Blackbird by The Beatles - Best Cover Versions

The Beatles
The Beatles | Source

Blackbird Fly!

The Beatles song which I think is their best can change from week to week to be honest.

The Beatles back catalogue, their canon, is filled with so many quality songs that choosing a 'best' from them feels like a sort of betrayal.

One day I might say 'Eleanor Rigby' and the next day I might hear 'Everywhere' and change my mind and pick that as their best.

It is almost impossible especially when you're a big Beatles album fan - some of their songs not selected as singles stand alone as brilliant songs and I am an album fan!

So I have chosen the song 'Blackbird' by Lennon and McCartney (but actually written by just Paul McCartney) and I present it to you through the best cover versions of it.

J.S. Bach
J.S. Bach
Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
George Harrison

'Blackbird' - More Than Just a Pop Song

'Blackbird' had something of an interesting beginning.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison used to try to learn a Johann Sebastian Bach piece called 'Bourree in E Minor' when they were school boys.

'Bourree in E Minor' was originally written for the lute and both McCartney and Harrison liked to listen to classical music and especially classical music for stringed instruments (though McCartney also listened to a lot of classical piano pieces, Eleanor Rigby came out of his love of the use of the Modal Scale in piano compositions) and 'Bourree in E Minor' was a piece they tried to learn on their acoustic guitars so that they could show off to their mates.

Blackbird was written in response to racial tensions in the USA in 1968 and appears on The White Album, now considered one of The Beatles best albums.

'Blackbird' is an incredibly beautiful, simple song with a pared down vocals by Paul McCartney.

Here are my favourite cover versions of it, with some information about the artistes who have given their best to bring it to our ears.

10. Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin was born in New York in 1950 and both of his parents were opera singers so being a vocalist must be in his blood.

Bobby doesn't need any hype from me ; he is a great artiste, famous for his accapello songs, all done by himself and that is quite a feat. He writes vocal arrangements for all of what would be instruments and then plays them all with one instrument - his voice!

His version of Blackbird is a Number 10 for me, just because I prefer the more musical versions but he makes himself sound musical - so amazing.

Bobby has won 10 Grammy Awards and had a number 1 Billboard hit in 1988 with 'Don't Worry, Be happy'.

9. Dave Grohl

None of us can be too shocked at the ever amazing Dave Grohl's ability to being us a great cover version of a Beatles song.

Dave Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana and then he reappeared later as the lead vocalist and lead guitarist for Foo Fighters. He remains musically diverse, still drumming for a side band called The Crooked Vultures and appears regularly as an invited session musician on many other artiste's albums.

This version of Blackbird is very raw and was probably recorded in Grohl's bedroom or garage. It sounds like a one take recording and has no recording values at all, no mixing, no levelling, nothing - just Grohl playing a song he loved to play.

He has admitted at concerts where he's covered it that is is a hard song to perform and that's clearly why he likes playing it - for the challenge!

8. Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey Rae

A brilliant composer and musician meets a fab blues/jazz vocalsit and magic is created.

Herbie Hancock is most well-known for his vocoder inspired hits like Rockit but started his musical career as part of the second Miles Davis Quintet. He has achieved great reknown as a composer who is able to embtace funk, soul, jazz, blues and pop and somehow manage to meld them into the same song, real fusion music.

Corinne Bailey Rae is a British vocalist from Leeds, Yorkshire. Her albums have sold in their millions. She has won 2 MOBO Awards and has been nominated for Brits Awards and Grammys. Whilst working as a hat check girl after university at a jazz club, she was invited on stage to sing and that's where her career began. She joined Herbie Hancock as guest vocalist on 'The River-The Joni Album'. Their version of Blackbird is rather good!

7. Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith had a short and tragic life because he was plagued by depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.

He was only 34 when he died, found in his apartment with two stab wounds to the chest, possibly self-inflicted. This version really touches me because he sounds so vulnerable.

Elliott Smith had been a folk musician for a number of years and performed live regularly as well as producing a number of recorded tracks, one of which 'Miss Misery' was featured in the movie, Good Will Hunting'.

He went solo in 1994 after a stint with his band, Heatmiser and was known for the many Beatles covers he performed live. His voice was known for its fragility and I think this is particularly poignant in 'Blackbird'. Just lovely, so sad he dies so young.

6. Sarah McLachlan

I include this because I am a huge Sarah McLachlan fan and I think she really does 'Blackbird' justice.

Sarah McLachlan is a Canadian vocalist, most famous for having a gorgeous mezzo-soprano voice and for writing brilliant ballads, many of which have been big hits. She has won 2 Grammy Awards as well as many Juno Awards.

She also did a gorgeous cover of fellow Canadian, Joni Mitchell's song, 'Blue' on her 1993 album, 'Fumbling Towards Ecstacy', which also has the track, 'Possession', which was featured in an episode of 'Going South' (which I saw and fell in love with the song and her music).

5. Kendra & Mike Grimm

Well folks, I know absolutely nothing about these two artistes. I discovered their version on You Tube when I was looking for Dave Grohls' video but I really liked it so I have included it here.

