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With a Little Help from My Friends

"With a Little Help from My Friends" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and intended as the album's featured vocal for drummer Ringo Starr. The group recorded the song towards the end of the sessions for Sgt. Pepper, with Starr singing as the character "Billy Shears".

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Song by the Beatles
from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released May 1967 (1967-05)[1]
Recorded 29–30 March 1967
Studio EMI
Length 2:46
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin

A subsequent recording of the track by Joe Cocker became a hit single in 1968 and an anthem for the Woodstock era.[2] In 1978, the Beatles' recording, paired with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", was reissued as a single, and peaked at number 63 in Britain and number 71 in the United States. Starr has regularly performed the song in concert as a solo artist. "With a Little Help from My Friends" was ranked number 311 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.



Lennon and McCartney finished writing this song in mid-March 1967,[3] written specifically as Starr's track for the album. McCartney said: "It was pretty much co-written, John and I doing a work song for Ringo, a little craft job." In 1970 Lennon stated: "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.", but in 1980 Lennon said: "This is 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."[4] It was briefly called "Bad Finger Boogie" (later the inspiration for the band name Badfinger),[5] supposedly because Lennon composed the melody on a piano using his middle finger after having hurt his forefinger.

The song begins with the applause from the end of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Lennon and McCartney deliberately wrote a tune with a limited range – except for the last note, which McCartney worked closely with Starr to achieve. Speaking in the Anthology, Starr explained that he insisted on changing the first line — which originally was "What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you throw ripe tomatoes at me?" — so that fans would not throw tomatoes at him should he perform it live. (In the early days, after George Harrison made a passing comment that he liked jelly babies, the group was showered with them at all of their live performances.)[6]

The song's composition is unusually well documented, as Hunter Davies was present and described the writing process in the Beatles' official biography.

The song is partly in the form of a conversation in which the other two Beatles sing a question — e.g. "Would you believe in a love at first sight?" where Starr answers, "Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time."


The Beatles began recording the song on 29 March 1967, the day before they posed for the Sgt. Pepper album cover. They recorded 10 takes of the song, wrapping up sessions at 5:45 in the morning.[7] The backing track consisted of Starr on drums, McCartney playing piano, Harrison playing lead guitar and Lennon beating a cowbell. At dawn, Starr trudged up the stairs to head home – but the other Beatles cajoled him into doing his lead vocal then and there, standing around the microphone for moral support.[4] The following day they added tambourine, backing vocals, bass and more electric guitar.[7]


According to Ian MacDonald, except where noted:[8]

Live performancesEdit

To date, Starr has closed every concert performed by each version of his All-Starr Band with this song. After he is done singing, Starr tells the audience "Peace and love...peace and love is the only way...and good night", then walks off the stage. Since 2008, the band segued right into "Give Peace a Chance", during which Starr comes back onstage, then walks off again.

Starr performed the song with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, George Michael, Phil Collins, Elton John, and many others at the 1987 Prince's Trust Concert at Wembley Arena, London.[10]

McCartney and Starr performed this song for the first time together at the David Lynch Foundation Benefit Concert in the Radio City Music Hall, New York on 4 April 2009. McCartney and Starr also performed the song together on "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles", a commemorative show on 27 January 2014, that marked 50 years since the band's first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show,[11] then again in 2015 at Ringo Starr's induction in the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame.[12]

Cover versionsEdit

There have been at least 50 cover versions of the song[13] and it has achieved the number one position on the British singles charts three times: by Joe Cocker in 1968,[14] Wet Wet Wet in 1988,[15] and by Sam & Mark in 2004. Chris Clark, the first white female recording artist to have an album released on Motown, recorded the song for her second album, 1969's CC Rides Again.

The song was also covered by Mumford & Sons and Dawes on the Tour of Two Halves in 2012.[16] Mumford & Sons also covered the song to close out their headline set at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival with Vampire Weekend, The Vaccines, First Aid Kit, and The Staves on 30 June 2013.[17] For the 1981 compilation Rarities, the Beach Boys released their version recorded in 1967,[18] while in 2015, Brian Wilson named it one of his favorite songs,[19] and in that year German rock band Bonfire, with new frontman David Reece, recorded their version for the album Glörious.

