Along with being probably the two greatest voices of the rock era, and indisputably being the two greatest songwriters from the 60’s on in rock, John Lennon and Paul McCartney also displayed astonishing range in both those areas. Paul could sing the sweetest ballad and scream out the most ragged rocker. Lennon was the same. But when John wrote simple tender melodies, it was a window into the sweet side of a tortured soul, and it usually laid bare the real man inside, without the wisp of pretension.
Goodnight the lush opus that finishes the White Album, is such a song.
Written as a lullaby to his then 5 year old son Julian, it’s simple beauty is a perfect example of this dichotomy.
Lennon knew that Ringo Starr’s doleful, plaintive vocal delivery would be perfect for the song. While on acoustic guitar John rehearsed it with him. Also John had written a spoken intro, here is a clip from an early rehearsal on June 28, 1968.
On July 2, as George Martin played piano, Ringo did further vocal takes.
George Martin then took this recording away to write the score for full orchestra and choir.
On the July 22, Martin conducted 26 musicians and eight singers. All previous vocal takes were discarded and Ringo re did his lead vocal for the final time.
Being the last song on side 4, Goodnight was a fitting end to the momentous and sometimes tumultuous White Album, which was released on Friday November 22, 1968 to worldwide critical acclaim.
This is Susan Kreutzer for the Beatles, Song By Song.