The impact of the Beatles is undeniable. Modern day songstress Julie Mintz says, “Even if you didn’t grow up listening to the Beatles, your songwriting heroes were most likely influenced by them”. In 2000, the band released their compilation album, “Beatles 1”, sparking a bit of a resurgence. Since that time, many impressive Beatles covers have been recorded. As a testament to the band’s universal accessibility, some of the greatest of those have come from female singers. Here are five essential Beatles covers by women artists from 2000 to now.
Bonnie Tyler – In My Life (2003)
From the 1965 “Rubber Soul” album, John Lennon called “In My Life” his “first real major piece of work”. The highly personal lyrics were later described by John as “a remembrance of friends and lovers of the past.” The song was not a hit single, but it is one of the most revered of the band’s sacred songbook. In a 2000 poll from Mojo magazine, which included McCartney, Carole King, and Brian Wilson, “In My Life” was voted the best song of all time.
Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler is best known for her string of hits during the 1980s, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. For her 2003 studio album “Heart Strings”, she decided to cover some of her favorite songs including selections from Tom Petty, U2, and Bruce Springsteen. But Tyler’s rendition of “In My Life” stands out as a great performance among a myriad of fantastic songs. Her stellar range and coarse voice provide an almost tragic quality to the legendary Lennon song. When she sings of the experiences that have formed her life, she does so with an authenticity that Lennon had yet to acquire.
Barbara Dickson – Things We Said Today (2006)
McCartney wrote this song in 1964 though many Beatles aficionados submit that it feels more like a Lennon composition. It was released in July of that year as the B-side to “A Hard Day’s Night”. According to Paul, “Things We Said Today” is a study in “future nostalgia”. McCartney’s despondent words are set against an intricate melodic structure and a tune which he described as “sophisticated”. The song is largely overlooked due to the enormity of “A Hard Day’s Night” and the film that followed but it set a standard for love songs for the band up to that point.
Barbara Dickson is one of the most successful European entertainers of the last 50 years. Not only is she an award-winning actress, she has been a mainstay on the UK charts since 1976. In 2006, Barbara released an entire album of Fab Four covers entitled “Nothing’s Gonna Change My World: The Songs of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison”. With her version of “Things We Said Today”, she adds a psychedelic techno groove that brilliantly complements the original tune. Dickson’s sultry vocals are perfectly suited for the poignant lyrics and linger over the melody like a dense fog. Her rendition keeps the spirit of the Beatles’ original while emphasizing the finest elements of it.
Sarah Darling – Blackbird (2011)
Paul McCartney wrote “Blackbird” in 1968 as a response to the rising racial tensions in the American south. In a 2018 interview, Paul explained that “Blackbird” should be interpreted as “Black Girl”. Although it is attributed as a Lennon/McCartney composition, the song is an entirely Paul product. He plays all the instruments, and his voice is the only one heard. In December of 2008, music scholar John Elmes stated that “Blackbird” was one of the top ten most recorded songs of all time.
The country album “Let Us In Nashville: A Tribute to Linda McCartney”, was released in 2011 to benefit breast cancer awareness and research. The project was given Paul’s “whole-hearted blessing”. American singer/songwriter Sarah Darling covered “Blackbird” for the album. She stated: “It can be a little nerve-racking. ‘Blackbird’ is one of my favorite songs. I begged to do that one. And there was a sense of ‘let’s not mess this up,’ because it’s such an amazing song.” Sarah came through in amazing fashion. She holds the song with a brilliant restraint that is genuine and smooth. In addition, her golden voice and passionate performance are perfectly suited. “Blackbird” was written by Paul McCartney, but Sarah Darling was intended to sing it.
Grace Potter – Dear Prudence (2011)
In early 1968, the Beatles took a brief hiatus from being the Beatles. They decided to retreat to India to study Transcendental Meditation with the renowned Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Among the other students enrolled in the course were actress Mia Farrow and her little sister, Prudence. When 20-year-old Prudence became fixated with meditation and isolated herself in her room, John Lennon wrote the song to cajole her out. It worked. The Beatles released the tune on the “White Album” later in the year. John called “Dear Prudence” one of his favorite songs the band ever recorded.
With her band the Nocturnals, Grace Potter has been blowing minds on the music scene since 2002. They are known for their eclectic style and pristine musicianship, while Potter’s intense vocals have drawn comparisons to Janis Joplin. For their 2011 !Tunes album, Potter put her distinctive spin on ”Dear Prudence”. Grace infuses Johns jovial lyrics with some raw female power. Combined with a more deliberate tempo and a sharper intensity, the dramatic vocal transforms the encouraging delicate ditty into a seducing assertion of affirmation. The song still evokes supreme optimism, but the delivery is more inspiring.
Julie Mintz – Revolution (2021)
John was always the most political member of the Beatles and “Revolution” was one of his earliest political songs. It was written in 1968 as a response to the Vietnam War protests. The single was released as the B-side to “Hey Jude” and peaked at #12 on the US Billboard charts. Technically there are three versions of the song, but the most popular features the iconic manic guitar riff. John’s lyrics are deliberately controversial although later in his life, he voiced a desire for the song to be seen as a call for empathy rather than upheaval.
53 years after its initial release, Julie Mintz felt the time was right to re-issue Lennon’s infamous anthem. Mintz, a Texas born singer/songwriter, has been performing “Revolution” in her live shows for years, calling it “an inspiring protest song”. But the events surrounding the attacks on the U.S. Capitol sparked her to release her own rendition. With her longtime friend and producer Moby lending a hand, Mintz’ updated version is a streamlined and compelling take on John’s social commentary. The sparse production, along with Julie’s sincere vocals, combine for a riveting interpretation. The tense delivery makes for an effective impact, perhaps even more than the original.
The legacy of the Beatles is not confined to a generation. Mintz refers to their impact as “enduring and inescapable”. With the continued covers of their songs by talented women like Julie, the legacy of the Beatles is sure to keep enduring for generations to come.