Golden Slumbers - The Beatles

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"Golden Slumbers" - The Beatles (1969)

Based on a poem written in 1603 by Elizabethan playwright Thomas Dekker, “Golden Slumbers” uses only the first four lines of the original poem, with just a few minor word changes.

McCartney said he remembers trying to get a very strong vocal on it, because it was such a “gentle theme.”

Lennon remarked:

“Paul played the strings after we finished most of the basic track. I personally can’t be bothered with strings and things, you know. I like to do it with the group or with electronics. And especially going through that hassle with musicians and all that bit. It’s such a drag trying to get them together. But Paul digs that, so that’s his scene. It was up to him where he went with violins and what he did with them. And I think he just wanted a straight kind of backing. Nothing freaky.”

In what could be defined as a cross between “Hey Jude“ and “Let It Be,” with its delicate melody, “Golden Slumbers” is almost as nostalgia-filled as the traditional tune on which it is based. The lullaby of the song functions simultaneously as soothing affirmation, and spirited call to arms.

The bass playing is extremely tasteful and rich and comes across like a symphony. The song as a whole is a full bodied orchestral wall of harmony, stratified by Paul’s scooping bass.

The backing track features piano, bass and drums, supplemented by a later overdub of string and brass instruments.

In the composition, McCartney is renouncing his youthful dreams for a return to spiritual oneness, suggesting instead that our only hope for enjoying genuine succor and relief is to lose ourselves in the lullabies of our past.

“Golden Slumbers’” lyric comments on the fantasies of youth: “Once there was a way to get back homeward.” The orchestral gloss that is laid on after that line signals the passage of time: the texture is no longer that of a simple rock ‘n’ roll band.

Musicologist Thomas MacFarlane wrote that the hopelessness of “Golden Slumbers” has given way to a sense of resolve due to the fact that the previous track, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” was motivated by personal loss. Thus the focus on “Golden Slumbers” is on a collective sense of despair.

He adds:

“Of the line I never give you my pillow/I only send you my invitations/And in the middle of the celebrations/I break down, the suggestion is that the singer has modified his position and is no longer pointing the figure of blame at his partner. The resurfacing of melodic and lyrical material works well within the context of the recomposition that is being effected at deeper levels of the musical structure.”

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