It Don't Come Easy

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"It Don't Come Easy"
It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr single - cover art).jpg
UK picture sleeve
Single by Ringo Starr
B-side"Early 1970"
Released9 April 1971 (UK)
16 April 1971 (US)
Format7" vinyl
Recorded8 and 11 March, October 1970,
Trident Studios, London
Songwriter(s)Richard Starkey
Producer(s)George Harrison
Ringo Starr singles chronology
"Beaucoups of Blues"
"It Don't Come Easy"
"Back Off Boogaloo"

"It Don't Come Easy" is a song written by English musicians Ringo Starr and George Harrison, but credited solely to Starr. Harrison also produced Starr's studio recording of the song, which was released as a non-album single in April 1971. Another version where they performed the song together for the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh was released on the live album of the same name.

Apart from in North America, where "Beaucoups of Blues" had been a single in October 1970, "It Don't Come Easy" was Starr's first single release since the break-up of the Beatles. The song was a commercial success, peaking at number 1 in Canada and number 4 in both the US and UK singles charts. It has remained one of his most popular hits as a solo artist.


Although Ringo Starr received sole writing credit for "It Don't Come Easy", author Bruce Spizer writes that he had "substantial, but uncredited, assistance from Harrison".[1] Starr subsequently acknowledged that Harrison had helped write it.[2] In an episode of VH1 Storytellers (Season 3, Episode 4) in 1998, right before performing the song, Starr 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 Hare Krishna. Starr protested again, and Harrison suggested "peace" as a topic, and they settled on that.

Recording history[edit]

Early takes[edit]

Recording of the new composition began at a late-night session on 18 February 1970 at Abbey Road's Studio 2, during the Sentimental Journey album sessions.[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 – namely Starr (on drums), Klaus Voormann (bass) and Stephen Stills (piano).[3] Twenty basic track takes were made, with take 20 being labelled "best". Starr added a lead vocal and Harrison two electric guitar parts, finishing at 4am, with the song being mixed into stereo.

On 19 February, after overdubs onto "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing", recording resumed on "You Gotta Pay Your Dues", with Starr overdubbing another lead vocal.[3] Harrison was not present that evening, although Eric Clapton may have been involved.[4] During the session, Starr decided to remake the song; a new basic track was then taped between 7 and 11 pm. Take 30 was labelled "best" and onto this take were added two bass parts. This version was also discarded, however, since Starr again decided to remake the song.[3]

Official version[edit]

Recording for the third version of "It Don't Come Easy" began at Trident Studios on 8 March 1970. Harrison produced the sessions[3] and played guitar. Voormann and Stills contributed as before, while the other participants included Mal Evans (on tambourine) and Ron Cattermole (saxophone, trumpet).[5] Overdubs were added to the new basic track on 11 March, again at Trident.[6] The song was then left until October 1970,[7] at which point further overdubs were made, including a new piano part, performed by Gary Wright.[6] In a 2002 interview, Jim Keltner said he added maracas to the finished recording, at Trident, having arrived in London in February 1971 to escape the Los Angeles earthquake.[8]

When news of the sessions reached the press in March 1970, Apple had 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 remained unissued until early 1971. An early mix from the sessions has appeared on bootlegs, featuring Harrison on lead vocal. While the instrumentation is almost identical to the released version (the horns had not been added yet), during the guitar break the backing vocalists, Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger, add the line "Hare Krishna." This can be heard on the final Starr release, although buried in the mix. Following the guitar solo, rather than another verse, there is a repeat of the song's opening guitar phrase from Harrison, again with the backing vocalists twice singing 'it don't come, oh no, you know it don't come easy", 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][11][12] In a contemporaneous review, in the NME, Alan Smith described the song as "undoubtedly one of the best, thumpin'est things the Starr man has ever done" and added: "That's a very strong hook he's got there, and George Harrison has given the record a fat, pumping backing full of guts and stuff." Smith criticised Starr's vocal on the track, however, before concluding: "But on the credit side we have an inventive mind and a dry wit coming more and more into play with better songs. One day he may even write a masterpiece."[13][14] Billboard's reviewer admired the single as Starr's "most commercial solo effort" yet and predicted: "Potent Top 40 rock material and vocal workout has it to take him all the way."[15] The single peaked at number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.[5] It also reached the fourth spot on the UK singles chart.[16] The single 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 Harrison's "Bangla Desh".[5]

