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John Lennon’s “Come Together” is the perfect example of a song assembled by happenstance, inspiration, timing, and influence. The work began as an offbeat campaign ditty for California gubernatorial candidate and LSD advocate Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary turned down the song, and Lennon brought the piece to the Abbey Road sessions, where it became the opening track.
The song became embroiled in a legal dispute by Chuck Berry’s infamous publisher Morris Levy. A riff and the line “Here comes old flat-top” came from Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me.” The suit was settled, but there was more legal back and forth between Lennon and Levy. Meanwhile, Lennon and Berry performed together and played each other’s songs.
Paul McCartney recalled in Rolling Stone: “I said, ‘Let’s slow it down with a swampy bass-and-drums vibe.’ I came up with a bass line and it all flowed from there.” The lyrics were “gobbledygook” according to Lennon. Others have strained to find hidden meaning. Songwriter David Virgil assigned the verses to each of the Beatles.
Jazz versions of “Come Together” in the KUVO library include adaptations by Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Bill Frisell, Charlie Sepulveda, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Bobby Timmons, Gene Harris and more!
Rolling Stone ranked “Come Together” at #205 in its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” In 1969, “Come Together” won a Grammy for Best Engineered Recording. Fun fact: The BBC banned “Come Together” because they considered the reference to Coca-Cola advertising.
John Winston Ono Lennon was born in Liverpool on October 9, 1940. He was a choirboy at St. Peter’s Church and a member of the 3rd Allerton boy Scout Troop. He got his first instrument from a bus driver: a harmonica. His mother Julia bought him John his first guitar for five pounds, 10 shillings (around $220.00 in 2018 value). But the first instrument he actually learned to play was his mother’s banjo. John Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman outside his Manhattan apartment on December 8, 1980.
John’s first band was a skiffle group called “The Blackjacks,” but the name was quickly changed to “The Quarrymen”, to which he eventually recruited Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The formation known as “The Beatles” did not get its famous name until 1960.