What is the most recorded song of all time?

57 Wimpole Street where Paul lived with the Asher family

There is a strong case for George Gershwin's aria SUMMERTIME, a cabaret and musical theatre staple. Some estimates suggest that there are up to 30,000 cover version, though this has not been verified. 

The official winner, however, at least according to The Guinness Book of Records (1986), began life in a tiny attic in Wimpole Street, London.

The Dream

As he has recently confirmed, the melody for YESTERDAY came to Paul McCartney in a dream. It seemed so familiar that for several days that Paul remained convinced that he had subconsciously plagiarized it. Eventually, a combination of George Martin, singer Alma Colgan and John Lennon convinced him otherwise.

Finding words proved a lot trickier. Worried that he would forget the tune, McCartney created a dummy lyric with the working title ‘Scrambled Eggs’. The opening couplet was unpromising: 

'Scrambled eggs/Oh how I love your legs.' 

Even with a workable lyric, YESTERDAY, posed challenges. One of  was that it was not really a Beatles song in that none of the others could contribute to it. As a lush ballad, it was also off-brand - this was the musical territory of traditional crooners like Andy Williams and Perry Como.

What overrode these anxieties was the strength of the melody. Lennon and McCartney had developed a songwriting quality-control check. With a new song they would see if they could remember the tune the next time they met. YESTERDAY emphatically passed this test 

Recordings

YESTERDAY released as a single in the US but not in the UK

Eventually, the track was recorded in June 1965. Two months later it appeared on Help!, the album that accompanied the second Beatles film.. Though never released as a single in the UK,  YESTERDAY was quickly hailed as a standard. Later in the year it won the Ivor Novello Award.

Other singers rushed to cover it, including  In 1986 the Guinness Book of Records declared YESTERDAY the most recorded song of all time. There were 1600 versions then — and this figure has risen to more than 2200. It has been popular in several genres — in including jazz and classical — and is a cabaret staple across the world.

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