Paul McCartney Based a Song From The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ on a 1600s Poem

One of the songs Paul McCartney wrote for The Beatles’ Abbey Road was based on a poem from the 1600s. Paul owned the sheet music for another song based on the same poem. Despite this, Paul decided to write his own song using the same words.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon in a billboard based on the cover of The Beatles' 'Abbey Road'
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon | Robert Landau / Contributor via Getty Images

Paul McCartney called a track from The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ ‘a very beautiful lullaby’

According to the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul received some sheet music his stepsister owned. One of the pieces of sheet music was a song based on the poem “Cradle Song” from Thomas Dekker’s play Patient Grissel, which was first published in 1603. “I liked the words so much,” Paul said.

Despite this, Paul couldn’t play the song as written. “I thought it was very restful, a very beautiful lullaby, but I couldn’t read the melody, not being able to read music,” he recalled. “So I just took the words and wrote my own music. I didn’t know at the time it was four hundred years old.”

Paul revealed what he thought of “Golden Slumbers,” the song derived from Dekker’s poem. “I remember trying to get a very strong vocal on it, because it was such a gentle theme, so I worked on the strength of the vocal on it, and ended up quite pleased with it.” “Golden Slumbers” makes some minor alterations to Dekker’s words.

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What George Harrison thought of the song and ‘Abbey Road’ as a whole

George discussed “Golden Slumbers” as well. According to the book George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters, George discussed Abbey Road during a 1969 interview. He called the album “pretty good,” calling “Because” his favorite track.

George explained why he enjoyed “Because.” “Just because I like three-part harmony,” he said. “We’ve never done something like that for years, I think, since a B-side, ‘If you wear red tonight, and what I said tonight.'” For context, George was quoting The Beatles’ “Yes It Is.”

George further praised “Because.” “So I like that,” he said. “I like, I dunno — I like lots of them. I like ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’ and ‘Golden Slumbers’ and things.”

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How The Beatles’ ‘Golden Slumbers’ performed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

The Beatles never released “Golden Slumbers” as a single so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The song first appeared on Abbey Road. For 11 weeks, the album topped the Billboard 200. Abbey Road stayed on the chart for 460 weeks in total.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Golden Slumbers” never charted in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Abbey Road was No. 1 in the U.K. for 17 weeks. The album lasted 97 weeks on the chart.

“Golden Slumbers” was never a hit but it has an interesting connection to literature.

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