The Beatles’ ‘Michelle’ Was Inspired by 1 Lyric From a Nina Simone Song

TL;DR:

  • John Lennon was listening to a Nina Simone song before co-writing The Beatles’ “Michelle.”
  • John said The Beatles’ “Michelle” would have been different if it was written solely by Paul McCartney.
  • “Michelle” appeared on a classic album.
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon playing songs on a stage
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Beatles‘ “Michelle” doesn’t sound much like Nina Simone’s songs. Dispute this John Lennon said one part of a Simone song influenced “Michelle.” In addition, John revealed “Michelle” would have sounded very different if Paul McCartney had written it by himself.

The line from Nina Simone’s ‘I Put a Spell on You’ that inspired The Beatles’ ‘Michelle’

The book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview With John Lennon and Yoko Ono includes an interview from 1980. In the book, John discusses writing The Beatles’ “Michelle” with Paul. “He and I were staying somewhere and he walked in and hummed the first few bars, with the words, you know [sings verse of ‘Michelle’], and he says, ‘Where do I go from here?'” 

John revealed one line from a Simone song influenced “Michelle.” “I had been listening to Nina Simone — I think it was ‘I Put a Spell on You,'” he recalled. “There was a line in it that went [taps his fingers and sings, gruffly]: ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’ That’s what made me think of the middle eight for ‘Michelle’: [sings] ‘I love you, I love you, I l-o-ove you.'” 

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What John Lennon thought ‘Michelle’ would sound like if Paul McCartney wrote the song himself

John discussed “Michelle” in the context of The Beatles’ other songs. “So … my contribution to Paul’s songs was always to add a little bluesy edge to them,” he opined. “Otherwise, y’know, ‘Michelle’ is a straight ballad, right?”

The “Imagine” singer said he and Paul had different musical styles. “He provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes,” he recalled. “There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies, that Paul wrote those.”

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How ‘Michelle’ and ‘I Put a Spell on You’ and its parent album performed on the charts in the United States

Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You” did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. She released the track on the album of the same name. The album I Put a Spell on You reached No. 99 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for eight weeks.

“Michelle” was never released as a single in the United States, so didn’t hit the Billboard Hot 100. The Beatles included “Michelle” on the album Rubber Soul. The album topped the Billboard 200 for six weeks, remaining on the chart for 70 weeks.

“Michelle” is a great song and it wouldn’t be the same without Simone’s influence.

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