The Mamas and the Papas and Barry McGuire, The Seekers, Joan Baez, Donny Hathaway, Michael Bolton, Bob Dylan, Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Jan & Dean, Plácido Domingo, En Vogue, and Boyz II Men.
What do these musical artists have in common? They have all covered Paul McCartney’s song Yesterday.
Yesterday, is the most covered song ever. In fact there are over three thousand recorded versions of the song. It is a simple song, two basic sections with sparse instrumentation (only acoustic guitar supported a string quartet), and a clear yet understated vocal; but it is a great song. Why? Because it is not just a song that has stood the test of time, but one that has held its strength amidst the reinterpretation of other artists. Perhaps this solid songwriting is what put four of the Beatles’ albums in the top ten of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list…
A reinterpretation, rearrangement, or cover of a song will often bring new meaning to a song. It can give an artist the chance to be more creative (or work from a different creative place) because they are already working from a completed song, and have a framework to work within or against. As the artists dive deeper into a song, the listener is later taken on a deeper journey. I have always felt a great song to be something of an organic thing; one that can bend, meld, be dismantled, and yet still retain its essence throughout all of the questions and exploration.
Our God is one that can take all the love, the doubt, the praise, the anger, the passion, the joy, the questions and exploration; and takes these things with ease. God loved us before we were aware of the concept of love, and will continue to do so despite our best efforts and what the world may throw at us. Take Job for instance. After he lost his family Job was angry, and said, “the arrows of the Almighty are in me,” (Job 6:4) I imagine it was a little awkward in that room to say the least. And even the Israelites turned away from God (Hosea 11:2), but did God ever withhold God’s love – no. No matter how things were reworked or rewritten or scratched, God was still there with God’s people. Throughout everything God freely offers Redeeming Love to us all, and as Christians we are to share this Love with the least of these.
And of course, here’s is Sir Paul’s rendition: