Little Child - The Beatles
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"Little Child" - The Beatles (1964)
Inspired by British balladeer and folk singer Elton Hayes’s “Whistle My Love,” “Little Child” is fueled by Lennon’s raucous harmonica and Paul’s ebullient background vocals. It’s a good example of Lennon being given the opportunity to express romantic anticipation.
Although Ringo didn’t sing it, Lennon said:
“’Little Child’ was another effort of Paul and I to write a song for somebody. It was probably Ringo.”
McCartney describes the track as being a "work song", or an "album filler". He freely admits to stealing the line "I'm so sad and lonely" from Hayes’s song.
“Little Child” was defined by Beatle author Ian MacDonald as:
“a sly match of words and melody which allows for some modestly theatrical variations of tone. Mock-coy, cajoling, bragging, and suggestive- the song’s rapid maneuvering conjures the sexual street banter of Liverpudlian youth. “
By concocting one-dimensional metaphors for narrating youthful experience during this period, Lennon and McCartney engaged in a series of language games- verbal experiments, if nothing else- that derive little, if any, genuine meaning.
Musicologist Tim Riley remarks that the vocal harmonies bring out the kitsch in Lennon. During John’s harp solo it sounds as though he and Ringo make eye contact and goad the thrust of the beat together.
Professor Ken Womack adds:
“As if his bombastic vocal weren’t enough, the music’s upbeat phrasings belie his lyric’s faux melancholy at nearly every turn. When he sings the line, “I’m so sad and lonely,” it is with pure gusto and abandon. As if his bombastic vocal weren’t enough, the music’s upbeat phrasings belie his lyrics’ faux melancholy at nearly every turn.”
Summing up the track, music critic Richie Unterberger concludes:
“’Little Child’ might not be a work of genius, but it's sheer rock'n'roll fun.”
Beatle scholar Alan Pollack wasn’t nearly impressed:
“On casual acquaintance, it's easy to dislike "Little Child" for what are, by today's standards, its condescendingly wise-guy/sexist lyrics. Even a closer look at the music itself might make you think of it as a potboiling throwback to the first album because of the small number of chords, the facile melody, and simple phrasing.”
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