As I searched my memory of the vast library of Beatles’ songs, I felt this title and its purposeful meaning told the best story about my love and respect for this group of talented musicians and songwriters. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr), have made a huge impression on the lives of many people and still do even today. Their body of work is truly unrivaled in terms of the number of songs that go well beyond their 27 Number One hits. In fact, much of their best work, never made it that high. As before, rather than highlight their top-selling records which I love with you, I will focus on a few songs that have a some additional meaning due to their words and music. Yet, there is one difference from my earlier posts – I am doing these lyrics entirely from memory, so I am liable to make a mistake. So, if you catch one, please let me know.
Let me begin with the title song that Lennon and McCartney wrote for Ringo Starr to sing. Since he was not allowed to sing on many of the songs, it is a fitting tribute to this left-handed drummer.
“What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me. Lend me your ears and I will sing you a song, but I will try not to sing out of key. Oh, I got by with a little help from my friends. I am getting high with a little help from my friends.”
My favorite Beatles song, if I have one, is “Eleanor Rigby” as it tells a tale of loneliness, which is not a foreign concept at all. Think of that and please speak to everyone with a good morning or some form of well wishes:
“Father McKenzie, writing the words to a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near. Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there. What does he care. All the lonely people, where do they all come from. All the lonely people, where do they all belong.”
Lennon and McCartney penned almost all of the songs, with one taking the lead and the other offering input. One of Lennon’s quiet favorites of mine is “Norwegian Wood.”
“I once met a girl, or should I say, she once met me. She showed me her room, isn’t it good, Norwegian wood. She asked me to stay and told me to sit anywhere. I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair.”
He had far more meaningful songs, but I liked the fact this song was different sounding, but told of a personal encounter with two lonely souls in this world. I thought of this after the lonely people theme from ‘Eleanor Rigby.”
George Harrison also contributed a few of the better written songs. Frank Sinatra likes to say “Something” was one of the most beautifully written loves songs he had ever heard:
“Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover. Something in the way she woo-hoos me. I don’t want to leave her now, I know I believe and how.”
McCartney penned another song about poverty where he elevates the working mother to higher esteem in “Lady Madonna.” Here is very brief taste:
“Lady Madonna, baby at your breast. I wonder how you manage to feed the rest. Who finds the money when you pay the rent, I wonder if the money is heaven sent.”
With deference to “Hey Jude,” probably McCartney’s best song was “Let it Be” as it was written in tribute to his mother Mary. When the song was first released, many felt it was reference to Jesus’ mother, given the church organ sound, but I think it was his way of saying his mother was a saint.
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And, in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me. There will be an answer, let it be.”
As I read this, it is entirely possible, I reversed the chorus lines. Yet, the meaning holds with either version.
To me, Lennon’s greatest song was written after he left The Beatles – “Imagine.” It may be one of the more thought-provoking songs ever written, but let me save that for another day. Another powerful song written late in The Beatles is ‘Instant Karma.”
“Instant Karma’s going to get you. It’s going to knock you right in the face. So, you better get yourself together darling. And, join the human race. Yes, we will all shine on.”
To contrast, earlier in their career, he penned “Ticket to Ride” which is one of my favorites when they focused more on relationships.
“I think I’m going to be sad. I think it’s the day, yeah. The girl that’s driving me mad, is going away-ay. She’s got a ticket to ride-ide. She’s got a ticket to ride. She’s got a ticket to ride and she don’t care.”
Another favorite is such because they drafted Billy Preston to play the organ on it – “Get Back.” The lyrics are more avant-garde about interesting changes going on in our culture.
“Jo Jo was a man who thought he was an owner, but he knew it couldn’t last. Jo Jo left his home in Tuscon, Arizona, bought some California grass. Get back. Get back. Get back to where you once belonged.”
One of Harrison’s best is “Here Comes the Sun” as it is symbolic of the coming of spring and giving their relationship a new chance.
“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun….And, I say it’s alright….”
I have only scratched the surface on so many songs. I know I left off someone’s favorite. In addition to those noted above, just to name only a very few that I love: “Yesterday”, “A Day in the Life”, “Eight Days a Week”, “Come Together”, “Oh Darling”, “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Paperback Writer”, “Help”, “Michelle”, “Revolution”, “Back in the USSR”, and what many refer to as the end of “Abbey Road” where several songs are played together to close out the album. And, I could not think of a better way to end this tribute than the final words of that album:
“And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”