‘Good Night’, the tender closing song on the White Album, was written by John Lennon as a lullaby for his son Julian, and sung by Ringo Starr.

After ending their previous two albums with the monumental ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘A Day In The Life’, the White Album too was brought to a close by another Lennon song. ‘Good Night’, however, couldn’t have been more different. With its almost-schmaltzy arrangement, it served as a necessary antidote to ‘Revolution 9’.

Everybody thinks Paul wrote ‘Good Night’ for me to sing, but it was John who wrote it for me. He’s got a lot of soul, John has.
Ringo Starr, 1968

No members of The Beatles other than Starr appear on the recording. Instead, a lavish orchestral arrangement was scored by George Martin, transporting listeners back to the golden age of Hollywood.

‘Good Night’ was written for Julian the way Beautiful Boy was written for Sean, but given to Ringo and possibly overlush.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

‘Good Night’ featured twice on the 2006 album Love, firstly as a transition between ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ and ‘Octopus’s Garden’. The song reappears at the end of the album, after ‘All You Need Is Love’, accompanied by a snippet of dialogue from The Beatles’ 1965 Christmas fan club recording.

In the studio

The Beatles began work on ‘Good Night’ on the night of 28 June 1968. Five takes were recorded, with Ringo Starr on vocals and John Lennon playing guitar.

I think John felt it might not be good for his image for him to sing it but it was fabulous to hear him do it, he sang it great. We heard him sing it in order to teach it to Ringo and he sang it very tenderly. John rarely showed his tender side, but my key memories of John are when he was tender, that’s what has remained with me; those moments where he showed himself to be a very generous, loving person. I always cite that song as an example of the John beneath the surface that we only saw occasionally… I don’t think John’s version was ever recorded.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, each of these early takes opened with a spontaneous spoken preamble from Starr, “along the lines of ‘Come on children! It’s time to toddle off to bed. We’ve had a lovely day at the park and now it’s time for sleep.’ Or, ‘Put all those toys away. Yes, Daddy will sing a song for you!’ Or, ‘Cover yourself up, Charlie. Pull those covers up and off you go to dreamland!'”

A rehearsal of ‘Good Night’ with Lennon on piano was also recorded during the 28 June session. It was later released on Anthology 3, augmented with part of George Martin’s orchestral score.

Starr re-recorded his vocals on 2 July, and harmony backing vocals were also added. Following this Martin made a copy of the tape and began work on the score.

All previous recordings for ‘Good Night’ were discarded on 22 July, and recording began afresh. First to be taped was the orchestra, which took 12 takes to perfect.

Following that, the choir – four men and four women from the Mike Sammes Singers – added their parts. The last element to be taped was Starr’s lead vocals, which were recorded between 11.50pm and 1.40am.

I sang John’s song ‘Good Night’. I’ve just heard it for the first time in years and it’s not bad at all, although I think I sound very nervous. It was something for me to do.
Ringo Starr

Previous song: ‘Revolution 9’
Next album: Yellow Submarine
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