The beginning of the closing sequence in Abbey Road’s long medley, ‘Golden Slumbers’ was recorded as one with ‘Carry That Weight’, and based on a poem written nearly 400 years previously.

That’s Paul, apparently from a poem he found in a book, some eighteenth-century book where he just changed the words here and there.

The song’s lyrics were taken from a ballad by the Elizabethan poet and dramatist Thomas Dekker (1570-1632). Paul McCartney saw the sheet music on the piano at his father’s home in Heswall on the Wirral.

I was playing the piano in Liverpool in my dad’s house, and my stepsister Ruth’s piano book was up on the stand. I was flicking through it and I came to ‘Golden Slumbers’. I can’t read music and I couldn’t remember the old tune, so I just started playing my own tune to it. I liked the words so I kept them, and it fitted with another bit of song I had.
Paul McCartney

This suggests that he had written ‘Carry That Weight’ already, and is therefore likely that he composed the music for ‘Golden Slumbers’ to reflect it.

Dekker’s original text was amended slightly by McCartney. The original verse, first published in 1603 in Patient Grissil, went as follows:

Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise;
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy, therefore sleep you,
You are care, and care must keep you;
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby,
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

McCartney sang ‘Golden Slumbers’ on 7 and 9 January 1969, during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions.

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight

In the studio

Recording for ‘Golden Slumbers’/‘Carry That Weight’ began while John Lennon was in hospital recovering from a road accident in Scotland. George Harrison played bass guitar and Ringo Starr was on drums.

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.

On Wednesday 2 July 1969 the three Beatles recorded 15 takes of the songs, although most were incomplete. The eight-track tape had Starr’s drums on track one; Harrison’s bass guitar on two; McCartney’s piano on three; and a guide vocal on eight.

The best of these were 13 and 15, which were edited together the following day. Takes 1-3 from this first session, meanwhile, were released in 2019 on some formats of the 50th anniversary reissue of Abbey Road.

On 30 and 31 July McCartney recorded his lead vocals, and the orchestral arrangement was added on 15 August. More overdubs were added to ‘Carry That Weight’ on other days, but the ‘Golden Slumbers’ part was a relatively straightforward recording.

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