On You Tube it has over 7,000 hits so I am hoping they are out there in the USA gigging somewhere tonight.

A nice version with a good vocal and fine guitar playing.

4. Mike Masse

Mike Masse is an artiste who performs mainly in Salt Lake City. The video I have features is a performance he did at The Pizza Pie Restaurant in the city.

He has a devoted following and lots of his videos appear on You Tube.

He isn't famous, just a jobbing musician but he does a nice version of Blackbird, both on guitar and vocally and I love the idea that there are still people appearing live like Mike (or even doing karaoke) of Beatles songs.

This shows how timeless their music is, and Blackbird will still be covered for many years to come.

Hub Elite would call it 'evergreen' I expect!

3. Cameron Mitchell

Cameron was not all that famous when he made this video for You Tube but I think you'll agree that it is one of the best cover versions featured.

Cameron was participating in a U.S. TV show called 'The Glee Project' which gave winniers the opportunity to appear live in an episode of the now extremely popular TV series, Glee.

Cameron, though turned his back on The Glee Project, preferring to go his own way.

He has actually gone on to bigger and better since then so good luck to him.

He is a very talented young man, with a fine voice and is an engaging guy.

This is a really lovely heatfelt version of Blackbird, made, I suspect for younger ears! Once again, The Beatles prove that their music is timeless and ageless.

2. Glee Cast

It was inevitable that the Glee TV programme would feature the Beatles and eventually they did after Paul McCartney sent producer, Ryan Murphy a mash-up of the songs he would like to see them perform on the show.

They could have ruined 'Blackbird' but gave us a truly great cover version of it, mainly because of the amazing lead vocal provided by Chris Colfer. His voice is so pure, just wonderful.

Glee has gone on to inspire many similar shows and features and was possibly an inspiration for the enormous box office hit, Pitch Perfect though surprisingly the movie has no Beatles songs (probably too expensive to use?).

1. Gianni and Myles

So we come to #1 on my list.

I gave you some nicely produced versions (Sarah McLachlan, Chris Colfer, Kendra and Mike Grimm) and some more raw versions (Dave Grohl).

I threw in a few live versions (Bobby McFerrin, Herbie & Corinne, Mike Masse and Elliott Smith) and then I gave you a version produced just for You Tube (Cameron Mitchell) after he decided not to be on Glee!

So to my favourite cover version by Gianni and Myles.

Gianni Luminati is a member of the Canadian indie band, Walk Off The Earth. If you haven't heard of them, where have you been? Their cover version of Gotye's single, 'Somebody That I Used To Know' has become the stuff of legend on You Tube, getting over 78 million hits since it went up there in early January. If you haven't seen it, then you MUST!!!!!!

So to Gianni singing Blackbird with his nephew, Myles, live in Central Park, just great to see a guy and a young man jamming outside in the sunshine. Myles plays the ukelele in this video so that was another reason it is my Number 1.

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Blackbird by The Beatles - Best Cover Versions Comments 35 comments

joergschilter 2 months ago

I like the version of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 20 months ago from North-East UK Author

Dylan, thanks for reading. I am checking out your Byrds hub now.....

Dylanexpert profile image

Dylanexpert 22 months ago from New York, New York

This is a very nice idea -- to provide different versions of a single (great) song, and is intelligently presented. However, I think I would have put the Elliott Smith version first. Very good job.

You might want to check out my new hub which is to be the first in a series of hubs to be called My Greatest Decade, after a radio show that I wanted to host (and still might do so). This particularly article is about the Byrd's classic album The Notorious Byrd Brothers from 1968. You can find the article here:

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

Mary many thanks for your comment. I had a friend who loved Yesterday so much that she wanted it to be played at her wedding....until I got her to listen to the lyrics! Not really wedding material :o)

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

Audra, thanks for your comment; Eleanor Rigby is many people's favourite I think, I like that one too.

mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

I remember seeing the Beatles when they first came to America and performed on the Ed Sullivan show. I could just tell they would be around for many years!

I love this song, Blackbird. My favorite of the Beatles is "Yesterday", but I like all their music.

Voted UP and shared.

AudraLeigh 3 years ago

I like how you added familiar artists with unknown names and found new ones you liked along the way. I like Dave Grohl's the best out of the lot. As I listened to his performance, I liked the song even more. It is not my favorite tune. Funny, 'Elinore Rigby' is my favorite. Great nusic new fave of yours!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

Vibesites, thanks for your comment. All of the versions I chose are pretty decent; Grohl is very different from his normal Foo Fighters stuff.

vibesites profile image

vibesites 3 years ago from United States

I love the Beatles like almost everyone else. "Blackbird" is a lovely, tender song with a powerful meaning. Dave Grohl's cover is totally sparse and he pulls it of quite well. Thanks for posting. :)

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

Maria, can an artiste ever go wrong with a song by the Fab Four? I looked for mainstream and less well-known bands to show that the Beatles have a sort of universal appeal.

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA


What a tasty hub and how grateful I am to Bill for the share, as I did not have the pleasure of knowing you when you first published this.

