboard chart.
June 25, 2020 at 12:14 pm
Jeff Healy, “while my Guitar Gently Weeps.” With George Harrrison and Jeff Lynne.
June 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Where is Aerosmith come together? That was an excellent cover
June 26, 2020 at 3:08 am
Tomorrow Never Knows by Monsoon. Brilliant.
June 26, 2020 at 6:12 am
Time to add Gary Clarke Jr. version of Come Together from the Howard Stern Show.
June 27, 2020 at 12:01 am
Great list! For me the best (other than Cocker obviously)were Wilson Pickett + Nina Simone. Weakest was the beach boys, but that’s just a quickie little mini-jam…overall more evidence (as if it was needed)of the Fab Four’s greatness!~
June 27, 2020 at 2:25 am
Bill Withers “Let It Be”
June 27, 2020 at 2:31 am
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GxKwCadKztg Link to Bill Withers Let It Be covet.
December 24, 2022 at 6:27 am
Has no one heard John Farnham’s version of HELP?
or the Zoots version of Elenore Rigby or what about Doug Parkinson version of Dear Prudence.
Do you self a favour and listen to these versions
January 21, 2023 at 1:15 am
Are you all kidding me??????? Where is Aerosmith’s Come Together????