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Golden Slumbers by the Beatles

The history of this classic Beatles song

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Golden Slumbers by the Beatles

'60s UK sheet music for "Golden Slumbers"

www.musicheritageuk.org

The Beatles Songs: Golden Slumbers

Written by: Paul McCartney (100%)
(credited as Lennon-McCartney)

Recorded: July 2, 30 and 31, 1969 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: July 3 and 30, August 18-19, 1969
Length: 1:31
Takes: 17

Musicians:

Paul McCartney: lead vocals, piano (1905 Steinway Vertegrand "Mrs. Mills")
George Harrison: bass guitar (1961 Fender Bass VI)
Ringo Starr: drums (1968 Ludwig Hollywood Maple)
Unknown: violins, violas, cellos, double bass, French horns, trumpets, trombone, bass trombone

Available on: (CDs in bold)

  • Abbey Road, (US: Apple SO 383, UK: Apple PCS 7088, Parlophone CDP 7 46446 2)

History:

  • "Golden Slumbers," recorded in a medley-within-a-medley with "Carry That Weight," though usually listed as separate songs, is one of the Beatles' most celebrated ballads, often considered the emotional high point of Abbey Road's album-closing medley. And yet, it came about through Paul McCartney's complete inability to read musical notation. While visiting his father in the summer of 1968 (Paul variously remembers this as being in either Liverpool or Cheshire), he noticed a songbook left on the piano by his stepsister Ruth. Thumbing through it for inspiration, he found a song adapted from the poetry of Thomas Dekker, an English dramatist of the 16th century, a passage from his play The Pleasant Comedie of Old Fortunatus:

    Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
    Smiles awake you when you rise;
    Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
    And I will sing a lullaby,
    Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

  • By this point, Paul had begun to compose some of the songs that would eventually end up in the Beatles' Abbey Road Medley, and while he couldn't read music, he decided these words, slightly amended from "wantons" to "darling," would fit in well with another song called "Carry That Weight." Eventually he paired them, composing an introduction based around the long medley's main theme, "You Never Give Me Your Money." Using the chords from that song's first line, he came up with an intro to the borrowed lines: "Once there was a way to get back homeward / Once there was a way to get back home." He debuted the pairing, already mostly worked out, in the rehearsals for Let It Be, but they never made the final cut, so they were instead used for Abbey Road.
  • Recorded at the same time as a piece with "Carry That Weight," it and "Golden Slumbers" were laid down in 15 takes on July 2, 1969. (John was not present at any of the sessions, having crashed his car while he, Yoko, and son Julian were on vacation in Scotland.) The next day take 13 of the first song was edited into take 15 of the latter, and Paul spent July 30 and 31 trying to get his lead vocal just right; he wanted something powerful and emotional and got it on the words "smiles awake." Finally, on August 15, George Martin came up with an orchestral arrangement for both Beatles songs.

Trivia:

  • Because Paul wrote and played "Golden Slumbers" on piano, and because John was still recuperating in Scotland during recording, this medley is one of the few Beatles tracks where George plays bass.
  • Paul covered "Slumbers" and "Weight" together on several occasions during his 1989-1990 world tour.

Covered by: Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Mumford and Sons, Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Phil Collins, Booker T. and the MGs, Ben Folds, k.d. lang, Lou Rawls, Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes, Type O Negative, Cheap Trick, John Denver, George Benson, Ramsey Lewis, Josh Young, Elis Regina, Trash, Barbara Dickson, Andrés Calamaro, Alex Lloyd, Nia Vardalos, Overboard, Will Young, Kazuyoshi Saito, Nenad Bach, Mi-ke, Orange Bicycle, Les Fradkin, Mary Hart, Dread Zeppelin

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