In 1998, legendary Beatles’ producer George Martin—all set to “hang up his earphones” and retire— brought together the most unusual assortment of people for In My Life, a tribute album composed entirely of Martin-produced Beatles’ songs performed primarily by actors and comedians. Goldie Hawn gives a “giggly nightclub chanteuse” reading of “A Hard Day’s Night,” Billy Connolly does a slightly cracked version of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” Jim Carrey covers “I Am the Walrus” (in a musical performance surprisingly subdued next to, for example, his rendition of ”Somebody to Love”), and Sean Connery closes things out with a somber reading of “In My Life.”
But the album’s opening track is its best: Robin Williams and Bobby McFerrin’s duet of “Come Together” redeems many of the record’s weakest moments. Just above, hear the track over a fan-made slideshow of Williams highlights. Williams and McFerrin had teamed up before in the wonderfully silly video for “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Here, with ample help from Martin’s lush production, they manage to evoke the slinky, seductive weirdness of the original song while simultaneously having a goofy old time of it. Popmatters editor Sarah Zupko, a self-confessed Beatlemaniac who otherwise found the album a supreme disappointment, calls Williams’ “leering” through the song “a hoot,” and I’m sure you’ll agree.
Just above, watch a one-hour BBC documentary on the making of In My Life. At 9:30, see Williams, Martin, and McFerrin in the hysterical recording sessions for their “Come Together” cover. Martin admits that he asked Williams to join the project “with some trepidation,” then realized that “it was with some trepidation” that Williams accepted. It was Williams who suggested “bringing along a mate,” McFerrin, whom he calls “a one-man accompaniment.” Among many other charms, the short doc features Martin throughout explaining not only the process of recording In My Life, but also his memories of the original recording sessions for these songs, clearly so dear to him and his proudest legacy. But of course, given our national period of mourning for the warm, brilliantly funny, deeply humane, and tragically sad Robin Williams, the real joy is seeing him here in much happier times, encouraging and praising the talents of others even as he shines so brightly alongside them.