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"With a Little Help from My Friends" (originally titled "A Little Help from My Friends") is a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, released on The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. The song was written for and sung by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr as the character "Billy Shears"; it is ranked #304 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed this song for the first time together at the David Lynch Benefit Concert in the Radio City Music Hall, New York in April 2009.


Lennon and McCartney finished writing this song in mid-March 1967, written specifically as Starr's track for the album. It was briefly called Bad Finger Boogie (later the inspiration for the band name Badfinger), supposedly because Lennon composed the melody on a piano using his middle finger after having hurt his forefinger; but in his 1980 Playboy interview Lennon said: "This is Paul, with a little help from me. 'What do you see when you turn out the light/ I can't tell you, but I know it's mine...' is mine."

Lennon and McCartney deliberately wrote a tune with a limited range - except for the last note, which McCartney worked closely with Starr to achieve.Speaking in the Anthology, Starr insisted on changing the first line which originally was "What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and throw tomatoes at me?" He changed the lyric so that fans would not throw tomatoes at him should he perform it live. (In the early days, after George Harrison made a passing comment that he liked jelly babies, the group was showered with them at all of their live performances.)

The song's composition is unusually well documented as Hunter Davies was present and described the writing process in the Beatles' official biography.

The song is largely in the form of a conversation, in which the other three Beatles sing a question and Starr answers, for example: "Would you believe in a love at first sight? / Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time."

The band started recording the song the same day that they posed for the Sgt. Pepper album cover (30 March 1967). The session finished at 7:30 the following morning.


Personnel per Ian MacDonald

Cover versions

There are numerous interpretations of the song and it has achieved the number one position on the British singles charts three times; by Joe Cocker in 1968, Wet Wet Wet in 1988 and by Sam and Mark in 2004.

Joe Cocker version

Joe Cocker's version was a radical re-arrangement of the original, in a slower, 6/8 meter, in a different key, using different chords in the middle eight, and a lengthy instrumental introduction (featuring drums by Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson, guitar lines from Jimmy Page, and organ by a young Steve Winwood). It was used as the opening theme song of the American television series The Wonder Years and is one of Joe Cocker's most famous songs. Cocker can be seen performing the song at Woodstockmarker in 1969 and can be seen in the related documentary film, "3 Days of Peace and Music". The cover was ranked #2 in UpVenue's top 10 best music covers of all time in 2009. The version heard in the film Across the Universe segues from the original to Joe Cocker's arrangement at the end of the song.

Wet Wet Wet version

Wet Wet Wet's version was released on 9 May 1988. The proceeds from sales of the single, which spent four weeks at Number One in the UK chart, were around £600,000, all of which was donated to ChildLine, the UK-based charity for abused children. Billy Bragg's performance of "She's Leaving Home" was the joint A-side. Vocalist Marti Pellow recorded his own version of the song for inclusion on his 2002 album Marti Pellow Sings the Hits of Wet Wet Wet & Smile.

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