Oh! Darling - The Beatles

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"Oh! Darling" - The Beatles (1969)

Lennon asked McCartney repeatedly if he could sing “Oh! Darling,” saying:

“Oh Darling was a great one of Pauls’ that he didn’t sing too well. Had he (Paul) had any sense- he would have let me sing it.”

McCartney didn’t agree and said he was determined to give a “Lennon performance” all by himself. He felt the song was more suitable for him because his deeper voice gave it more depth and he had a more varied range than Lennon.

It’s been suggested that McCartney wanted to sing the track because is a perfect song for when you’re angry over a breakup. When you’re mad at the significant other for ending things, this song just takes all that anger and releases it.

McCartney rehearsed it lying on his back and recorded it with the backing track played over the speakers rather than the headphones because he wanted to give him the feeling that he was playing to a live audience.

The recording was drawn heavily on the New Orleans rhythm and blues sound popularized during the 1950s and early 1960s and Louisiana swamp blues sound found in songs like Slim Harpo‘s “Raining In My Heart.” When swamp pop musician John Fred met The Beatles in London in the 1960s, he was amazed to learn that they were very familiar with Louisiana music.

McCartney provides an emotional ethos of slow and heavy blues. He sings it in a hoarse, fulsome shout that simultaneously summons and sends up melodramatic emotionality of 1950s doo-wop and rhythm and blues. The backing track of piano, guitar, drums and bass does an excellent job of matching forces with that vocal. Apart from its wonderfully nuanced lead vocal, the track is an expression of musical minimalism by matching a very simple accompaniment with a relentlessly repetitive lyric.

Musicologist Tim Riley commented that on “Oh! Darling,” McCartney defined it by shaping it in his own terms. He writes:

“He makes these moments unignorable by letting his guts tell him where to land, and trusting his spontaneous sense of what sounds right to guide him towards the most riveting spontaneous phrasing.”

When the narrator opines that if his “lover leaves him he won’t be able to get along without her,” he is expressing the notion that in the absence of material prosperity, one is left with nothing but social networks to manage and channel emotions into socially productive ways. In many songs in popular music the threat of passion is expressed as a blinding force of the body, perhaps as a woman who uses her sexuality to deceive a man and ultimately hurt or betray him.

For the Beatles, this passion becomes a source not of managing sexual appetite, but an avenue for comfort and self-realization.

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