Top Ten Songs by the Beatles

I grew up with the Beatles. I was eight years old when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. I was a young teenager when the White Album came out, an album that everyone my age that I knew played constantly. Beatles music was always there, providing the background for my life. And at the same time I was changing and growing up, the Beatles were also changing and growing, always a step ahead of me. They led the way. It was if they were my big brothers, – if I had had big brothers who were among the most talented men of their generation..

One could easily put together a list of the top 100 Beatles songs, so a list of ten, by necessity, must be highly subjective. These are some of the songs that most appeal to me. The order is roughly chronological.

1. I’ll Follow the Sun

I love the melody on this song. The first four notes of the sung words – “One day, you’ll look” – are beautiful, rising up in what (I think) is a minor key – it’s a sound that’s both unexpected and just right. From the Beatles ’65 album.

2. In My Life

This song has a beautiful, haunting melody. The words are also haunting and powerful, evoking both the bitter-sweetness of looking back, and the power of love in the present. From Rubber Soul.

3. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)

This song tells a story. Or it seems like a story. One thing happens, and then another. But what does it mean? What is this “Norwegian wood” that they sing about, and why is it “good”? There’s a lot to speculate about in this cryptic poetic song, and it’s fun to speculate. The song also has a catchy melody that trips down the scale and is fun to sing. From Rubber Soul.

4. Good Day Sunshine

A feel-good song with great harmonies. From Revolver.

5. With a Little Help from My Friends

Another feel-good classic. From Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band

6. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Beautiful melody, words, and guitar playing grace this heartfelt George Harrison song. From the White Album.

7. Revolution

This song, released at a time when revolution was in the air, was surprisingly anti-revolutionary: “But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao / You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow / Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright.” I think it expresses the difficulty of the times, and shows that the simple answers, that so many longed for, just weren’t there. From the White Album.

8. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

This song is an odd juxtaposition of grotesque cartoonish violence in the lyrics and an upbeat bouncy melody. Somehow, this strange combination works, and it’s a lot of fun to sing, especially the lines with the “Oh, oh, oh”s and the “Bang, bang” chorus. Try singing it in a group, and you might just end up giggling uncontrollably. From Abbey Road.

9 . Here Comes the Sun

I live in a foggy neighborhood in a foggy city. It’s a common experience for me to be walking along on a gray day, and all of a sudden the fog will lift – sometimes for the rest of the day, sometimes just for a moment – and welcome rays of sunlight will appear, and I’ll be so happy, and I’ll start singing to myself, in my head, or under my breath, or sometimes even out loud, “Here Comes the Sun.” It captures the moment perfectly. From Abbey Road.

10. Let It Be

This is a song that sounds like a prayer. It’s sad and soothing at the same time. From Let It Be.


In no particular order, these are some of the other songs I was considering for this list: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Yesterday,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Baby’s in Black,” “Michelle,” “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Penny Lane,” “Help,” “Money Can’t Buy Me Love,” “And I Love Her,” “Nowhere Man,” “Fool on the Hill,” “I Am the Walrus,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Till There Was You,” “When I’m 64,” “We Can Work it Out,” “Something,” “Yesterday,” and “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

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