What The Monkees’ Songwriter Thought of Andy Williams’ ‘I Want to Be Free’

TL;DR:

  • Andy Williams and several other artists covered The Monkees’ “I Wanna Be Free.”
  • One of the writers of “I Wanna Be Free” discussed Williams’ rendition. 
  • “I Wanna Be Free” appeared on a hit album.
"I Want to Be Free" singer Andy Williams holding a cup of tea
Andy Williams | PA Images via Getty Images

One of the writers of The Monkees‘ “I Wanna Be Free” compared the song to The Beatles’ “Yesterday.” In the same vein as “Yesterday,” “I Wanna Be Free has been covered by several artists. One of the writers of “I Wanna Be Free” revealed what it was like to watch Andy Williams cover the song in a studio.

Why a songwriter compared The Monkees’ ‘I Wanna Be Free’ to The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’

Boyce & Hart was a songwriting partnership composed of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The pair gave the world songs like “I Wanna Be Free,” “(Theme From) The Monkees,” “Valleri,” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” In his 2015 book Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem Into Miracles, Hart compared “I Wanna Be Free” to “Yesterday” because of its strings. Subsequently, he discussed the reaction to “I Wanna Be Free.”

“It served us well when we needed a ‘Yesterday’-type string quartet ballad for [The Monkees’] first album,” he said. “It has probably been recorded by more artists than any other Boyce & Hart song. One of my favorites is the stripped-down and unplugged YouTube performance by Richard Marx.”

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What Bobby Hart thought when he watched Andy Williams perform the song

Hart explained what it was like to watch Williams record one of his songs. “One day in early 1967, Lester Sill gave us the good news that Andy Williams would be recording his own version of ‘I Wanna Be Free’ for his forthcoming Born Free album,” Hart recalled. “When Andy’s Born Free sessions were set, he invited Tommy and me to stop by the studio to meet him and sit in as he recorded our song.”

Hart was blown away. “On the appointed day, we arrived at the Columbia Records studios on Sunset and were shown into the control booth where, through the glass window, we watched as the legendary standard/pop singer breezed through a beautiful and effortless performance,” he wrote.

RELATED: Why The Monkees’ Songwriters Felt Their Songs Couldn’t Sound Too Much Like The Beatles

How the world reacted to The Monkees’ ‘I Wanna Be Free’ and Andy Williams’ cover

The Monkees’ “I Wanna Be Free” was a single but it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The song appeared on the group’s self-titled album. The Monkees topped the Billboard 200 for 13 of its 102 weeks on the chart.

Williams’ cover of “I Wanna Be Free” was called “I Want to Be Free.” His version was not a single, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It appeared on the album Born Free. The album was a hit, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and lasting 79 weeks on the chart. 

Williams’ cover of “I Wanna Be Free” wasn’t a hit but it impressed Hart.

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