The 22 April 1971 edition of the BBC TV show Top of the Pops showed the promotional video for the song.[11] 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.[11][nb 3] Starr was filmed performing the song live at Scandinavia, on 24 June 1971, backed by an orchestra, for the BBC TV show Cilla,[17] which aired on 27 November 1971.[11]

Backed by Harrison, Voormann and Keltner, among others, Starr performed "It Don't Come Easy" at the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971, forgetting some of the words.[5] While this live recording was included on the Concert for Bangladesh triple album, the studio version remained unavailable on an LP until the release of Starr's 1975 Apple greatest hits compilation, Blast from Your Past.[18] The song was also heard in the 1978 NBC-TV special Ringo. 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 alludes to several Beatles songs, among them "It Don't Come Easy".[19] 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.[20]

Starr has frequently performed "It Don't Come Easy" in concert with his All-Starr Band.[21] 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".

Covers and appearances[edit]

The song was the opening theme of the 1973-1975 ABC late night talk show Good Night, America hosted by Geraldo Rivera.[22]

In 1987, a cover version of "It Don't Come Easy" was used in a commercial for 7-Eleven using the slogan "Where the good things come easy".

In 1991, 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.

On her 2010 release Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, Bettye LaVette included a slowed down bluesy version of the song.

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.


The following musicians played on the released version of "It Don't Come Easy":[23]

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ UK Apple R5898[9]
  2. ^ US Apple 1831[10]
  3. ^ This version would later be repeated on 2 August 1993, as part of Top of the Pops re-showings.[11]
  1. ^ Spizer, Bruce (2005). The Beatles Solo on Apple Records. New Orleans, LA: 498 Productions. p. 293. ISBN 0-9662649-5-9.
  2. ^ Rodriguez, Robert (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970–1980. Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-4165-9093-4.
  3. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ a b Madinger, Chip; Easter, Mark (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium. Chesterfield, MO: 44.1 Productions. p. 498. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
  7. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.
  8. ^ Kubernik, Harvey (July 2011). "With a Little Help from His Friends: George Harrison and the Concert for Bangla Desh". Rock's Backpages. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  9. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.
  10. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.
  11. ^ a b c d e Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, eds. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970–2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6.
  12. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. pp. 182, 183. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.
  13. ^ Smith, Alan (24 April 1971). "Singles Reviews". NME. p. 20.
  14. ^ Hunt, Chris (ed.) (2005). NME Originals: Beatles – The Solo Years 1970–1980. London: IPC Ignite!. p. 33.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Billboard Review Panel (17 April 1971). "Spotlight Singles". Billboard. p. 54. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  16. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (1977). The Beatles Forever. Cameron House. p. 149.
  17. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-7535-0843-5.
  20. ^ Calkin, Graham. "Ringo Starr - It Don't Come Easy". Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  21. ^ Ingham, p. 143.
  22. ^ Good Night America. IMDB.
  23. ^ Spizer, Bruce (2005). The Beatles Solo on Apple Records. New Orleans, LA: 498 Productions. p. 294. ISBN 0-9662649-5-9.
  24. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts – 10 July 1971". Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  25. ^ "Ringo Starr – It Don't Come Easy". Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  26. ^ "RPM 100 Singles, July 4, 1971". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  27. ^ "Ringo Starr – It Don't Come Easy". Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  28. ^ "Search by Artist > Ringo Starr" Archived January 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, (retrieved 23 March 2016).
  29. ^ "Ringo Starr Chart Trajectories on the Oricon Singles (1968–2005)". Archived from the original on 24 September 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  30. ^ "NZ Listener chart statistics for Ringo Starr (search by artist)". Flavour of New Zealand. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  31. ^ a b "Ringo Starr – It Don't Come Easy". Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  32. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  33. ^ "Swedish Charts 1969–1972/Kvällstoppen – Listresultaten vecka för vecka" > "Oktober 1971 [in Swedish]" (PDF). Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  34. ^ "Ringo Starr – It Don't Come Easy". Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  35. ^ "Ringo Starr". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  36. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (2015). The Comparison Book. Menonomee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 481. ISBN 978-0-89820-213-7.
  37. ^ "Top 40 Easy Listening". Billboard. 19 June 1971. p. 36.
  38. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  39. ^ "Top Pop 100 Singles" Billboard December 25, 1971: TA-36
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2016-05-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]