In My Life

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"In My Life"
In My Life - The Beatles.jpg
Cover of the Northern Songs sheet music
Song by the Beatles
from the album Rubber Soul
Released3 December 1965
Recorded18 & 22 October 1965
StudioEMI, London
Genre
Length2:28
LabelParlophone
Songwriter(s)Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s)George Martin
Audio sample

"In My Life" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1965 album Rubber Soul. Its lyrics were written primarily by John Lennon, credited to Lennon–McCartney, who later disagreed over the extent of their contributions to the song. Lennon credited the harmony and bridge to McCartney, while McCartney claimed the entire musical structure. George Martin contributed the piano solo bridge, which was sped up to sound like a harpsichord.

According to Lennon, "In My Life" was his "first real major piece of work" because it was the first time he penned personal lyrics about his own life. The original version of the lyrics was based on a bus route he used to take in Liverpool, naming various sites seen along the way, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Lennon discarded this lyrical idea in favour of a more generalized meditation on his past. He and McCartney later revisited those original references with their respective songs "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane".

Despite not actually containing a harpsichord, "In My Life" inspired more pop music producers to use the instrument in their arrangements. In 2000, Mojo named "In My Life" the best song of all time. Rolling Stone ranked it number 23 on its 2004 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", and number 98 on the 2021 revised list, as well as fifth on its list of the Beatles' "100 Greatest Songs".

Lyrics[edit]

Original handwritten lyrics to "In My Life"

In a 1980 interview, Lennon referred to this song as his "first real major piece of work" because it was the first time he penned personal lyrics about his own life.[3] According to Lennon, the song's origins can be traced to when the English journalist Kenneth Allsop made a remark that Lennon should write songs about his childhood.[4] Afterwards, Lennon wrote a song in the form of a long poem reminiscing on his childhood years. The original version of the lyrics was based on a bus route he used to take in Liverpool, naming various sites seen along the way, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field.[5][6]

Lennon later thought the original lyrics were "ridiculous", calling it "the most boring sort of 'What I Did on My Holidays Bus Trip' song". He reworked the words and replaced the specific memories with a generalised meditation on his past.[6] "Very few lines" of the original version remained in the finished song.[5] According to Lennon's friend and biographer Peter Shotton, the lines "Some [friends] are dead and some are living/In my life I've loved them all" referred to himself and Stuart Sutcliffe (who died in 1962).[4]

Musical authorship[edit]

McCartney cited Smokey Robinson & the Miracles as inspiration for the song's melody.

Regarding composition of the music, Lennon's and McCartney's recollections differ. Referring to McCartney, Lennon said "his contribution melodically was the harmony and the middle-eight itself."[6] In 1977, when shown a list of songs Lennon claimed writing on for the magazine Hit Parader, the only entry McCartney disputed was "In My Life".[7] McCartney said he set Lennon's lyrics to music from beginning to end, taking inspiration for the melody from songs by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.[8][9] In 1976, he commented: "I liked 'In My Life'. Those were words that John wrote, and I wrote the tune to it. That was a great one."[10]

In a 2018 study, artificial intelligence researchers at Harvard University applied bag-of-words modelling to the notes and chords of the song, and concluded that there was a 18.9% probability of McCartney having written the verse.[11] Lennon was given an 81.1% certainty of writing the verses, while McCartney was given a 43.6% certainty of writing the middle eight.[12] The analysts stated that there was "a large amount of uncertainty" regarding the middle eight.[13]

Recording[edit]

The song was recorded on 18 October 1965, and was complete except for the instrumental bridge.[14] At that time, Lennon had not decided what instrument to use, but he subsequently asked George Martin to play a piano solo, suggesting "something Baroque-sounding".[2] Martin wrote a Bach-influenced piece that he found he could not play at the song's tempo. On 22 October, the solo was recorded with the tape running at half speed, so when played back at normal pace the piano was twice as fast and an octave higher, solving the performance challenge and also giving the solo a unique timbre, reminiscent of a harpsichord.[5][14]

Legacy[edit]

