It might come as a shocker to you that a music blogger is a Beatles fan. No? OK, moving on…
I freaking love The Beatles. They are considered one of the most important bands ever, and beyond their own recordings, their songs have been covered countless times by hundreds, probably thousands, of artists.
In the ’60s and ’70s, some of the most amazing soul artists did their own renditions of Beatles songs that, in some cases, might actually be better than the originals (hard as that may be to believe), but check out my top 5 list of the best Beatles covers by soul artists below and decide for yourself.
5. Aretha Franklin – “Eleanor Rigby”
The Queen. This cover approaches Paul McCartney’s classic dark ballad from a first-person perspective, and obviously Aretha kills it! She is the Queen of Soul for a reason. Her powerful vocals own the persona of the title character, and the listener gets a genuine account of the legend of Ms. Rigby.
4. Otis Redding – “Day Tripper”
One of my personal favorite singers of all time gives the incredibly danceable guitar line from “Day Tripper” to the horns, making it drive more than ever before. Redding’s raspy yell over that driving beat gets me every time.
3. O.C. Smith – “Hey Jude”
I love The Temptations’ version of “Hey Jude,” and it was my favorite until I heard O.C. Smith’s rendition. The back-up singers dipping vocalization of the main lyric brings you to church! And when Smith is singing over a dry drum beat with no other instruments? Shit…just shit!
2. Joe Cocker – “With A Little Help From My Friends”
Just classic. Ringo really had a shining moment when he got to sing this catchy and bouncy little number, written for him by Lennon and McCartney. Then Joe Cocker comes in and makes everyone forget about the original. His guttural wail over the wall of gospel is beyond moving. If you haven’t seen the Woodstock performance, you will have to relearn how to breathe after watching it. How did Cocker do that to his voice on a nightly basis?
1. Bill Withers – “Let It Be”
Blessed with what may have been one of the most heartfelt and warming voices in all of soul, Bill Withers did a version of “Let It Be” that I will always prefer over the original. He really takes this beautiful and amazing Beatles classic and elevates it with a hopeful and praising tone. This might be one of my favorite covers of all time. If I am having a bad day and need a little pick-me-up, this is the song I turn to. Enjoy!