Best Songs Covered by The Byrds

Over the years, The Byrds recorded a lot of cover versions of other writers' songs; their two biggest hits were covers. I'm going to judge the Byrds version of each song, not the original. Traditional songs with know known writer do count. Feel free to add more to the list.

The Top Ten

Mr. Tambourine Man Mr. Tambourine Man Cover Art

Proper edit length was critical to get AM radio airplay. A similar situation occurred with the Doors' "Light My Fire". Morrison refused to issue a shorter version, but the record company did it anyway. Just the reality of the time.

That's very true. Many songs were and are developed certain ways with radio airplay and commercial goals as a primary concern. Many are often written specifically with such in mind. It's not unreasonable but in this case it detracts from what could have been the better song. I understand their motives but that doesn't change the criticism.

In my opinion it's easily the best song they covered and while their harmonies and McGuinn's guitar work and arrangement are great enhancements, they really should have used all of the verses. Shortening the lyrics detracts from the song.

I agree, but at the same time, if they didn't shorten the lyrics, they wouldn't have gotten AM radio airplay. Songs on AM stations had to be about 2:20 long to fit their rigorous schedules, and if the song didn't get airplay, it wouldn't have been a big hit. So, that means we're stuck in a catch-22.

Their first big hit. This song not only did wonders for them but for Bob Dylan, too.

Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) Cover Art

A great cover, but Seeger himself, along with several other early-60's Folkies issued recordings of this great tune before the Byrds did..

Their second big hit. The lyrics come from King Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 and were set to music by Pete Seeger.

I thought that was an original.

It is an original "song" isn't it? With lyrics and music composition from different sources. The song didn't exist before this.

Ahhh! I love this one think it should be first

He Was a Friend of Mine He Was a Friend of Mine Cover Art

This song was a traditional folk tune. Guitarist Roger McGuinn wrote new words for it after the death of President John F. Kennedy.

My Back Pages My Back Pages Cover Art

Another Dylan cover. This is one of my favorite Dylan covers of theirs.

Wild Mountain Thyme Wild Mountain Thyme Cover Art

Originally a Scottish folk tune; I think this is one of their most beautiful songs.

Wasn't Born to Follow Wasn't Born to Follow Cover Art

This song was originally written by famous Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It gained some notoriety after being used in the film Easy Rider.

Life In Prison Life In Prison Cover Art

This song was originally written and sung by Merle Haggard. Sweetheart of the Rodeo is chock-a-block full of great country covers.

This Wheel's On Fire This Wheel's On Fire Cover Art

This song was written by Bob Dylan during his Basement Tapes period. Clarence White's guitar work here is fantastic.

The Bells of Rhymney The Bells of Rhymney Cover Art

This song started out as a poem written by Idris Davies about a Welsh mining disaster. It was set to music by Pete Seeger.

Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe Cover Art

One of the quirkier tracks on their first album. This song was written by Jackie DeShannon and given to the band. They gave it a Bo Diddley-style makeover.

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