The Beatles

Golden Slumbers

Song Review by

"Golden Slumbers" is the song that starts the second section of the "medley" portion of Abbey Road that drives the album to its conclusion. (As an aside, much of what's written about Abbey Road seems to view the medley section of songs seguing into each other as an uninterrupted one, starting with either "You Never Give Me Your Money" or "Mean Mr. Mustard," and ending with the end of "The End." In fact, however, there is a brief but definite gap of silence between "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Golden Slumbers.") "Golden Slumbers" is an example of something Paul McCartney, the principal composer, might have done better than anyone in rock: write and sing a song that in the hands of almost anyone else might have been viewed as gushing sentimentalism, but make it effectively powerful instead of dripping sap. There's a slightly bittersweet nostalgic feel to this brief, piano-based ballad, as if the singer's remembering the more secure times of childhood. This yields, though, to a reassurance of almost parental security as McCartney promises to sing a lullaby, leading into an almost anthemic, earthy section (bolstered by subtle orchestration) in which he exhorts us to smile away our tears. The slightly nursery rhyme or folk-hymn feel of the lyrics is not a coincidence. The words came from a traditional lullaby, "Golden Slumbers," by Thomas Dekker, first published in 1603. McCartney came across it in a songbook when visiting his father's house, and as he was unable to read the music, he made up his own tune to the words, adding some new ones as well. Though some might be tempted to stretch things and view "Golden Slumbers" as a plea to his chums in the Beatles to remember better times and steer homeward as they began to break up, it in fact was begun a good while before it was recorded, as bootleg recordings of early versions played during the Let It Be film rehearsals in January 1969 reveal. Some of the more famous singers to cover "Golden Slumbers" include Lou Rawls, John Denver, and Jackson Browne. It was also covered by a band on the Beatles' Apple label, Trash, on a 1969 single.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Abbey Road 1969 Apple Records / Capitol
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 1:31
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 Capitol 1:31
The Beatles USB 2009 Capitol / EMI 1:31