Most of these artists are new to me but lend a creative flair to one of my all-time favorite songs of one of my all-time favorite groups...why am I not surprised that you have done such an outstanding job?

Voted UP and your work! Hugs, Maria

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

Mary, it's a song I never get tired of hearing. Thanks so much for your comment.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

I don't know where I've been hiding that I missed this great hub. Not just an "evergreen" song, but beautifully done covers. Your choices are superb!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

Thanks for reading :o)

ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 3 years ago from Central Illinois , USA

It is always nice to hear their songs. :-)

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

Music and Art45, many thanks for stopping by and leaving such a great comment. I'll have a look at Jaco's version later on. He used to play bass for Joni Mitchell back in the day during her best 70s albums.

Music-and-Art-45 profile image

Music-and-Art-45 3 years ago from USA, Illinois

Nice list. I like the Bach Bourree a lot. My favorite version of Blackbird on this list is the version done by Corinne and Herbie. The reharmonizations are great, and they allow them to make it their own.

Another version of Blackbird that wasn't on this list that I like was the electric bass version done by Jaco Pastorius. Check it out, its great.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Keith, many thanks for your comment. I love a lot of the covers on You Tube (like a certain friend of ours :o)) but I am always impressed by covers of the really great bands because the cover has to live up to so much.

KDuBarry03 4 years ago

All of our music, nowadays, is connected because they are inspired by various artists before and of their time. This is just one of the greatest examples of what inspiration can do :0

Great job and very informative!

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Deb, it's hard not to like the original version but I did find myself enjoying quite a few of the others too. Many thanks for your comment.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

MythicalStorm - don't worry if you haven't heard it, it is a sort of 'cult' Beatles song, not one of their singles but I think its genesis, originally from a classical music composition tells you a lot about the Beatles underlying 'class' as songwriters. Many thanks for your comment.

mythicalstorm273 profile image

mythicalstorm273 4 years ago

I will be honest... I have never heard this song so this was interesting for me to read. I have never been that big of a fan of the beetles, but I am always trying to improve my knowledge of culture and historical culture so I was curious and decided to read this. I enjoyed your information of the covers of this interesting song.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

I know what you mean about having a tough time picking a favorite Beatles song! Thanks for sharing the history of this song, which I hadn't heard before. And, while the covers are good, I have to say I prefer the original. : )

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Audrey, wow! You saw Paul performing Blackbird live? You lucky thing. He was always my favourite Beatle and I think Blackbird is a phenomenal song. Many thanks for your comment.

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I enjoyed reading your hub and have always liked the song Blackbird. I went to Paul's concert in Berkley California where he did Blackbird.

Thanks for this delightful read.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Good Lady, I highly recommend you see Walk Off The Earth's version of Somebody That I Used to Know, it is just amazing, over 78 million views on You Tube and four people all playing the same guitar! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Bob, thanks for dropping by and commenting. I am a Beatles fan but certainly was never fanatical about them. But I actually preferred Paul McCartney's songs to John Lennnon's, though I did like some of Lennon's (Norwegian Wood is one of my favourites). I agree that they were the whole package, lyrics, music, arrangement, production and brilliant live, they had it all.

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

That was all incredible. Listened to every track too.

Thanks for some wonderful music. Thanks for introducing Gianni Luminati. Must check Walk Off the Earth then.

I'm a Beatle fan, ever since "She loves you"...went to the Cavern too! (they weren't playing that lunch time). Stomp gerl.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

Growing up with the Beatles in the UK, I must say I like all their songs, the cleverest ever in the pop world.

Most pop songs may make it musically, but the words are inane. But the Beatles were always on another plane and their lyrics, like poetry, could be interpreted or just enjoyed.

Like Presley, they were super, super stars occupying a firmament often seeming to be otherworldly. No one has come near in talent; no one copies them perfectly.

The great tragedy was the loss of Lennon, in his time, the true genius of the group, although all grew into giants.

The only Beatle I am not so keen on is McCartney; he doesn't ring quite true and he can be so arrogant.

Good hub which will interest anyone.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Billy, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I can see why Blackbird would work as a lullaby, it is very gentle and the music is quite calming too.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Flora, I agree, it's so hard to choose a favourite from their songs, my mind changes pretty much weekly so I don't try any more. I am not surprised to find that you have sung this yourself, it is a great song. Thanks so much for your comment.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Sam, thanks so much for your comment. Seeing Paul sing it live must have been great. There is a live version of him doing it on You Tube which I almost included.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Absolutely fascinating hub! I sang my son to sleep every night when he was young and yes, Blackbird was the song I sang. He loves The Beatles, I love The Beatles...enough said. Great hub!

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I've sung this song. I can't answer this question of "Best" Beatles song. I can only answer "favourite." Even then, I cannot narrow it down to one. There are too many possibilities.

sam209 profile image

sam209 4 years ago

I can never get enough of Blackbird! You have some pretty solid versions of a great record featured here! I got to see Paul sing this one live which was an awesome treat! It was certainly a pleasure stopping by your hub!

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