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Music

Marvin Gaye’s version of ‘Yesterday’ that Paul McCartney described as the best cover

@TomTaylorFO

With a world record-breaking 3000+ cover versions to its name and a simply staggering amount of amassed radio plays, it is near-impossible to imagine a world without the ubiquitous brilliance of The Beatles song ‘Yesterday’. The anthem just seems like a song that has always been around and by no means does that blemish the artistry of the track, on the contrary, it defines it as truly timeless. 

Therefore, it seems very befitting that even Paul McCartney first thought that he couldn’t possibly have simply dreamt it into existence. Certain songs barely seem to have been written at all, they just seem to have popped up out of the ether as essential pieces of art. In fact, you can barely imagine the first time that ‘Yesterday’ came about. 

Paul McCartney himself thinks that way it has transcended music to become a cornerstone of culture has somewhat blunted the track. As he recently opined, “You look at your songs and kinda look to see which of the ones you think are maybe the best constructed and stuff. I think ‘Yesterday’ – if it wasn’t so successful – might be my favourite.”

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“But, you know, you get that thing when something is just so successful… people often don’t want to do ‘the big one’ that everyone wants them to do. They kind of shy away from it,” he continued. However, tracks with that seismic impact don’t come along every day, and of all the songs on Help!, many of which are pleasant little ditties or head-bobbing jams, it is ‘Yesterday’ that seems to have been fished from the ether and alchemically charmed into existence. 

It’s not much more than a humble little folk song consisting of a few easy chords, but its brilliance resides in the fact that, in spite of that, it stands as a behemoth of pop culture. Over the years, this has led to it being covered by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles, but of all the covers that McCartney has heard, he thinks that Marvin Gaye’s is the best. 

As Gaye once poetically said of approaching covers: “I hope to refine music, study it, try to find some area that I can unlock. I don’t quite know how to explain it but it’s there. These can’t be the only notes in the world, there’s got to be other notes some place, in some dimension, between the cracks on the piano keys.”

With this beauteous soul version of the 1965 classic, he certainly unlocks something spiritual—so spiritual, in fact, that even Macca gives it the humble nod. 

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