- Published on 1968
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 30 on “The Beatles – White Album“
RINGO 1968: “Everybody thinks Paul wrote ‘Goodnight’ for me to sing, but it was John who wrote it for me. He’s got a lot of soul, John has.”
PAUL 1968: “John wrote it, mainly. It’s his tune, uhh, which is surprising for John– ‘cuz he doesn’t normally write this kind of tune. It’s a very sweet tune, and Ringo sings it great, I think. The arrangement was done by George Martin, uhh, ‘cuz he’s very good at that kind of arrangement, you know– very sort of lush, sweet arrangement.”
JOHN 1980: “‘Good Night’ was written for Julian, the way ‘Beautiful Boy’ was written for Sean… but given to Ringo and possibly overlush.”
PAUL circa-1994: “I think John felt it might not be good for his image for him to sing it, but it was fabulous to hear him do it, he sang it great. We heard him sing it in order to teach it to Ringo and he sang it very tenderly. John rarely showed his tender side, but my key memories of John are when he was tender, that’s what has remained with me– those moments where he showed himself to be a very generous, loving person. I always cite that song as an example of the John beneath the surface that we only saw occasionally… I don’t think John’s version was ever recorded.”
About “Good Night”
“Good Night” is a heartfelt ballad featured on their 1968 double album “The Beatles,” commonly referred to as White Album. Penned by John Lennon and attributed to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting duo, the tender vocals are provided by Ringo Starr, who stands as the sole Beatle present on this track. The orchestral arrangement, conducted and arranged by the gifted George Martin, enhances the song’s emotive depth.
Crafted as a lullaby for Lennon’s cherished five-year-old son, Julian, “Good Night” holds the distinction of being the final track on the White Album. The original rendition included Starr on lead vocals, with George Harrison and John Lennon on guitars, complemented by Paul McCartney contributing harmonies. A version featuring Starr’s vocals from take 10, combined with guitar work from take 5, was released on the 50th Anniversary box set of The Beatles in 2018.
During rehearsals, the arrangement was stripped down to Lennon on piano and Harrison handling percussion. Fragments of this rehearsal, alongside take 22 of the song and an overlay of the orchestra, can be found on the Beatles’ 1996 compilation album “Anthology 3.”
Lennon sought to infuse the song with a lush orchestral texture reminiscent of classic Hollywood cinema, a touch he humorously admitted to be “corny.” The ensemble comprised 26 musicians, including strings, woodwinds, and percussion, with the addition of backing vocals provided by eight members of the Mike Sammes Singers.
Notably, “Good Night” marked Starr’s third instance of recording a Beatles song credited to the group without the participation of the other members (preceded by McCartney and Harrison, followed by Lennon with “Julia“). The song concludes with Starr’s gentle whisper, bidding “Good night… Good night, everybody… Everybody, everywhere… Good night.”
“Good Night” showcases musical elements somewhat atypical of Lennon’s style, incorporating countermelodies and interludes reminiscent of George Martin’s compositional influence. Musicologist Walter Everett suggests that it may be perceived as a soothing contrast following the unconventional “Revolution 9.”
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of its release, Jacob Stolworthy of The Independent ranked “Good Night” at number 28 among the White Album‘s 30 tracks, describing it as a “mediocre song sung by Ringo.” Despite the vibrant orchestral arrangement, Stolworthy opines that, like most lullabies, “Good Night” may lull its listeners into slumber.
“Good Night” has been covered by various artists, including the Carpenters, Kenny Loggins featuring Alison Krauss, Kidsongs, Linda Ronstadt, and Manhattan Transfer. Barbra Streisand also recorded a version for her 1969 album “What About Today?” In 2006, Cirque du Soleil featured a rendition in their Beatles-themed production “Love.”
Meaning of “Good Night”
“Good Night” written by John Lennon, is a tender lullaby meant to convey feelings of comfort and assurance. The lyrics are addressed to a loved one, assuring them that the day has ended and it’s time to rest. The narrator expresses wishes for pleasant dreams and reassures that everything will be alright.
The song’s lyrics are relatively simple, with a focus on creating a soothing and calming atmosphere. It’s worth noting that “Good Night” was written by Lennon for his young son Julian, which adds a personal and heartfelt touch to the song. In this context, the lyrics can be seen as a parent’s loving message to their child, promising them safety and security as they drift off to sleep.
“Good Night” is a gentle and affectionate song, embodying the sentiment of wishing someone a peaceful night’s rest and sweet dreams.
- Ringo Starr – lead vocals
- George Martin – celesta, orchestral arrangement
- The Mike Sammes Singers – backing vocals
- Unnamed session musicians – 12 violins, three violas, three cellos, three flutes, clarinet, horn, vibraphone, double bass, harp