It Don't Come Easy

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"It Don't Come Easy"
UK picture sleeve
Single by Ringo Starr
B-side "Early 1970"
Released 9 April 1971 (UK)
16 April 1971 (US)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 8 March 1970 at Trident Studios London on Ampex 8-track
Genre Glam rock[1]
Length 3:00
Label Apple R5898
Writer(s) Richard Starkey
Producer(s) George Harrison
Certification Gold (US)[2]
Ringo Starr singles chronology
"Beaucoups of Blues"
"It Don't Come Easy"
"Back Off Boogaloo"

"It Don't Come Easy" is a song by Ringo Starr released as an Apple Records single in April 1971, reaching number 1 in Canada and number 4 in both the US and UK singles charts. Considered to be Starr's signature song, it was Starr's first solo single in the UK, but his second in the US (the first was "Beaucoups of Blues"), following the breakup of the Beatles.


A demo version exists with George Harrison providing a guide vocal for Starr. The released version included Harrison on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass guitar, Stephen Stills on piano, Ron Cattermole on saxophone and trumpet, Badfinger members Pete Ham and Tom Evans on background vocals, and Starr on drums and lead vocals. The B-side of the single, "Early 1970", featured Starr on acoustic guitar, piano, drums, and vocals, with Harrison playing guitar, bass, and backing vocals. The lyrics refer to the lives of the Beatles around the time of their breakup (hence the title), with hopes of the band someday reuniting. Both tracks were produced by Harrison and published by Startling Music.[citation needed]

Although Ringo received sole writing credit on the song, on an episode of VH1 Storytellers (Season 3, Episode 4) he claimed that George Harrison helped him write it. Right before performing the song, Ringo said "I wrote this song with the one and only George Harrison." He went on to say that Harrison suggested the last verse be about God. When Starr protested, Harrison suggested Hari Krishna. Starr protested again, and Harrison suggested "peace" as a topic, and they settled on that.

Recording history[edit]

Recording of the new composition was begun at a late-night session on 18 February 1970 at Abbey Road's Studio 2, during the Sentimental Journey album sessions.[3] Earlier in the day, Starr had re-recorded his vocals for "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and "Let the Rest of the World Go By", songs destined for Sentimental Journey.[3] At this stage, the song was known as "You Gotta Pay Your Dues." On this first session, George Martin was producing, with Harrison playing acoustic guitar and directing the other musicians, which comprised Starr (drums), Klaus Voormann (bass) and Stephen Stills (piano).[3] 20 basic track takes were made between 7 p.m. and 12.30 a.m., with take 20 being labelled "best." Starr then added a lead vocal and George added two electric guitar parts, finishing at 4 a.m., with the song being mixed into stereo. The following day, after overdubs onto "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing", recording resumed on "You Gotta Pay Your Dues", with Starr overdubbing another lead vocal[3] onto take 20 between 5 and 6 p.m. Harrison was not involved in recording on this day, although Eric Clapton may have been involved.[4] After an hour's break, it was decided to remake the song, with takes 21-30 being taped between 7 and 11 p.m. Take 30 was labeled "best" and onto this take, two bass parts were added before the session ended at 1:30 a.m. This version however, was to remain unfinished, because on 8 March, Starr decided to again remake "It Don't Come Easy".[3]

Recording took place at Trident Studios, with Harrison producing[3] and playing guitar. Klaus Voormann (bass), Stephen Stills (piano), Mal Evans (tambourine) and Ron Cattermole (saxophone, trumpet) were also involved.[5] Recording of overdubs continued the next morning, again with Harrison producing.[3] The song was then left until October 1970,[6] when further overdubs were made (details unknown). When news of the sessions reached the press in March 1970, Apple told the music press there were "absolutely no plans for the record to be released as a single at the present time", and the song wasn't issued until early 1971. An early mix from these sessions has appeared on bootlegs, which featured Harrison on lead vocal. While the instrumentation is almost identical to the released version (the horns have not been added yet), during the guitar break, the backing vocalists, Pete Ham and Tom Evans from Badfinger, add the line "Hare Krishna." This can be heard on the final Starr release, though buried in the mix. Following the guitar solo, rather than there being another verse, there is a repeat of the song's opening guitar phrase from Harrison, again with the backing vocalists singing 'it don't come, oh no, you know it don't come easy" twice, with Harrison adding a few shouted lines behind them before returning to the verse. Subsequently, there are some additional backing vocal lines.[citation needed]

