"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 the Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr as the character "Billy Shears". It was ranked No. 311 on Rolling Stone's list of the500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


 [hide*1 Origins


Lennon and McCartney finished writing this song in mid-March 1967,[1] written specifically as Starr's track for the album. It was briefly called "Bad Finger Boogie" (later the inspiration for the band name Badfinger),[2] 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." However in a 1970 interview Lennon stated: "Paul had the line about 'a little help from my friends.' He had some kind of structure for it, and we wrote it pretty well fifty-fifty from his original idea." McCartney said: "It was pretty much co-written, John and I doing a work song for Ringo, a little craft job."[3]

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 think if I sang out of tune? Would you throw ripe 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.)[4]

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 partly 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 day before they posed for the Sgt. Pepper album cover (29 March 1967), wrapping up the session at 5:45 in the morning.[5] At dawn, Starr trudged up the stairs to head home – but the other Beatles cajoled him into doing his lead vocal then and there, standing around the microphone for moral support.[3]


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[6]

Cover versions[edit]Edit

There have been at least 50 cover versions of the song[7] and it has achieved the number one position on the British singles charts three times: by Joe Cocker in 1968,[8] Wet Wet Wet in 1988[9] and by Sam & Mark in 2004. The song was also covered by Mumford & Sons and Dawes on the Tour of Two Halves in 2012.[10] Mumford & Sons also covered the song to close out their headline set at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival with Vampire WeekendThe Vaccines,First Aid Kit, and The Staves on 30 June 2013.[11]

"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Single by Joe Cocker
from the album With a Little Help from My Friends
Released October 1968 (UK)
Format 7"
Recorded 1968
Genre Blues rockhard rock
Length 5:11
Label Regal Zonophone
Joe Cocker singles chronology
"With a Little Help from My Friends"


"Delta Lady"


Joe Cocker version[edit]Edit

English singer Joe Cocker's version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" was a radical re-arrangement of the original, in a slower, 6/8 meter, 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 Tommy Eyre). Cocker performed the song at Woodstock in 1969 and that performance was included in the documentary filmWoodstock. His cover was ranked number two in UpVenue's top 10 best music covers of all time in 2009.[12] The version heard in the film Across the Universe segues from the original to Cocker's arrangement at the end of the song. In 2001, Cocker's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[13]


"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Single by Wet Wet Wet
B-side "She's Leaving Home" (performed byBilly Bragg)
Released 9 May 1988 (UK)
Format 7"
Recorded 1988
Genre Pop
Label PolyGram
Wet Wet Wet singles chronology


"With a Little Help from My Friends"


"Sweet Surrender"


"With a Little Help from My Friends"
Single by Sam & Mark
Released 9 February 2004 (UK)
Format CD
Genre Pop
Label S
Sam & Mark singles chronology
"With a Little Help from My Friends"


"The Sun Has Come Your Way"


Cultural references[edit]Edit

Janice sang this song as an opening number to an episode of The Muppet Show where other members of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem were pretending to rescue her from a Hindu human sacrifice.

Sesame Street spoofed this song as "With a Little Yelp from My Friends", sung by a dog named Moe Cocker, which spoofs Joe Cocker.

The Joe Cocker version was used as the title music for the 1988–1993 television series The Wonder Years. "With a Little Help from My Friends" was played as wake-up music on Space Shuttle Mission STS-61.[14]

On Saturday Night Live, Season-1 Ep.3: John Belushi performed a full-length impression of Cocker singing this song.

To date, Starr has closed every concert with each version of his All-Starr Band with this song. After he is done singing, Starr tells the audience "Peace and love...peace and love is the only way" and good night, then walks off the stage. Since 2008, the band segued right into "Give Peace a Chance", during which Starr comes back onstage, then walks off again.

Starr performed the song with George HarrisonEric Clapton and Elton John at the 1987 Prince's Trust Concert at Wembley Arena, London.[15] McCartney and Starr performed this song for the first time together at the David Lynch Foundation Benefit Concert in the Radio City Music Hall, New York on 4 April 2009.[16]

The cult PBS film The Lathe of Heaven (from 1980) uses the original recording of the song. The main character (George Orr), who can manipulate reality with his dreams, comes upon a 45 of the song at a novelty shop run by an alien. The alien hands George the 45 saying "Help is available." The song plays in the soundtrack and morphs into a synthesizer version. The film was out of circulation for over 20 years. When it was finally re-aired on PBS and released on DVD in 2001, many fans were upset that the original Beatles recording was replaced by a singer with an acoustic guitar. This was due to changes in publishing rights that have occurred since 1980 involving the dissolution of The Beatles' original Northern Songs and the acquisition by Sony/ATV (partly owned by the Jackson family).

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