The Beatles only lasted as a working band for 10 sweet years, between 1960 and 1970. Yet, they’ve left probably the greatest mark on contemporary music out of anyone. From the pop-rock of Please Please Me all the way through the utterly diverse sounds of Revolver, the four singer-songwriters made sure to leave a thorough mark.
McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr were — and are, in two of their cases — artists who let them be influenced by a broad range of music. This includes country tunes, as is evident in songs like “Act Naturally” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Over the decades, many country artists have shown their love by putting their own spin on the Fab Four’s famous songs.
Here are 10 of our favorite country covers of Beatles songs. They’ve been sorted alphabetically, by song title.
10. “Act Naturally” – Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
Just a year after Ringo’s original rendition was featured on Help!, Buck Owens put his stamp on the cult favorite song live at Carnegie Hall. Together with his whole band, Buck puts together a rollicking country western version of the classic tune. The performance features stellar harmonies and all the showmanship that won his band a spot on top of the Billboard charts. This is classic Buck at work.
9. “A Hard Day’s Night” – Johnny Littrell
Speaking of cult classics, this is about as far down that rabbit hole as you could get! Johnny Littrell was an indie artist from out of Ft. Worth back in the 1960s. As far as we know, his cover of “A Hard Day’s Night” was his only studio cut. Yet, country music aficionados stick to it like glue. Johnny does a top-notch job on the song, for all it’s worth. We sure wish he could’ve put out more in his time!
8. Emmylou Harris – “For No One”
Rarely do other artist’s interpretation of songs outdo the originals, especially if it’s by The Beatles! Yet, many country fans agree that Emmylou Harris did just that with “For No One.” She slows down the tempo on her Pieces of the Sky take, making it a real soul-bearing track. All in all, it’s a certifiable highlight in her impressive (and ongoing!) career.
7. “Good Night” – Linda Ronstadt
The White Album is often revered by Beatles fans as perhaps their greatest body of work. It’s no wonder that one of the best female voices of the 20th century would choose a song from this LP to cover. Ronstadt’s rendition of “Good Night” was recorded a little later in her career, in 1996. Yet, her pristine voice is as resonant as anyone can remember. She offers a hypnotic, soothing quality to the orchestral song like only she can.
6. “Help!” – Dolly Parton
At first a torch-bearing, harmony-centric scorcher, Dolly’s take on “Help!” shows her incredible knack for arranging music at work. The song ebbs and flows between eccentric on its verse and brooding throughout its chorus. Everything culminates with an incredible mandolin solo over the bridge. It builds up almost to a point and finally bubbles over. Then, Ms. Dolly and her band ease it back down for a respectable finish like only they can.
5. “I’m Looking Through You” – Steve Earle
Steve Earle’s take on this Beatles classic is a straightforward blues-tinged country rollicker. Sometimes, that’s really all you need. Featuring his multi-instrumentalist talents on mandolin and guitar, as well as his own harmonies, Earle’s performance is unadorned yet flawless.
4. “In My Life” – Johnny Cash
Here’s one Johnny that doesn’t need an introduction. His cover of “In My Life” appears on American IV, the final record that Cash put out before passing away. It’s a touchingly wizened take on the song that dilutes the notorious Man in Black down to a simple, nostalgic human being.
3. “Let It Be” – Zac Brown Band
With Zac Brown’s soulful vocals and piano at the forefront of this cover, you really can’t go wrong. The band has adopted “Let It Be” as one of their go-to cover songs and always gets their audience singing along. There’s an almost spiritual quality to the connection between artists and fans here that makes me wish there was a cleaner recording on an actual live album.
2. “One After 909” – Willie Nelson
Willie retains the road-trip quality of the original Beatles cut while stripping things down. The end result is a laid back backcountry jam like only a Highwayman can do it. Like Steve Earle’s cover, Willie doesn’t do much to change the song other than using acoustic instrumentation and his own vocals. Yet, he doesn’t need to do anything else. It’s mint.
1. “Paperback Writer” – Kris Kristofferson
Meanwhile, another Highwayman decided to do things differently with his spin on a Beatles tune. Ever the outlaw, Kris Kristofferson muddies things up with “Paperback Writer.” The full-on rock backing band brings everything to new electric heights. Meanwhile, his iconic baritone alone is enough to take Beatles fans straight to the honky tonk.