Release and reception[edit]

"It Don't Come Easy", backed with "Early 1970", was released on 9 April 1971 in the UK,[nb 1] and a week later, on 16 April in the US.[nb 2][9][10] It peaked at number four on the US Billboard chart.[5] It also reached the fourth spot on the UK singles chart.[11] The single would later beat the sales of Starr's fellow former-Beatles' singles at the time: John Lennon's "Power to the People", Paul McCartney's "Another Day" and George Harrison's "Bangla Desh".[5] The 22 April 1971 edition of the BBC TV show Top of the Pops shows the promotional video for the song.[9] On 27 April, Starr was in Norway to shoot another music video for "It Don't Come Easy", that was broadcast on another edition of Top of the Pops, on 29 April.[9] This version would later be repeated 2 August 1993, as part of Top of the Pops re-showings.[9] Starr was filmed performing the song live at Scandinavia, on 24 June 1971, backed by an orchestra, for the BBC TV show Cilla,[12] that was shown on 27 November 1971.[9] The song was included on the triple vinyl Concert For Bangla Desh album release, but no studio version was released on LP until the release of Starr's 1975 Apple greatest hits compilation, Blast from Your Past.[13] Starr performed this song at the Concert for Bangladesh, forgetting some of the words.[5] The song was also heard in the 1978 NBC-TV Ringo special. Although Starr recorded new versions of several songs for the special, the released recording of "It Don't Come Easy" was used.

Starr's re-recording of his 1972 hit, "Back Off Boogaloo", for the Stop and Smell the Roses 1981 album allude to several Beatles songs, among them "It Don't Come Easy".[14] On 12 March 1984, EMI released a single of "It Don't Come Easy" / "Back Off Boogaloo" in the UK as part of their Golden 45s series.[15]

Starr has frequently performed "It Don't Come Easy" in concert with his All-Starr Band.[16] Starr included the song on the set list for his July–September 1989 American tour, and a performance of this song opened the 1990 album Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band. It was also included on a bonus 5" CD single released with the US limited edition deluxe CD version of Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band. In 1991, "It Don't Come Easy" was added as a bonus track to the CD version of Ringo, along with "Down and Out" and "Early 1970". Starr's song "Don't Go Where the Road Don't Go" from his 1992 album Time Takes Time features a homage to the song during the bridge with the line "Well I said it don't come easy, well I sure know how it feels". Starr's song "Eye to Eye" from his 2003 album Ringo Rama starts with the lines "Remember when I said it don't come easy, that seems so long ago".

Chart performance[edit]

Covers and appearances[edit]

  • Along with a guest appearance by Starr, the song was featured in The Simpsons episode "Brush with Greatness". The song is used as inspirational background music for a montage of Marge Simpson painting a portrait of Mr. Burns.
  • In 1987, a cover version was used in a commercial for 7-Eleven using the slogan "Where the good things come easy".
  • The song was covered by the American band The Smithereens on their album of rarities, Attack of the Smithereens.
  • A cover is featured in the 2014 movie The Identical.


  1. ^ UK Apple R5898[7]
  2. ^ US Apple 1831[8]
  1. ^ NME, 21 March 2015, page 73, "["It Don't Cone Easy", "Back Off Boogaloo" and "Photography] were superior slabs of glam rock"
  2. ^ "Gold & Platinum Database Search: "Starr"". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Miles, Barry (1998). The Beatles a Diary: An Intimate Day by Day History. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-7119-6315-3. 
  4. ^ Stannard, Neville. Working Class Heroes. p. 154. 
  5. ^ a b c d Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5. 
  6. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5. 
  7. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5. 
  8. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, ed. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970–2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6. 
  10. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. pp. 182, 183. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5. 
  11. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (1977). The Beatles Forever. Cameron House. p. 149. 
  12. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5. 
  13. ^ Rodriguez, Robert (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970–1980 (illustrated ed.). New York: Backbeat Books. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-87930-968-8. 
  14. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5. 
  15. ^ Calkin, Graham. "Ringo Starr - It Don't Come Easy". Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  16. ^ Ingham, p. 143.
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Further reading[edit]

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