Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

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"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Ob la di Ob la da single cover.jpg
1968 French single cover
Single by the Beatles
from the album The Beatles
Released 22 November 1968
Recorded 8, 9, 11 and 15 July 1968[1]
Studio EMI Studios, London
Length 3:07
Label Apple
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin
Audio sample
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Single by the Beatles
B-side "Julia"
Released 8 November 1976 (US)
Format Vinyl record 7"
Label Capitol 4347
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
The Beatles US singles chronology
"Got to Get You into My Life"
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is a song by the Beatles from their 1968 album The Beatles (often called "the White Album"). Although credited to Lennon–McCartney, the song was written solely by Paul McCartney. It was released as a single that same year in many countries, but not in their native United Kingdom, nor in the United States until 1976.


Paul McCartney wrote the song around the time that highlife and reggae were beginning to become popular in Britain. The starting lyric, "Desmond has a barrow in the market-place", was a reference to the first internationally renowned Jamaican ska and reggae performer Desmond Dekker who had just had a successful tour of the UK.[4] The tag line "ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, brah" was an expression used by Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott-Emuakpor, an acquaintance of McCartney.[5] Another example of the term in popular culture is the 1945 song 'In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee', which Mary Lou Williams composed for Dizzy Gillespie (heard on Dizzy Digs Paris).

The song is in the key of B-flat major and written in 4/4 time. The alternative version issued on Anthology 3 is in the lower key of A major.

Scott-Emuakpor later tried to claim a writer's credit for the use of his catchphrase in the song. McCartney said that the phrase was "just an expression", whereas Scott argued that the phrase was not a common expression, and was used exclusively by the Scott-Emuakpor family. He later dropped the case when McCartney agreed to pay his legal expenses for an unrelated issue.[6]


In May 1968, following their return from studying Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh, India, the Beatles gathered at George Harrison's Esher home, in Surrey, to record demos for their upcoming project.[7] "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was one of the twenty-seven demos recorded there.[8] McCartney performed this demo solo, with only an acoustic guitar. He also double-tracked his vocal, which was not perfectly synchronised, creating an echoing effect.

The formal recording of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" involved several days of work, during which the Beatles experimented with different tempos and styles. At McCartney's insistence, the band remade the song twice in an effort to capture the version he was aiming for. According to studio engineer Geoff Emerick, John Lennon "openly and vocally detested" the song, calling it Paul's "granny music shit".[9] Having left the studio during one of the sessions, Lennon then returned while under the influence of marijuana, went immediately to the piano and played the opening chords louder and faster than before. He claimed that was how the song should be played, and that is the version the Beatles ended up using.[10]

When singing the vocals over the final verse, McCartney made a slip and said "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face" (rather than Molly), and had Molly letting "the children lend a hand". Reportedly, this mistake was retained because the other Beatles liked it.[6] Harrison and Lennon yell "arm" and "leg" between the lines "… Desmond lets the children lend a hand" and "Molly stays at home …"[11]

The lyrics of Harrison's White Album track "Savoy Truffle" include the line "We all know Ob-la-di-bla-da, but can you show me where you are?"[12] According to music journalist Robert Fontenot, Harrison (like Lennon) was "very vocal in [his] dislike of 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da'", and the reference in "Savoy Truffle" was his way of conveying his opinion of McCartney's song.[13]

The intro of this song is heard on the Beatles' 1968 Christmas Record.

Releases and live performances[edit]

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-la-Da" was released on The Beatles on 22 November 1968.[14] In the US, in 1976, it was released as a single with "Julia" as the B-side.[15] An alternate version, known as "Take 5", was released on Anthology 3 in which the horns are much more prominent and feature less reggae-esque style of music, focusing on acoustic guitars.

The first time the song was performed live by any of the Beatles was on 2 December 2009, when McCartney played it in Hamburg, Germany on the first night of a European tour.[16] McCartney also performed the song in Hyde Park on 27 June 2010 as part of the Hard Rock Calling event, and the song was well received by the crowd.[citation needed] He also added it as a number in the Latin American Leg of the Up and Coming Tour. In 2011, the song was performed during McCartney's on the Run Tour. It was also performed in front of Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, then at San Francisco's Outside Lands concert on 9 August 2013. Most recently, it was performed by McCartney on his 2013-2015 Out There! tour and his 2016-2017 One on One tour, as well as his September 7, 2018 Grand Central Terminal concert.


"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" topped singles charts in Austria, Switzerland, Australia and Japan. In the UK and Norway, where it had not been released as a single by the Beatles, a cover version by the Marmalade also reached number 1.

