Baby You're A Rich Man - The Beatles
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"Baby You're A Rich Man" - The Beatles (1967)
In 1968, Lennon said of "Baby You’re a Rich Man":
“The point was, stop moaning. You’re a rich man and were all rich men.”
Its sound is almost communal, not so much a rock song but a rock congregation. It is a relatively simple song for the time period yet it shares some traits with the psychedelic, Sgt. Peppers motif: the large number of instruments and effects used in the recording, and the consciousness-pricking themes in the lyrics of identity crisis, impatient dissatisfaction with wealth, and an ambiguity in the author’s stance between caring encouragement and nasty ridicule.
As with “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day In the Life,” the track was created by melding two unfinished songs into one. This is one of several Beatles tracks with a dual melody line. McCartney and Lennon sang into the same microphone, making it hard to distinguish which is the main melody line. Sheet music of the song usually displays both. The song uses a 6/8 time signature, similar to a waltz.
When they recorded this song, gone were the days when the Beatles sweated out every bar of a song. With its boogie-woogie piano tune, the bass line, played by the left hand, produces a strong contrapuntal melody, rather than just a rhythmic thud. Paul’s own bass guitar is extremely melodic as he often composed songs around a bass line melody as this song testifies to.
The track can be considered yet another Beatle hippie anthem. Note the ingenious alternation of John’s falsetto vocals and gruff, sneering intonations here - as if he were modeling a dialogue between a freaked-out hippie and a skeptical ‘outsider’. Yet when Lennon sang “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people” he could have been asking himself this same question.
Its sound is almost communal, not so much a rock song but a rock congregation.
The group offers a subtle criticism of the “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” lifestyle. And although Harrison said the didactic lyric was intended to show people that they were rich in themselves, nevertheless it mixed clarity with cloudiness.
“Now that you know who you are, what do you want to be? Now that you’ve found another key, what are you going to play?”
The composition is clearly about how everybody can have the things that matter, and it has nothing to do with material possessions. Yet The Beatles were rich and they were writing songs that said money should not be so important to them. In real life, that was not the case- as in the Lennon’s famous Rolls Royce. The onslaught of questions Lennon poses gives away the aimless qualities of the music. The answers are vague witticisms, empty enough to deflate expectations.
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