Artist: Marvin Gaye
Original artist(s): The Beatles (Sir Paul McCartney)
No compilation of great music cover versions would be complete without giving honourable
mention to Yesterday by The Beatles. I say The Beatles, but it might be more accurate to say Sir
Wikipedia says that the song has been covered no less than 2,200 times which, I believe, makes
it the most covered song of the modern era, maybe all time. The Guinness Book of Records puts
the figure at 1,600 covers. Whichever is correct, it’s a heck of a lot.
Sir Paul was once asked which was his favourite reworking of Yesterday by another artist. Let’s
be fair, he had plenty to choose from. He nominated the soulful version by Marvin Gaye.
Gaye’s version was never released as a single. Initially, The Beatles didn’t release it as a single in
the UK, but it went to No 1 in the US and topped the charts there for four weeks.
Among others to record Yesterday are (picked at random): Frank Sinatra, Billie Eilish, Count
Basie, Michael Bolton, Boyz II Men, John Denver, Max Bygraves, Val Doonican and Elvis. Sir Paul
didn’t much care for Elvis’s version.
It is claimed that Sir Paul formulated the melody in a dream at the home of then-girlfriend Jane
Asher. At first, he was concerned that he might have inadvertently copied the work of another.
Once he became more confident that he had not copied the melody, McCartney began writing
lyrics to suit it. As was common for The Beatles, a substitute working lyric – Scrambled Eggs –
was used until something more suitable could be written.
So, Eggs became Yesterday. McCartney says that the word Yesterday was John Lennon’s idea.
Sir Paul warmed to it because there was no shortage of rhyming words such as away, stay, say
At the time of writing, I’m please to say that Sir Paul is still going strong. Sadly, the same cannot
be said for Marvin Gaye, the so-called Prince of Soul. In 1984, on the day before his 45th
birthday, Gaye was shot dead by his father at their house in Los Angeles, after an argument.
Gay Sr later admitted voluntary manslaughter and was awarded a six-year suspended goal
sentence plus five years’ probation.