Purportedly conceived in a dream by Paul McCartney, the song “Yesterday” was originally recorded by The Beatles in 1965 for their album Help! and — according to The Guinness Book of World Records — has now been recorded by more than 3,000 artists. That makes it the most covered song of all time. Everybody from Frank Sinatra to Placido Domingo to The Supremes to Adam Levine has taken a stab at making this song their own. Even Bob Dylan, who once described the tune as “mundane and mawkish,” still took the time to record his own version (which surprisingly came out quite well given his original dismissal of it). In a 2006 BBC radio poll, “Yesterday” was voted “the greatest song of the 20th century.” Not bad for a song originally titled “Scrambled Eggs.” For those who can’t get enough of it, here are eight versions that let you hear it anew.
1. Marvin Gaye
WARNING! This rendition may make you cry! Focusing more on the words than the melody, Gaye creates something really different and special here. It’s not only the best “Yesterday” cover that you’ll ever hear but it’s also possibly the best Beatles cover period.
2. Ray Charles
Please listen to this one with headphones. Why? Because I believe that the answers to most of life’s deepest questions may be found here inside of Ray Charles’ incredibly stirring vocal. No wonder Chuck Berry said it was the one song he wished he had written. He probably said that after hearing Ray Charles sing it.
3. La Lupe
This Cuban songstress’ talents didn’t just include bolero, salsa, and Latin soul. She could sing anything. As her fans Ernest Hemingway and Marlon Brando would testify if they could from the grave, La Lupe’s live version of “Yesterday” could rouse the revolutionary in anyone.
4. Elvis Presley
Elvis does not need to interpret. All he needs to do is sing. He doesn’t reinvent the song. He simply perfects it. Almost unbelievably so. Long live The King!
5. Boyz II Men
Did you prefer this group as a trio or a quartet? Oh, I don’t care. The 1990s smoothest boy band delivers an a cappella version of this pop standard song with beautiful and creative harmonies rivaling the best of The Beach Boys.
6. Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson
Pancho and Lefty along with Clint Strongs beautiful guitar solo gently shoot this song to smithereens, thereby putting big name crooners like Frank Sinatra to shame. These two country legends apparently had huge respect for the Fab Four and the genuine sincerity of this duet shows it. God Bless these two guys.
7. Bob Dylan
This 1968 version features legendary fiddler Charlie Daniels on bass guitar and none other than George Harrison on guitar and backing vocals. Interestingly, this is that rare version of “Yesterday” that features any of The Beatles other than Paul (who is the only one signing on the original). Definitely worth a listen.
8. Aretha Franklin
Even talk show host Mike Douglas’ unwise move to join the Queen of Soul on the last verse can’t kill the beautiful mood The Queen of Soul creates here. It’s not that Douglas can’t sing, it’s just that he’s no Aretha. I mean, who is?
Photo: Paul McCartney by Scott Gries/Staff (courtesy Getty Images)