Here’s a little dose of Beatlemania. Today’s Friday Five is three times larger than normal, but several covers still got left off, including Steve Earle’s “I’m Looking Through You” and the David Grisman Quintet’s version of “Because.” What’s your favorite Beatles cover?
15. “Paperback Writer” – Floyd Cramer
Back in the day, Cramer used to annually release albums featuring his ivory-tickling take on the year’s biggest songs. This cover comes from Cramer’s Class of ’66. It loses something without the sharp lyrics, but it’s still a decent instrumental.
14. “Let It Be” – Jan Howard
Jan Howard is one of the best female country singers of the past half-century. If you haven’t heard her golden vocals before, might as well start here.
13. “I Feel Fine” – Sweethearts of the Rodeo
The sister duo had their last Top 10 hit with this song. Man, do I miss late-’80s California country.
12. “Lady Madonna” – Buck Owens
Buck and The Beatles go together like fish and chips: the Fab Four did a great version of Owens’ Number One hit “Act Naturally” in 1965, and, of course, Ringo and Buck teamed up for that new recording and wacky music video in the late ’80s. Owens covered this song in ’76, eight years after The Beatles released it as a single. It lacks the pep of the original, but even a so-so Buck Owens song is pretty decent.
11. “Norwegian Wood (The Bird Has Flown)” – Waylon Jennings
Rubber Soul meets Chet Atkins. Maybe it’s not Waylon’s best–I don’t think his voice quite fits the song–but I appreciate his willingness to take risks. I also like how George Harrison’s sitar is mimicked.
A couple decades before The Grass is Blue and her other roots records, Dolly gave this Beatles tune some grassy flavor. Check out this video, where Parton gets some help from “the twins:” her backup singers Dolly Parton and Dolly Parton. (What twins were you thinking about? Pervert.)
These bluegrass boys recorded a whole album of Beatles songs, Beatle Country, in 1966. It’s hard to pick one track off the record, but I’d have to choose “Baby’s in Black:” “baby’s in black and I’m feeling blue?” Sounds like a bluegrass song to me.
“There are places I’ll remember all my life/Some have changed/Some forever, not for better/Some have gone and some remain/All these places have their moments/With lovers and friends I still can recall/Some are dead and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all.”
I’m kind of a sap, so thinking about Cash singing those lyrics at the twilight of his life gets to me a little.
7. “If I Fell” – Reba McEntire
This cover is available on the compilation I’ll Be, which seems to have only been released in Europe. But if McEntire had ever released it in the States as a single, it’s easy to imagine it’d be another entry on her lengthy list of Number Ones.
6. “All My Loving” – Suzy Bogguss and Chet Atkins
Coming in at number six on our list is a song from Come Together: America Salutes the Beatles. Bogguss’ vocals paired with Atkins’ guitar is pure excellence, and the fact that they’re singing one of the catchiest pop songs ever makes it even better.
5. “Yesterday” – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
Ray Price, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and more have recorded “Yesterday,” but who can resist the Willie/Merle combo?
The angelic-voiced Krauss joined forces with banjo man Furtado on this song for his early ’90s album Within Reach. The result is, quite simply, lovely. There isn’t any banjo in the clip below, but it’s still a must watch.
In 1989, Cash took this cover to the top of the charts, her last #1 to date. I’ve got to say, it’s rather considerate for her to decide to leave the party rather than be a Debbie Downer like these folks.
Rodriguez’s smooth version of “Something”–a song written by my favorite Beatle, George Harrison–made it to Number Six on the country charts in 1974. Whatever genre it’s recorded in, “Something” is one of the finest love songs ever recorded.
Perhaps it’s sacrilegious to say such a thing, but I think Emmylou’s version of this song is the best one.
Juli Thanki is the editor of Engine 145 and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bluegrass Unlimited, and M Music & Musicians Magazine. In 2011 she received the International Bluegrass Music Association Print Media Person of the Year award.