John Lennon’s Raw, Soul-Baring Vocals From the Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (1969)

“When you’re drowning,” John Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970, “you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.’  You just scream.”

“Don’t Let Me Down” is Lennon’s anguished scream to his lover, Yoko Ono. When he and the Beatles recorded the song during the Let It Be sessions in late January of 1969, Lennon asked Ringo Starr to hit the cymbal very hard at the beginning, to “give me the courage to come screaming in.”

The Beatles were in the process of breaking apart when Lennon wrote the song. It was a dark time in my ways, and he was becoming more and more dependent upon Ono for personal and creative support. As Paul McCartney told writer Barry Miles in Many Years From Now:

It was a very tense period: John was with Yoko and had escalated to heroin and all the accompanying paranoias and he was putting himself out on a limb. I think that as much as it excited and amused him, at the same time it secretly terrified him. So ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ was a genuine plea, ‘Don’t let me down, please, whatever you do. I’m out on this limb, I know I’m doing all this stuff, just don’t let me down.’ It was saying to Yoko, ‘I’m really stepping out of line on this one. I’m really letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down.’ I think it was a genuine cry for help.

You can get a strong sense of Lennon’s anguish and vulnerability when you listen to the isolated vocal track above. And for the full arrangement, including Starr’s cymbal-crash near the beginning and Billy Preston’s brilliant electric piano playing, see below.

Related Content:

Mick Jagger Tells the Story Behind ‘Gimme Shelter’ and Merry Clayton’s Haunting Background Vocals

Listen to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie on the Isolated Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pressure,’ 1981

Kurt Cobain’s Isolated Vocal Track From ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ 1991

The Beatles’ Rooftop Concert: The Last Gig Filmed in January 1969



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  1. Cirrelia Thaxto says . . . | August 28, 2013 / 10:17 am

    This song is so moving…love the lyrics and Lennon’s vocals are so soulful…It is a great song for lovers all over the world!

  2. Brandt says . . . | August 28, 2013 / 2:09 pm

    Imagine an entire world living in peace… John saw the beauty and inherent good in humanity. I tried to do his legacy justice and channel his world-embracing and loving energy this week with a tribute portrait inspired by his music and his passion for changing the world. You can see this new work of art in memoriam on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/12/john-lennon-just-imagine.html along with some pictures showing how I created it. See John holding the Universe in his hand and spreading his message. When you stop by, let me know how his words and music have affected your life and creativity!

  3. M.R. STRINGER says . . . | August 29, 2013 / 12:19 pm

    Sure sounds like Yoko Ono was a good influence on him … not …

  4. Perry Galati says . . . | August 30, 2013 / 10:21 pm

    Imagine the music if they stayed together they were so tight so in sync at that time No one has done it better since…

  5. Doug Menning says . . . | September 6, 2013 / 12:50 pm

    I sing Like that.

  6. Steve says . . . | December 9, 2013 / 10:47 pm

    People don’t chose who to love. :)

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