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The Beatles Songs: I Will

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: I Will

The original US sheet music for "I Will"

rarebeatles.com

I Will

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

Recorded: September 16-17, 1968 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England)
Mixed: September 26 and October 14, 1968
Length: 1:53
Takes: 68

Musicians:

John Lennon: percussion
Paul McCartney: lead vocal (double-tracked), harmony vocal, backing vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar (1967 Martin D-28), lead acoustic guitar (1964 Framus 12-string "Hootenanny")
Ringo Starr: bongos, maracas

Available on: (CDs in bold)

The Beatles (a/k/a "The White Album"; UK: Apple PMC 7067-8; US: Apple SWBO 101; Parlophone CDP 7 46443 2; CDP 7 46444 2)
Love Songs (UK: Parlophone PCSP 721; US: Capitol SKBL 11711)

History:

  • Another deceptively simple and brief song from the White Album, "I Will" actually had quite a lengthy, if not quite difficult, birth. Paul began the song while on the band's famed spiritual retreat in Rishikesh, assisted by fellow musician and Maharishi disciple Donovan. Everyone agreed the melody was one of McCartney's loveliest and catchiest, but despite Donovan's help ("something about the moon," Paul remembers) a suitable set of lyrics were not achieved. Indeed, when the band returned to England and made demos of their Indian retreat songs at George's home in Surrey, "I Will" was not included.
  • However, Paul was haunted by the melody, and spurred on by his burgeoning romance with photographer Linda Eastman, he turned "I Will" into a simple (and not silly) love song. Working on the lyrics and goofing off in between takes, it took a full 67 tries to get the song into proper shape, but despite Paul's late-'60s reputation for exasperating John Lennon with endless revisions (see "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"), and despite the absence of George, the sessions for "I Will" were some of the happiest of the project. An aborted recorder overdub on John's "Glass Onion" was the only other recording attempted that day. The next day, September 17, Paul added a second lead acoustic 12-string to take 65, creating the signature riff in between the verses. Then he overdubbed his harmonies, and added his "bass line" -- which, if on listens closely, is actually a vocal by Paul!
Trivia:
  • On the mono version of this song, Paul's "vocal bass" does not appear until the start of the second verse.
  • For the video documentary of Anthology, George performs this song on ukulele.
  • The outtakes from the lengthy "I Will" jam produced some lasting gems for Beatles fans. After take 19, Paul veered off the task at hand, performing an impromptu version of the Great American Songbook vocal standard "The Way You Look Tonight," a never-released version that shared some of its lyrics with "I Will." He also previewed a song he'd written for Brian Epstein protege Cilla Black, "Step Inside Love," which would later become the theme to her BBC television show. Noting the Latin feel of it, John began to joke about a Spanish group called "Los Paranoias," and Paul happily played along, creating an off-the-cuff jam with that name (rhymes with "enjoy us"). Finally, he got sidetracked into a strange little blues jam which, when edited down, became the link track between the White Album's "Cry Baby Cry" and "Revolution 9." It's usually referred to as "Can You Take Me Back," but it was never given a formal title.
  • Charles Manson, who masterminded the horrific Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969, convinced the followers in his "family" that the White Album contained several messages to them concerning an upcoming race war called "Helter Skelter." "I Will" was supposedly Paul's message to Charlie that he was waiting for him, the catalyst for that apocalypse, to appear. Lines like "Sing it loud so I can hear you" were supposedly messages that the Manson family should begin their reign of terror.

Covered by: The Vogues, Maureen McGovern, Alison Krauss and Tony Furtado, Ben Taylor, Jonathan Coulton, Nyoy Volante, Brooks Williams, Achinoam Nini and Gil Dor, Maura O'Connell, Tim Curry, Garrison Keillor

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