No band has had a more profound singular impact than The Beatles. Not only did their sound redefine popular music, but their influence continues to permeate pop culture. When the boys from Liverpool made their debut on American television in 1964, 73 million people watched. This was perhaps the most seminal live performance in music history. Ironically, The Beatles are not celebrated as an amazing live band. Still, artists have been covering their songs live since before the band officially broke up in 1970. Fans are always pleasantly surprised when a Fab Four tune unexpectedly turns up in the live set. Here are eight overlooked live covers of The Beatles.
Otis Redding – “Day Tripper” (1966)
Penned primarily by John Lennon, The Beatles released this tune as a double A-side single in late 1965, reaching #1 in the UK. One year later, the “King of Soul”, Otis Redding, included the song on his Dictionary of Soul album. According to American music scholar Tyler Golsen, “when it came to killer Beatles covers, Redding’s finest hour is his take on ‘Day Tripper’”. Otis injects his own brand of vibrant southern swag into the number, which only intensifies during live performance.
Elvis Presley – “Something” (1973)
The tune is perhaps George Harrison’s most celebrated contribution to the band’s catalog. Released in 1969, it hit #1 in numerous countries including the United States. “Something” is also one of the most covered Beatles songs of all time. In 1973, Harrison’s boyhood idol covered it for his live television special, Aloha from Hawaii. “Something” is one of several covers Elvis conquered during the live show and reaffirms his ability to make any song his own.
Tina Turner – “Help” (1984)
Another Lennon creation, this landmark tune was released in 1965 and spent three weeks atop the American charts. In 1984, rock Goddess Tina Turner featured the song on her landmark album, Private Dancer. But the studio version does the song no justice. Tina’s live rendition is nothing short of brilliant and one of the best Beatles covers of all time. She conveys a tangible hurt that is missing with the original version. Her raw register and dramatic delivery exert all the worst emotions in all the best ways. It is an exquisite, passionate plea.
Dwight Yoakam – “Things We Said Today” (1992)
This song was written by Paul McCartney in 1964 and was released as the B-side to “A Hard Day’s Night”. Paul refers to it as “a sophisticated little tune”, though the melancholy vibe causes many to assume it is a John composition. Country star Dwight Yoakam included it on his 1992 album La Croix D’Amour. The performance is from the British television series Later… with Jools Holland. “Things We Said Today” is not the only Beatles song Dwight keeps in his repertoire, but it may be the most impressive.
Reba McEntire – “If I Fell” (1999)
Released on the classic album A Hard Day’s Night, this tune hit #53 on the 1964 US charts. Thirty-five years later, country megastar Reba McEntire recorded the song for her album So Good Together. Like most singers to come of age during the Cold War, Reba was a huge Beatles fan growing up. This live performance comes from 2000 during the UK TV special called Stars Sing the Beatles. Not only is this version of the song underappreciated, it is an underappreciated page of The Beatles’ songbook.
Neil Young – “A Day in the Life” (2009)
This tune holds a special place in the heart of Beatles fans because it represents one of the great true collaborations between John and Paul. Released in 1967, musicologist John Covach calls it “one of the most important single tracks in the history of rock music”. Rock icon Neil Young paid homage to the Fab Four in 2009 when he closed out his lengthy set at the legendary Glastonbury Festival. Young’s spirited version of “A Day in the Life” retains the groove of the original song while infusing his own brand of rollicking funk.
Jack White – “Mother Nature’s Son” (2010)
This tune was written primarily by Paul McCartney. Inspired by the band’s trip to India in 1968, it was subsequently included on the White Album later that year. Cut to 2010, McCartney was honored with a concert at the White House for receiving the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. A definite highlight of that show is Jack White’s performance of “Mother Nature’s Son”. The White Stripes’ frontman beautifully brings the White Album to the White House with this stripped down, heartfelt rendition.
John Mayer with Keith Urban – “Don’t Let Me Down” (2013)
Recorded during the Let It Be sessions, this Lennon composition peaked at #35 on the US charts. It is also remembered as one of the more powerful numbers during The Beatles’ infamous rooftop concert in 1969, the band’s last live performance. During the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2013, two virtuosos from different genres create an unforgettable performance of their own. Rock/Bluesmen John Mayer and Country rocker Keith Urban trade licks on “Don’t Let Me Down”. They seamlessly add some inspirational fretwork to the haunting tune.
You can also read:
- The 10 Best Keith Urban Songs of All-Time
- Ranking the 10 Best Elvis Presley Albums of All Time
- Ranking All the Dwight Yoakam Studio Albums
- The 10 Best Tina Turner Songs of All-Time