Cover Wars: While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles)

[Originally Published – October 11, 2011]

Whenever I tackle a song by The Beatles for Cover Wars, I like to head on over to see what Alan Pollack has to say on the song’s topic and the in-depth musical analysis he provides on his website, a must-bookmark site for any Beatles fan or musician. The absolute basics: Released on The White Album, written by George Harrison and Eric Clapton guests on lead guitar.

This Cover Wars has been a long-time coming as I have started compiling it at least once in the past but did not complete it as there is such a large number of exceptional covers of the tune. But today, I present to you these 14 covers of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

The Contestants:

Artist: Jake Shimabukuro
Album: Gently Weeps
The Skinny: Leading off this week is ukelele extraordinaire Jake Shimabukuro who consistently wows audiences everywhere he plays. Shimabukuro’s cover is well known and is the inspiration for his 2006 album Gently Weeps.


There are no shortages of live performances from Shimabukuro of this song on YouTube with multiple clips having 1,000,000+ YouTube views. This one is the most popular, shot in New York City’s Central Park:

Artist: The Jeff Healey Band
Album: Master Hits
The Skinny: Released as a single and available on compilations, this cover by The Jeff Healey band features both George Harrison and Jeff Lynne as backing musicians.


Late Night with David Letterman, 1990:

Artist: Marc Ribot
Album: Rootless Cosmopolitans
The Skinny: Marc Ribot’s cover is at times completely unrecognizeable, but it is a cover nonetheless – perhaps not for the musically faint of heart.


This live performance from Ribot is a lot more true to the original:

Artist: Michael Hedges
Live Show 9/24/1997
The Skinny: Forgive the slight buzz on this recording as it is an absolutely amazing performance from solo performer virtuoso Michael Hedges. I mean, the guy even goes down to the stage floor to confirm it does indeed need sweeping.

Artist: Montreal Guitar Trio + California Guitar Trio
Album: Montreal Guitar Trio + California Guitar Trio + Live
The Skinny: This live album released by the six guitarists that makeup these two highly talented ensembles features this tasteful reading.

Artist: Peter Frampton
Album: Now
The Skinny:Recorded for a 2003 album, this cover has stuck around in Peter Frampton’s repertoire and when performed live opens with a solo guitar performance by Frampton before being joined by his band.


Artist: Phil Lesh & Friends
Live Show 11/30/2001
The Skinny: The night of November 30, 2001 saw a number of live music tributes to George Harrison as he had passed away just the night before. I was seeing The Slip (who also covered While My Guitar Gently Weeps) at Bates College in Maine though sadly a recording of that show does not circulate, or I can’t find it anyway. ScottyB was also seeing music that night and he saw moe. perform the tune. In New York City, Phil Lesh & Friends were playing the Beacon Theatre and snuck this cover in the middle of Dark Star with Warren Haynes on lead vocals. There’s a great crowd reaction as the concertgoers realize what is being played.


Artist: Phish
Live Show 10-31-1994
The Skinny: Phish generally keeps at least one cover in the rotation after covering an album in its entirety on Halloween and this tradition began in 1994 with Phish’s cover of The White Album in Glens Falls, New York. With the exception of an over 100 show gap between 2-26-1997 and 8-16-1998, Phish has never gone over 50 shows without performing this cover, generally as a set closer or in the encore slot. Of the 30 performances, the debut and the 12-11-1995 performance at Cumberland County Civic Center with guest Warren Haynes are the most memorable. Video from the first performance from Glens Falls:

Artist: Rick Wakeman
Album: Tribute to the Beatles
The Skinny: Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman put together a collection of Beatles covers and released it as an album simply titled Tribute in 1998.


Artist: Santana featuring india.arie and Yo-Yo Ma
Album: Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time
The Skinny: Carlos Santana brought in a lot of outside talent to record this all-covers record. On this track, he welcomes vocalist india.arie on vocals and cello master Yo-Yo Ma.

Artist: Soulive
Album: Rubber Soulive
The Skinny: This superb instrumental interpretation appears on Soulive’s Beatles cover album Rubber Soulive.


If you like what you’re hearing in the audio above, have a look at this pro-shot video of Soulive tackling Eleanor Rigby and I Want You (She’s So Heavy):

Artist: Todd Rundgren
Album Songs From The Material World – A Tribute To George Harrison
The Skinny: Singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren contributed this track to a George Harrison tribute album released in 2003.


Rundgren performing the tune at The Hollywood Bowl with strings:

Artist: Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Ferrone, Dhani Harrison and Prince.
Live Show: 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Induction Ceremony
The Skinny: Though Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne trade vocal duties for this performance, it’s Prince (who was being inducted into the Rock Hall along with George Harrison posthumously) that steals the show here. Big time.

Artist: Toto
Album: Through the Looking Glass
The Skinny: In addition to appearing on this 2002 Toto studio release, it is also included on the Toto Live In Amsterdam 25th anniversary live album and DVD. Some ripping guitar.

[audio:] From the DVD:

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7 Responses

  1. So where does Prince’s guitar go at the end of that kick-ass solo. He chucks it into the air and you never see it again. Perhaps straight to heaven?

    1. Not a big Phish fan boy blindly voting for Phish, but you must be partially deaf if you think that cover isn’t worthy of being voted the best. The Prince one is decent but his guitar isn’t turned up enough. That being said Trey slays in this version.

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