There are few songwriters that can surpass the quality that John Lennon was able to compose as a part of The Beatles and as a solo artist. Usually, what would happen is that whoever wrote the song would sing it as well. But, There’s one track that the troubled Beatle wrote that was just too contradictory to his reputation. That is why he gave that song from the White Album to a fellow member of the fab four, Ringo Starr to sing. This was because the track was too emotionally charged and delicate for Lennon to handle. So, he chose Ringo to do the deed for him, and it was the right choice.
John Lennon – The rock star
By 1968, John Lennon was gaining a reputation as a bonafide rock star among The Beatles. This was because he was getting more outspoken in his interviews and became the more dominant of the other Beatles. In short, he was truly cultivating the image of a rough rock star. He truly wanted to be authentic, as he told the Rolling Stones Magazine in an interview back in 1968:
“You can give me a guitar, stand me up in front of a few people. Even in the studio, if I’m getting into it, I’m just doing my old bit… not quite doing Elvis Legs but doing my equivalent. It’s just natural. Everybody says we must do this and that but our thing is just rocking. You know, the usual gig. That’s what this new record is about. Definitely rocking.”
However, it did not mean that the White Album did not have any tenderness or delicate songs. Lennon wrote a couple of wonderfully delicate songs in it as well. One of them was Julia, for his deceased mother. However, the other one was too delicate for him to sing himself. It went against the image of a rock star he wanted to cultivate of himself so fundamentally, that he instead gave it to Ringo Starr. The song we’re talking about is ‘Good Night’.
Good Night – A song too delicate for John Lennon
Lennon told David Sheff in 1980 that the song was for his firstborn, Julian Lennon:
“‘Good Night’ was written for Julian, the way ‘Beautiful Boy’ was written for Sean… but given to Ringo and possibly over lush.”
The song was just too sentimental for John Lennon to attach himself with it. What Lennon would usually do is that he’d balance this side of his songwriting with Paul McCartney. And it became evident when people heard ‘Good Night’ for the first time, as all of them thought that Paul wrote that song and not Lennon. John said in 1968:
“Everybody thinks Paul wrote ‘Good Night’ for me to sing, but it was John who wrote it for me. He’s got a lot of soul, John has.”
Paul McCartney said the same about Lennon, saying:
“John wrote it, mainly. It’s his tune, uhh, which is surprising for John— ‘cuz he doesn’t normally write this kind of tune. It’s a very sweet tune, and Ringo sings it great, I think… very sort of lush, sweet arrangement.”
Ringo Starr did a perfect job on the song
Ringo Starr gave just the perfect touch of delicacy and tenderness to ‘Good Night’. The song reflected fatherhood and shows one of the few moments John Lennon expressed vulnerability. Paul McCartney recalled in 1994 how great a job the Beatles drummer did in singing it and how John taught him to do it:
“I think John felt it might not be good for his image for him to sing it, but it was fabulous to hear him do it, he sang it great. We heard him sing it in order to teach it to Ringo and he sang it very tenderly. John rarely showed his tender side, but my key memories of John are when he was tender, that’s what has remained with me— those moments where he showed himself to be a very generous, loving person. I always cite that song as an example of the John beneath the surface that we only saw occasionally… I don’t think John’s version was ever recorded.”
It’s a shame that we could never get to hear John Lennon’s version of ‘Good Night’. But, it’s sad to think that he couldn’t sing this song just to create appease a reputation that he wanted to manifest in the eyes of the public. However, Ringo Starr truly displayed the wonder of his vocal talents. It’s a testament to the talent that The Beatles possessed.