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The sophisticated Beatles fan can sometimes tell which Beatle wrote which song just by listening to it. The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” doesn’t sound like it was written by John Lennon and it wasn’t. However, Paul McCartney said John was behind one of the most important parts of the song. Here’s why that matters.

The Beatles’ ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ broke a stereotype

One of the major stereotypes surrounding The Beatles is that John was behind the darker or more experimental tunes while Paul wrote sentimental pop tunes. This theory is not without evidence. After all, Paul was the writer behind “The Long and Winding Road,” “Blackbird,” and “And I Love Her,” while John gave us “Revolution 9,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Across the Universe.” However, there are exceptions to every rule, such as when John added a key component to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul discussed the creation of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” “I remember being in the studio with George and Ringo, struggling with an acoustic version of the song,” he said. John was late for the session but when he arrived he bounced in, apologizing, in a very good mood.

“He sat down at the piano and instantly played the blue-beat-style intro,” he added. “We were very pleased with his fresh attitude. It turned us on and turned the whole song around. He and I worked hard on the vocals, and I remember the two of us in the studio having a whale of a time.”

John Lennon needed to add ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ to ‘The White Album’

In a way, John adding the intro to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is musical growth. It sounds almost like old-time circus music or the type of music one would hear at music halls. Considering the fact that John was The Beatle who eschewed that style, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” proved he could go there if he saw fit. In some ways, it’s the predecessor to “Whatever Get You Thru the Night,” another novelty song that was one of John’s biggest hits as a solo artist. 

It’s easy to rag on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” for being cute and superfluous. After all, it lacks the musical experimentation that makes John a rock god. However, it appears on The White Album. The whole point of that album is that it’s a sprawling journey through every type of music imaginable. It includes ska, pop, folk, hard-rock, blues, avant-garde music, and even vaudeville. If an album like that didn’t have novelty songs, it would be woefully incomplete. 


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A music professor analyzed The Beatles’ ‘The White Album’

William Moylan is a professor of music and sound recording technology at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. During a 2018 interview with Billboard, he described the significance of The White Album. “It’s really where The Beatles are exploring their own individuality, and they’re still working off the collective,” he said. “They’re coming out of Sgt. Pepper’s and they’re coming out of Magical Mystery Tour and they’re coming out of the psychedelia,” Moylan said. “They’re branching out into popular music, into musical theater, back to rock, even Tin Pan Alley-type pieces.”

Without “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” John wouldn’t have branched out as much.