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Paul McCartney Once Listened to the ‘Top 10’ Covers of ‘Yesterday,’ ‘They Were Great’

By Ross Tanenbaum,


The Beatles are the most covered band of all time, and their most covered song is “Yesterday,” written by Paul McCartney. The track has been covered thousands of times, with a few being covered by legendary artists such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. McCartney was curious to know what some of these “Yesterday” covers sounded like, so he listened to the “top 10.”

Paul McCartney shares a few of his favorite Beatles covers
Paul McCartney | L. Cohen/WireImage for The Recording Academy

The Beatles arguably have the most memorable songs of any rock n’ roll band. Many other artists have performed renditions of these tracks, hoping to put a spin on them that will give the track a fresh sound. Over the years, a few artists have had success with Beatles covers, such as Joe Cocker’s cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends” and Johnny Cash’s cover of “In My Life.”

In an interview with musician Jarvis Cocker , McCartney shared a few of his favorite Beatles covers.

“The earliest one that really caught my ear was by Esther Phillips, who was a kind of R&B singer, and she did a female version of “And I Love Her” called “And I Love Him,” which is really great. Love it,” McCartney shared. “Later, Ray Charles did “Eleanor Rigby,” which I loved.”

Paul McCartney asked to listen to the ‘top 10’ versions of ‘Yesterday’

“Yesterday” is the most covered song by The Beatles and has more than 2,200 variations. The harmony for “Yesterday” came to Paul McCartney in a dream, who then used the words “scrambled eggs” to keep the melody in his head before giving it lyrics. It became a No. 1 hit for the band and continues to keep its relevancy as many artists perform their own versions.

McCartney found out it was the most covered song and was curious to hear a few versions, but knew he couldn’t listen to every single one. So, he asked someone to bring him the “top 10” best versions and thought they were “great.”

“I thought, ‘Who are these people?’” McCartney said. “So, I said to one of our guys, I said, ‘Could you get me like the top 10? Just get me the sort of top 10 best ones?’ And I listened to all of them. Well, they were great…Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Marvin Gaye, very cool, Ray Charles, and, you know, the list went on.”

A few artists changed a lyric in ‘Yesterday’


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Paul McCartney revealed one interesting thing he noticed in some of the covers: a few artists changed a lyric. In a few covers, they sing “I must have done something wrong” instead of “I did something wrong,” adding uncertainty toward who is to blame for the relationship’s fallout.

“The funny thing was though, when I listened through them, it was Frank, Elvis, and I think Marvin, who changed the lyrics a little bit,” McCartney explained. “In the middle, I go, ‘Why she had to go? I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.’ Well, they changed it. ‘Why she had to go? I don’t know, she wouldn’t say. I did something wrong’ is what I sing. They go, ‘I must have done something wrong.’ Like, you know, a disclaimer.

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