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
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. It was written primarily by John Lennon (credited to Lennon–McCartney), who later disagreed over the extent of their respective 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 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", as well as fifth on their list of the Beatles' "100 Greatest Songs".


Original hand-written 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 generalized 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]

A 2018 study that used bag-of-words modelling, conducted by artificial intelligence researchers at Harvard University, reported that there was a .018 probability of McCartney writing the entire song.[11] Lennon was given an 81.1% certainty of writing the verses, while McCartney was given a 43.6% certainty of writing the bridge.[12] The analysts stated that there was "a large amount of uncertainty" regarding the bridge.[13]


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]


"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 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time", as well as fifth on their list of the Beatles' "100 Greatest Songs".[16][17] The song placed second on CBC's 50 Tracks.[citation needed] Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in 2000.[18] According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 194th most celebrated song in popular music history.[19]

Cover versions[edit]


Per Ian MacDonald[23]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[24] Silver 250,000double-dagger

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


  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. Oxford: Oxford Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-19-514105-9.
  5. ^ a b c Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. 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. 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. ^ Simon, Scott; Wharton, Ned (11 August 2018). "A Songwriting Mystery Solved: Math Proves John Lennon Wrote 'In My Life'". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  12. ^ Matthews-King, Alex (6 July 2019). "AI used to solve disputed songwriting credits of Beatles hits". The Independent. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  13. ^ "(A) Data in the Life: Authorship Attribution in Lennon-McCartney Songs by Mark Glickman, Jason Brown, and Ryan Song". 22 June 2019.
  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. ^ "The Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Beatles Songs". Rolling Stone. August 2010. Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  17. ^ "5. In My Life". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  18. ^ "Mojo lists". Rocklistmusic. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  19. ^ "In My Life ranked 194th most celebrated song". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  20. ^ "For the Boys - Bette Midler : Awards". AllMusic. 12 November 1991. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  21. ^ Padgett, Ray (27 January 2012). "Cynthia Lennon (John's Wife) Covers the Beatles' "In My Life"". Cover Me. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  22. ^ "John Lennon's Ex-Wife Cynthia Lovingly Remembers Him With Tender "In My Life" Cover". Society of Rock. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "British single certifications – The Beatles – In My Life". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 19 July 2019.Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type In My Life in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]