- Published in 1967
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 2 on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“
- Track 4 on “The Beatles 1967-1970” (Blue Album)
JOHN 1970: “Paul had the line about ‘a little help from my friends.’ He had some kind of structure for it, and we wrote it pretty well fifty-fifty from his original idea.”
JOHN 1980: “That’s Paul, with a little help from me. ‘What do you see when you turn out the light/ I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine’ is mine.”
PAUL circa-1994: “This was written out at John’s house in Weybridge for Ringo… I think that was probably the best of our songs that we wrote for Ringo actually. I remember giggling with John as we wrote the lines, ‘What do you see when you turn out the light/ I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine.’ It could have been him playing with his willie under the covers, or it could have been taken on a deeper level. This is what it meant but it was a nice way to say it– a very non-specific way to say it. I always liked that.”
About “With a Little Help From My Friends”
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “With a Little Help From My Friends“, and Ringo Starr sang it as the lead vocal (as Billy Shears of the Sgt. Pepper band). As the second song on the album, it follows the title track’s applause.
Written specifically for Ringo, the song was completed by Lennon and McCartney in mid-March 1967. To achieve the last note, McCartney worked closely with Starr to write a tune with a limited range. Ringo explained in The Beatles Anthology that he needed to change the first line, which originally asked “Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me if I sang out of tune?”, to avoid fans throwing tomatoes…
On 29 March 1967, the day before they posed for the Sgt. Pepper album cover, the Beatles began recording the song. They recorded 10 takes of the song, wrapping up sessions at 5:45 in the morning. The backing track consisted of Starr on drums, McCartney on piano, Harrison on lead guitar, and Lennon on cowbell. Starr trudged up the stairs to head home at dawn, but the others cajoled him into singing on the spot, standing around the microphone. They added tambourine, backing vocals, bass, and more electric guitar the next day.
A blues version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” was later recorded by Joe Cocker. The song became a hit in 1968—topping the UK Singles Chart—and an anthem for the Woodstock era.
Beatles’ recording, paired with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, was reissued as a single in 1978, peaking at number 63 in Britain and number 71 in the United States. As a solo artist, Ringo regularly performs the song. Rolling Stone ranked the song no. 311 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Meaning of “With a Little Help From My Friends”
“With a Little Help From My Friends” conveys a message of friendship and mutual support. It emphasizes the idea that one can overcome difficulties and face life’s challenges more easily with the help of close companions.
The lyrics are written from the perspective of someone who acknowledges the value of their friends in his life. The narrator seeks comfort, advice, and companionship from his friends, recognizing that they play a crucial role in providing emotional and practical assistance.
The song ultimately celebrates the strength and comfort that can be derived from strong friendships. It’s a testament to the idea that we’re not meant to face life’s trials alone, and that having a support network of friends can make a significant difference in our well-being and ability to navigate the world.
- Ringo Starr – lead vocal, drums, tambourine
- John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, cowbell
- Paul McCartney – backing vocal, piano, bass
- George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar
- George Martin – Hammond organ