‘Little Child’ was another of The Beatles’ original songs on their second album. Although written with Ringo Starr in mind, it was recorded with the writers sharing vocal duties.

‘Little Child’ was another effort of Paul and I to write a song for somebody. It was probably Ringo.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

According to Paul McCartney, ‘Little Child’ was inspired in part by 1950s folk singer Elton Hayes. He acknowledged the melody’s debt to ‘Whistle My Love’, which featured in the 1952 Walt Disney film The Story Of Robin Hood.

’I’m so sad and lonely’, that little bit came from a line: ‘Whistle, my love, and I will come to thee, I’ll always find you’. It’s actually not the same tune, but in my mind it was a quote from Elton Hayes.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for Little Child

In the studio

‘Little Child’, never part of The Beatles’ live set, took some time to get right in the studio. They recorded it over three sessions at Abbey Road, initially laying down two takes on 11 September 1963, then returning to it the following day for a further 16 takes, including overdubs of harmonica and piano.

They had to be fairly simple. [Ringo] didn’t have a large vocal range but he could handle things with good con brio and spirito if they were nice and simple. It had to be something he could get behind. If he couldn’t picture it, you were in trouble. This one was co-written with John.

The Beatles were still dissatisfied with their progress, however, and recorded three more takes on 3 October 1963. Despite spending a considerable amount of time on the song by 1963 standards, the performance sounds spontaneous and, at times, fairly slapdash.

‘Little Child’ was a work job. Certain songs were inspirational and you just followed that. Certain other songs were, ‘Right, come on, two hours, song for Ringo for the album’.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Previous song: ‘Don’t Bother Me’
Next song: ‘Till There Was You’
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