"In My Life" inspired more pop music producers to use harpsichords in their arrangements.[15] Rolling Stone magazine ranked "In My Life" number 23 on its 2004 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", and number 98 on its 2021 list,[16] as well as fifth on its list of the Beatles' "100 Greatest Songs".[17][18] The song placed second on CBC's 50 Tracks.[19] Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in 2000.[20] According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 194th most celebrated song in popular music history.[21]

Cover versions[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Per Ian MacDonald[26]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2010) Peak
position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[27] 78
US Billboard Hot 100 Recurrents[28] 9

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Greene, Doyle (10 March 2014). The Rock Cover Song: Culture, History, Politics. McFarland. pp. 161–. ISBN 978-1-4766-1507-3.
  2. ^ a b Hertsgaard, Mark (1996). A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. New York: Delacorte Press. p. 156. ISBN 0-385-31517-1.
  3. ^ Sheff, David (2010). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. United States: St. Martin's Press. p. 178. ISBN 9781429958080. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b Everett, Walter (2001). The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul (Online-Ausg ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-19-514105-9.
  5. ^ a b c Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography (1st ed.). New York: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 587–91. ISBN 1-84513-160-6.
  6. ^ a b c Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying (1. St. Martin's Griffin ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 152, 178. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
  7. ^ "Lennon–McCartney Songalog: Who Wrote What". Hit Parader. Vol. Winter 1977 [reprint of April 1972], no. 101. pp. 38–41. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  8. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. New York: Macmillan. p. 277. ISBN 0-7493-8658-4.
  9. ^ Compton, Todd (2017). Who Wrote the Beatle Songs? A History of Lennon-McCartney. San Jose: Pahreah Press. pp. 130–132. ISBN 978-0-9988997-0-1.
  10. ^ Gambaccini, Paul, ed. (1976). Paul McCartney in His Own Words. New York: Flash. p. 19. ISBN 0-8256-3910-7.
  11. ^ Glickman, Mark; Brown, Jason; Song, Ryan (1 July 2019). "(A) Data in the Life: Authorship Attribution in Lennon-McCartney Songs". Harvard Data Science Review. 1 (1). doi:10.1162/99608f92.130f856e. S2CID 189762434.
  12. ^ Matthews-King, Alex (6 July 2019). "AI used to solve disputed songwriting credits of Beatles hits". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 July 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  13. ^ Glickman, Mark; Brown, Jason; Song, Ryan (1 July 2019). "(A) Data in the Life: Authorship Attribution in Lennon-McCartney Songs". Harvard Data Science Review. 1 (1). doi:10.1162/99608f92.130f856e. S2CID 189762434.
  14. ^ a b Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. pp. 64–5. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
  15. ^ Myers, Marc (30 October 2013). "Bach & Roll: How the Unsexy Harpsichord Got Hip". The Wall Street Journal.
  16. ^ "In My Life ranked #98 on Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs List". Rolling Stone. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  17. ^ "The Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Beatles Songs". Rolling Stone. August 2010. Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  18. ^ "5. In My Life". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  19. ^ "50 Tracks List". CBC. Archived from the original on 10 October 2004. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  20. ^ "Mojo lists". Rocklistmusic. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  21. ^ "In My Life ranked 194th most celebrated song". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  22. ^ "For the Boys - Bette Midler : Awards". AllMusic. 12 November 1991. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  23. ^ Padgett, Ray (27 January 2012). "Cynthia Lennon (John's Wife) Covers the Beatles' "In My Life"". Cover Me. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  24. ^ "John Lennon's Ex-Wife Cynthia Lovingly Remembers Him With Tender "In My Life" Cover". Society of Rock. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  25. ^ "The Tallest Man on Earth Announces New Covers Album Too Late for Edelweiss". Pitchfork. 19 September 2022. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  26. ^ MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). p. 169. ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
  27. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100: 21 November 2010 – 27 November 2010". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  28. ^ "The Beatles Chart History (Hot 100 Recurrents)". Billboard. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  29. ^ "British single certifications – Beatles – In My Life". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 28 September 2021.

External links[edit]