According to Richie Unterberger, music critic for Allmusic:
"'Anna' was one of the great early soul ballads, even if its loping groove was closer to a midtempo than a slow ballad. Like several of Alexander's songs, it would come to be more famous in its cover version than through its original release. And it was actually a small hit when it first came out in 1962, getting to #68 in the pop charts and #10 in the R&B listings."
Despite the title, throughout the song the lyric is "go with him" rather than "go to him."
A 1991 episode of the US comedy Married...with Children entitled "Oldies but Young 'uns" was devoted to Al Bundy trying to remember the name of "Anna (Go to Him)." Only after hearing the song on the radio does he recall the chorus' lyrics as he spends the first half of the episode humming the chorus' melody "hmm hmm him." When Al hears the song playing on the record store Jukebox he finally recalls the songs name and calls it out. The Arthur Alexander version of the song plays over the episode's closing titles, instead of the show's regular theme except on the DVD release.
The Beatles version
A personal favorite of John Lennon's, it became part of the The Beatles' early repertoire and was consequently recorded by them for their 1963 debut album, Please Please Me. In the U.S., Vee Jay Records released it on Introducing... The Beatles (July 22, 1963) and Capitol Records re-released it on The Early Beatles (March 22, 1965). Vee Jay also released "Anna (Go to Him)" on the EP Souvenir of Their Visit: The Beatles in the U.S.
The Beatles recorded the song on February 11, 1963 in three takes; the master take was number 3. It was remixed on February 25. George Harrison played the distinctive phrase on guitar; Floyd Cramer played it on piano for the original.
Unterberger praised The Beatles' version in his review, saying:
"Ringo Starr faithfully [replicates] the unusual drum rhythm and high-hat crunches. Lennon's vocal, however, added a tortured pain not present in Alexander's model, particularly when he wailed in his upper register at the conclusion of the bridges. The Beatles' backup harmony vocals, in addition, were superb, and more effective [than on Alexander's version]."
Music critic Ian MacDonald had a different view of Lennon's vocal, saying it sounded like "a passionate youth grappling with a man's song."
The Beatles recorded "Anna (Go to Him)" on June 17, 1963 for the BBC radio show Pop Go the Beatles. The show was broadcast on 25 June. They recorded it once again on August 1, 1963 for the show broadcast on August 25.
As noted in many references including Mark Lewisohn's The Beatles Recording Sessions, Lennon had a bad cold which accounts for his very rough, almost strange tone he demonstrates on all his vocals during this historic session, including the last song, "Twist and Shout."
* John Lennon — lead vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar
* Paul McCartney — bass guitar, backing vocal
* George Harrison — lead guitar, backing vocal
* Ringo Starr — drums
Single by Arthur Alexander
Released: September 17, 1962
Label: Dot Records
Writer(s): Arthur Alexander
Song by The Beatles
Album: Please Please Me
Released: March 22, 1963 (mono), April 26, 1963 (stereo)
Recorded: February 11, 1963
Writer: Arthur Alexander
Producer: George Martin