The track is often the subject of ridicule. It was voted the worst song of all time in a 2004 online poll organised by Mars.[17] New Musical Express website editor Luke Lewis has argued that the Beatles recorded "a surprising amount of ropy old toss", singling out "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" as "the least convincing cod-reggae skanking this side of the QI theme tune".[18] Tom Rowley in The Telegraph named the track as a "reasonable choice" for derision, following the result of the Mars poll.[18] It was also included in Blender magazine's 2004 list "50 Worst Songs Ever!"[19] CNN journalist Todd Leopold reported in 2006 that Lennon "loathed" the song.[20]

Conversely, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic includes the song among McCartney's "stunning" compositions on The Beatles.[21] In his contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner wrote: "Part of the phenomenal talent of the Beatles is their ability to compose music that by itself carries the same message and mood as the lyrics. The lyrics and the music not only say the same thing, but are also perfectly complementary. This comes also with the realization that rock and roll is music, not literature, and that the music is the most important aspect of it. 'Obladi Oblada,' where they take one of the familiar calypso melodies and beats, is a perfect example. And it's not just a calypso, but a rock and roll calypso with electric bass and drums. Fun music for a fun song about fun. Who needs answers?"[22]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[24] and Mark Lewisohn[25]

Cover versions[edit]

Marmalade version[edit]

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Marmalade Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.jpg
Single by The Marmalade
B-side "Chains"
Released 1968
Format 7" vinyl record
Genre Pop
Label CBS
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) Mike Smith

The Scottish pop band Marmalade released their rendition of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in 1968. Their version reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in January 1969, making them the first Scottish group to ever top that chart.[26][27] Their cover sold around half a million in the UK, and a million copies globally by April 1969.[28] They appeared on BBC One's music programme Top of the Pops to perform the track in kilts.

TV series[edit]

Because the song features the lyrics "life goes on", a version performed by Patti LuPone and the cast of Life Goes On was featured on the 1989–1993 drama of that name on ABC.

Other versions[edit]

Chart history[edit]

The Beatles version[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[38] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[39] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[40] 5
French Singles Chart[41] 3
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[42] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[43] 1
Japanese Oricon Singles Chart[44] 7
Japanese Oricon International Chart[44] 1
New Zealand (Listener)[45] 1
West German Media Control Singles Chart[46] 1
Chart (1976) Peak
Canada RPM Top Singles 19
US Billboard Hot 100[47] 49
US Billboard Adult Contemporary[48] 39
US Cash Box Top 100[49] 47

Marmalade version[edit]

Chart (1968–69) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[50] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[51] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[52] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[53] 2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn, p. 288-289.
  2. ^ Peter Ames Carlin,"Paul McCartney: A Life",ISBN 1-4165-6209-5, p.172.
  3. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "The Beatles [White Album] – The Beatles". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  4. ^ Nytimes.com
  5. ^ Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-80352-9.
  6. ^ a b Turner 2005, p. 154.
  7. ^ MacDonald 1998, pp. 243–44.
  8. ^ Unterberger 2006, pp. 195–96.
  9. ^ Emerick & Massey 2006, p. 246.
  10. ^ Lewisohn 1988, pp. 140–142.
  11. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 141.
  12. ^ Leonard 1993, pp. 849–851.
  13. ^ Fontenot, Robert. "The Beatles Songs: 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' – The history of this classic Beatles song". oldies.about.com. Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  14. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 200–201.
  15. ^ Wallgren 1982, p. 109.
  16. ^ WMMR 2009.
  17. ^ "Beatles classic voted worst song". BBC. 10 November 2004. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  18. ^ a b Rowley, Tom (5 October 2012). "Poll: What is the worst Beatles song?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  19. ^ "'We Built This City' dubbed worst song ever". Today. 20 April 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  20. ^ Leopold, Todd (27 April 2006). "The worst song of all time, part II". CNN. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  21. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Beatles The Beatles [White Album]". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  22. ^ Wenner, Jann S. (21 December 1968). "Review: The Beatles' 'White Album'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  23. ^ Babiuk, Andy. Beatles Gear. p. 221. ISBN 1617130990. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  24. ^ MacDonald 1998, p. 258.
  25. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 140-142.
  26. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 351.
  27. ^ Roberts, David (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 40. ISBN 0-85156-156-X.
  28. ^ Murrells 1978, p. 243.
  29. ^ Gallucci 2008.
  30. ^ Roberts 2006, p. 51.
  31. ^ https://www.discogs.com/Mercy-Love-Can-Make-You-Happy/master/495675
  32. ^ "Live Phish, Vol. 13: 10/31/94, Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY - Phish". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  33. ^ "Забавно-едукативна емисија за децу „Коцка, коцка, коцкица"" (PDF). Historiansclub.org. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  34. ^ Remmer 2009.
  35. ^ "Fringemunks Web site". Davidwumusic.com. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  36. ^ "Längtan" (in Swedish). Svensk mediedatabas. 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  37. ^ "Yoyoy Villame - Birth Control (HD)". YouTube. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  38. ^ Kent, David (2005). Australian Chart Book (1940–1969). Turramurra: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-44439-5.
  39. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  40. ^ "Ultratop.be – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  41. ^ "Song artist 1 - The Beatles". Tsort.info. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  42. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  43. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Beatles – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  44. ^ a b Oricon 2009.
  45. ^ Hung, Steffen. "charts.org.nz - Forum - 1969 Chart (General)". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  46. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts" (Enter "Beatles" in the search box) (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  47. ^ "The Beatles Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  48. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 25.
  49. ^ Hoffmann, Frank (1983). The Cash Box Singles Charts, 1950-1981. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 32–34.
  50. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  51. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  52. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". VG-lista. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  53. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Marmalade – Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.


External links[edit]