Stevie and The Beatles Work it Out

Editor’s Note: This is yet another post inspired by “The Beatles and Their Times,” aka the greatest class in the history of college.

The focus this week was on Rubber Soul and Revolver. Our professor showed a graph charting the relative innovative-ness of each Beatles album, and it showed these two as the point at which they veered away from the traditional love songs with traditional instrumentation and moved into experimental territory. (I have no idea who determined this, as it sounds wildly subjective, but you get the idea.)

Today, we spent a lot of time on the psychedelic “Tomorrow Never Knows,” at the time their most innovative song, but also discussed some of Revolver‘s more conventional tunes. To my delight, this involved talk of how Motown music found its way to the Beatles.

I knew “the sound of young America” had some influence on the Beatles when, sinking into a late-night YouTube black hole, I found this video of George acknowledging Marvin Gaye as one of his favorite musicians (at 1:32).

Hey, George – Marvin Gaye is one of my favorite musicians, too! Let’s be friends.

Anyway, I had no idea “Got to Get You into My Life” (from Revolver) was heavily Motown-influenced. I suppose I could have gathered that from the horn section (Paul McCartney called them “soul trumpets”), but never really thought about it until today. The lyrics are Paul’s, but John Lennon directly acknowledged the music’s Tamla/Motown roots.

The influence ran both ways. We didn’t end up listening to it, but I saw our professor had Stevie Wonder’s version of “We Can Work it Out” in the queue for today; he’ll often play original versions of songs the Beatles covered, or cover versions of their songs (like a relatively unbearable rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” from The Four Tops). Stevie takes a more lighthearted approach to the song, and it’s one of my favorite Motown jams.

It’s probably obvious this post was just an excuse for me to write about Stevie Wonder and the Beatles in the same post, but here’s a question: If you could have any band/artist cover any Beatles song, who and what song would you choose?

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