One of the highlights of Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album Ram, ‘Dear Boy’ was a semi-autobiographical song about Linda’s first marriage.

Paul McCartney wrote it about Joseph Melvin See Jr, whom Linda had married on 18 June 1962. They had a daughter together, Heather Louise, but divorced in June 1965. See took his own life in March 2000 at his home in Tucson, Arizona.

Despite this, John Lennon thought the song, like others on Ram, was written with him in mind, an interpretation McCartney later refuted.

Dear Boy wasn’t getting at John, ‘Dear Boy’ was actually a song to Linda’s ex-husband: ‘I guess you never knew what you had missed.’ I never told him that, which was lucky, because he’s since committed suicide. And it was a comment about him, ’cause I did think, ‘Gosh, you know, she’s so amazing, I suppose you didn’t get it.’
Paul McCartney
Mojo, 2001

A significant portion of the song, however, was clearly written about Paul and Linda’s relationship, and the relief he felt at having someone’s help in the dark months following The Beatles’ break-up.

I stepped in, my heart was down and out
But her love came through and brought me round,
Got me up and about
‘Dear Boy’

The lyrics are among the most direct by McCartney, a songwriter who often shrouds his feelings in opaque metaphors or symbolism. In a 1971 interview he admitted that the words were autobiographical.

‘Dear Boy’ was my attempt at an autobiography about myself and how lucky I was to have Linda. I never realised how lucky I was to have her until I began writing the song.
Paul McCartney, 1971

A memorial service for Linda McCartney was held on 8 June 1998 at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London. The Brodsky Quartet played a series of songs written by Paul for his wife: ‘Golden Earth Girl’, ‘Dear Boy’, ‘Calico Skies’, and ‘My Love’.

In the studio

‘Dear Boy’ was recorded over five separate sessions at Sound Recorders Studios in Los Angeles, in March and April 1971. It was the penultimate song to be recorded during the Ram sessions; only ‘Dear Friend’ was taped afterwards, but was left off the album.

The first session was on 1 March, which saw Paul McCartney record the basic track with piano and vocals.

It was picked up again on 9 March. Working from 4pm till midnight, McCartney and Denny Seiwell added drums and percussion. It was an unorthodox session due to the approach taken by studio engineer Jim Guercio.

Guercio took half the drum kit away, so I could just play the kick and the snare, on one take, and and on the next take he’d take those drums away and I played the tom toms. He did it for a stereo effect, but that really wasn’t the way I normally recorded. It took away a little of the spontaneity and the realness of the drum part, although it came out okay. It was difficult, a real challenge.

Paul was sitting with his guitar in his lap, and he would play the chords with his fingers, or a slide, and I would play triplets on the strings with very light timbale sticks. It was a very unique sound.

Denny Seiwell
The McCartney Legacy – Volume 1: 1969-73, Allan Kozinn, Adrian Sinclair

On 10 March McCartney added a second piano part, electric guitar, and bass. The backing vocals were overdubbed by Paul and Linda on 10 and 12 March.

I do love harmonies, and always have. With ‘Dear Boy’ I had it obviously as an unharmonized thing because I was just singing the main vocal line myself when I wrote it. Because Linda and I both knew that she was a novice, and I was the veteran, almost, the question was how to manage those two ends of the spectrum.
Paul McCartney, 2012
Ram Archive Collection

‘Dear Boy’ was completed on 7 April 1971 with an overdub of phase shifting effects, added by Paul Beaver on a synthesizer.

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