Free As A Bird - The Beatles
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"Free As A Bird" - The Beatles (1995)
“Free As A Bird” was released 25 years after the band broke up and 15 years after the death of John Lennon.
It was originally recorded by Lennon in 1977 on a tape recorder in his home. When a new single was needed to promote the upcoming release of the Anthology video documentary, McCartney asked Yoko Ono for unreleased material by Lennon to which the three remaining ex-Beatles could contribute.
McCartney, Harrison and Ringo had originally intended to record some incidental background music, as a trio, for the new project, but later decided they wanted to record “new music.” According to Harrison, they had always agreed that if one of them wasn’t in the band, the others would never replace them and, “... go out as the Beatles”, and that the “only other person that could be in it was John.”
Paul, George and Ringo decided that Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and The Traveling Wilburys would produce the new songs. Lynne had a major challenge before him to slice Lennon’s vocals and piano playing with that of the other three. Thus not only was Lennon singing- but he was playing on the track as well.
Some chords were changed, and the arrangement was expanded to include breaks for McCartney and Harrison to sing extra lines. Harrison played slide guitar in the solo. The song’s ends with a slight coda including a strummed ukulele by Harrison .Interesting, it is the only Beatle song that has Lennon, McCartney and Harrison singing separate lead vocals.
In Anthology Ringo says that when he heard McCartney and Harrison singing the harmonies, and later the finished song, he said that it sounded just like them [The Beatles]. Harrison added: “It’s gonna sound like them [The Beatles] if it is them...It sounds like them now [in the present].”
“Free as a Bird” was greeted with mixed reviews.
Beatle scholar Alan Pollack summed up perfectly the song’s legacy:
“This deliberately slow and serious anthem cast in neo-classically pop music terms and form is apparently not what some people were expecting or hoping for.”
The song won a Grammy in 1997 for Best Pop Performance by a vocal group. In the US it continued the group’s streak of having at least one single chart in the Top 40 in four separate decades.
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