He's synonymous with country, but you’d have to be high to say Willie Nelson doesn’t know a thing or two about rock 'n' roll.

The Texas icon, older than the genre itself, built a career off the back of his own legendary country songbook as well as a knack for turning songs of all genres into something fitting his unique vocal phrasing and guitar picking.

With a body of work as long and prolific as his, it’s no surprise he’s taken on his share of classic rock favorites, and even rubbed elbows with some of the most enduring artists in the genre. Here are 10 of our favorites.

The Beatles

Between his take on the Beatles' “Something” in 1986 and his version of “With a Little Help from My Friends” in 2022, Nelson's been a little Fab for years. He’s also covered the solo work of George Harrison (“All Things Must Pass”) and John Lennon (“Imagine”).

Bob Dylan

Both legendary songwriters, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan each dropped their debut albums in 1962 and teamed up three decades later on “Heartland,” a song they wrote for Nelson’s 1993 album Across the Borderline. Nelson’s since covered “Gotta Serve Somebody” in 2002 and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” with Merle Haggard in 2015, and invited Dylan onstage for a 2004 concert special.

The Beach Boys

While the Beach Boys’ country crossover Stars and Stripes Vol. 1 was not considered a career high when it was released in 1996, it’s hard to deny the novelty of Nelson backed by the group’s signature harmonies on their joint version of “The Warmth of the Sun.”

Paul Simon

A stirring version of Simon & Garfunkel's “Bridge Over Troubled Water” appeared on Nelson’s 1982 classic Always on My Mind. Nelson and Paul Simon shared the stage at Farm Aid V in 1992, and Paul appeared on Nelson’s Across the Borderline a year later, covering his own “American Tune” and co-producing Nelson’s version of “Graceland.”

Neil Young

Nelson and Neil Young have been in each other’s orbit for decades: with John Mellencamp, they helped organize Farm Aid. Nelson covered “Heart of Gold” in 1986 and later performed it with Young at their benefit concert series.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Decades into his career, Nelson was reaching back to the classic rock canon to bring joy to his fans. In 2013, on an album of all-female duets, he recruited his daughter Paula for a spirited rendition of the Creedence Clearwater Revival favorite “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”

ZZ Top

These Texas legends got on like spareribs and barbeque sauce! Nelson covered ZZ Top's “She Loves My Automobile” for a 2002 tribute album and later joined them onstage for a ripping live rendition.

Peter Gabriel

Nelson’s Across the Borderline was a star-studded affair, but no track might be better than his interpretation of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up.” The late Sinead O’Connor stepped in to duet when Dolly Parton couldn’t, adding her haunting vocal the day after her controversial appearance at a Bob Dylan tribute concert.


U2 never do anything halfway, boldly writing a song for Nelson's voice during the sessions to Zooropa. He recorded it with the band years later, releasing it as a B-side to the band's 1997 single “If God Will Send His Angels.”

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam’s transition from ‘90s grunge-adjacent act to mellow, modern classic rockers put them on Nelson’s radar in the 21st century. He covered their 2009 favorite “Just Breathe” three years later, a showcase for his singular, timeless voice.

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Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

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