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 Studios, London
Producer(s)George Martin
Audio sample
"In My Life"

"In My Life" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It was written mainly by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Paul McCartney and Lennon later disagreed over the extent of their respective contribution to that song, specifically the melody. George Martin contributed the piano solo bridge, which was sped up to sound like a harpsichord.

The song inspired more pop music producers to use harpsichords in their arrangements.[3] 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".[4][5] The song placed second on CBC's 50 Tracks. Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in 2000.[6] It's one of the most well known Beatles songs about nostalgia.[7]


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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] Those original lyrics are on display at The British Library.

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.[11] "Very few lines" of the original version remained in the finished song.[10] 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 Stuart Sutcliffe (who died in 1962) and to Shotton.[9]

Regarding composition of the melody, Lennon's and McCartney's recollections differ. Referring to McCartney, Lennon said "his contribution melodically was the harmony and the middle-eight itself."[11][12] McCartney claimed he set Lennon's lyrics to music from beginning to end, taking inspiration for the melody from songs by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.[13][14] "I liked 'In My Life'. Those were words that John wrote, and I wrote the tune to it. That was a great one."[15] A 2018 study that used bag-of-words modelling to analyze the song indicated that the music was entirely composed by Lennon. Based on the analysis, mathematician Keith Devlin reported a .018% probability of McCartney writing the song.[16]


The song was recorded on 18 October 1965, and was complete except for the instrumental bridge.[17] 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".[1] 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.[10][17]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[18]
Personnel notes
  1. ^ MacDonald was unsure if Starr played bells.

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Doyle Greene (10 March 2014). The Rock Cover Song: Culture, History, Politics. McFarland. pp. 161–. ISBN 978-1-4766-1507-3.
  3. ^ Myers, Marc (30 October 2013). "Bach & Roll: How the Unsexy Harpsichord Got Hip". The Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ "The Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Beatles Songs". Rolling Stone. August 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  5. ^ "5. In My Life". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  6. ^ "Mojo lists". Rocklistmusic. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  7. ^ The Beatles: Paperback Writer: 40 Years of Classic Writing.
  8. ^ Sheehan, Ivan (3 December 2015). "Finding John Lennon's "first real major piece of work"". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 9 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b Everett, Walter (2001). The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul. Oxford: Oxford Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-19-514105-9.
  10. ^ a b c Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. New York: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 587–91. ISBN 1-84513-160-6.
  11. ^ a b Sheff, David (2000). All We Are Saying. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 152, 178. ISBN 0-312-25464-4.
  12. ^ The section to which Lennon referred is unclear, as the song does not contain a recognisable middle-eight aside from a brief instrumental break (the melody for which is attributed to producer George Martin).
  13. ^ Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. New York: Macmillan. p. 277. ISBN 0-7493-8658-4.
  14. ^ Compton, Todd (2017). Who Wrote the Beatle Songs? A History of Lennon-McCartney. San Jose: Pahreah Press. p. 130-132. ISBN 978-0-9988997-0-1.
  15. ^ Gambaccini, Paul, ed. (1976). Paul McCartney in His Own Words. New York: Flash. p. 19. ISBN 0-8256-3910-7.
  16. ^ Simon, Scott; Wharton, Ned (11 August 2018). "A Songwriting Mystery Solved: Math Proves John Lennon Wrote 'In My Life'". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  17. ^ a b Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. pp. 64–5. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "For the Boys - Bette Midler : Awards". AllMusic. 12 November 1991. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  20. ^ Kids Incorporated Fans (23 May 2012). "Kids Incorporated - In My Life" – via YouTube.

External links[edit]