Widespread Panic has performed the song twice, both times during their special 3-Set New Year's Eve shows.[20]

In March 2017, Broadway and Hollywood artists including Liz Callaway, FORTE, Annie Golden, Telly Leung and Chris Mann performed a gospel-flavored version of the song for a single and video to benefit Americans for the Arts.[21]

Joe Cocker versionEdit

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Single by Joe Cocker
from the album With a Little Help from My Friends
B-side "Something's Coming On"
Released October 1968 (1968-10) (UK)
Format 7-inch record
Recorded 1968
Length 4:55
Songwriter(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) Denny Cordell
Joe Cocker UK singles chronology
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
"Delta Lady"
Joe Cocker US singles chronology
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
"Feeling Alright"
Audio sample

English singer Joe Cocker's version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" was a radical re-arrangement of the original, in a slower, 6
meter, using different chords in the middle eight, and a lengthy instrumental introduction (featuring drums by Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson, guitar lines from Jimmy Page, and organ by Tommy Eyre). Cocker performed the song at Woodstock in 1969 and that performance was included in the documentary film, Woodstock. This version gained even more fame when it was used as the opening theme song for the television series The Wonder Years.[22] Cocker's cover was ranked number two in UpVenue's top 10 best music covers of all time in 2009.[23] In 2014, a BBC poll saw it voted the seventh best cover version ever.[24] The version heard in the film Across the Universe segues from the original to Cocker's arrangement at the end of the song. In 2001, Cocker's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[25]


In popular cultureEdit

Janice sang this song as an opening number to an episode of The Muppet Show where other members of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem were pretending to rescue her from a Hindu human sacrifice.

Sesame Street spoofed this song as "With a Little Yelp from My Friends", sung by a dog named Moe Cocker, who spoofs Joe Cocker, and the arrangement is clearly based on Cocker's version.[26]

The Animaniacs sketch Woodstock Slappy features Joe Cocker singing the song.

The song was featured in the EastEnders 2007 Children in Need sketch where the cast sang to famous Beatles songs, the song was the last to be sung by the cast with the characters of Ronnie Mitchell, Roxy Mitchell, Chelsea Fox, Carly Wicks, Jane Beale, Lucy Beale, Peter Beale, Ben Mitchell, Zainab Masood, Masood Ahmed, Honey Mitchell, Dawn Swann and Mickey Miller singing the majority of the song.

The Joe Cocker version was used as the title music for the 1988–1993 television series The Wonder Years.

"Lend me your ears" is a Shakespearean reference, taken from the "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech in Julius Caesar and used at the time as a popular way of asking people to listen.

"With a Little Help from My Friends" was played as wake-up music on Space Shuttle Mission STS-61.[27]

On Saturday Night Live, Season-1 Ep.3: John Belushi performed a full-length impression of Cocker singing this song.[28]

The cult PBS film The Lathe of Heaven (from 1980) uses the original recording of the song. The main character (George Orr), who can manipulate reality with his dreams, comes upon a 45 of the song at a novelty shop run by an alien. The alien hands George the 45 saying "Help is available." The song plays in the soundtrack and morphs into a synthesizer version. The film was out of circulation for over 20 years. When it was finally re-aired on PBS and released on DVD in 2001, many fans were upset that the original Beatles recording was replaced by a singer with an acoustic guitar. This was due to changes in publishing rights that have occurred since 1980 involving the dissolution of The Beatles' original Northern Songs and the acquisition by Sony/ATV (partly owned by the Jackson family).[citation needed]

In the Netflix cartoon series Beat Bugs, the character Buzz sings the song in the second episode of the second season.[29] It should be noted that even though the Beat Bugs cartoon's episodes were based on songs of the Beatles, the arrangement sung by Buzz in the show is based on Joe Cocker's version.


  1. ^ Everett 1999, p. 123. "In the United Kingdom Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band...was rush-released six days ahead of its official date, June 1."
  2. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 247.
  3. ^ Dowlding 1989, p. 165.
  4. ^ a b "100 Greatest Beatles Songs. No. 61 – 'With a Little Help From My Friends'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Matovina 2000.
  6. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 242.
  7. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 106.
  8. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 246.
  9. ^ Everett 1999, p. 102.
  10. ^ "With a Little Help From My Friends". Retrieved 11 November 2017
  11. ^ "Paul McCartney and Friends: Change Begins Within". Radio City Music Hall. New York, NY: Madison Square Garden. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Song: With a Little Help From My Friends – John Lennon, Paul McCartney". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 1960s". Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 1980s". Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  16. ^ "Number 1 Singles of the 2000s". 16 March 2000. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  17. ^ "Mumford & Sons Get a Little Help From Their Friends for Glastonbury Finale". 30 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  18. ^ 1983.
  19. ^ Wilson, Brian (May 8, 2015). "Brian Wilson: The Music That Made Me". Rolling Stone. 
  20. ^ "Everyday Companion". 
  21. ^ Kaufman, Gil (March 23, 2017). "Broadway Stars Come Together For All-Star Single 'With a Little Help from My Friends' to Support the Arts". Billboard. Retrieved March 24, 2017. 
  22. ^ Parrott, Billy (9 August 2013). "The Wonder Years: Music and References from Season One". The New York Public Library. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. 
  23. ^ 2010.
  24. ^ "Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind tops cover version vote". BBC News. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  25. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Retrieved 21 December 2012
  26. ^ Sesame Street – With a Little YELP from my Friends on YouTube
  27. ^ Fries 2009.
  28. ^ "SNL Season 01 Episode 03 - Rob Reiner, John Belushi as Joe Cocker -". NBC. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  29. ^


External linksEdit