Meaning Behind the Song: “Something” by the Beatles

Following the Beatles’ grander opus “Come Together” opening their epic Abbey Road, “Something” left a softer sting of love and longing. The song presented George Harrison as more of a songwriting force within the group.

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Released as a double A-side single, along with “Come Together,” “Something” was the only song written by Harrison — among the deeper line of songs penned by John Lennon and Paul McCartney for the group — that was released as a single by the Beatles. Both songs spent a week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

James Taylor

Around the time the song was written, James Taylor was signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records. Harrison reportedly came up with the title and the first line after listening to Taylor’s 1968 song “Something In The Way She Moves.”

“I felt hugely flattered. I had played this song for George and Paul as my audition and I think it had just sort of stuck in his mind,” said Taylor in 2021. “But he didn’t realize that. I think all music is reiteration. I think we just pick stuff up and use it again. I mean, there are just 12 notes.”

Digging into the meaning of the song, the opening verse talks about a lover who has a insatiable hold over him:

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

Pattie Boyd

Written and sung by Harrison, “Something” was partly inspired by his then-wife, Pattie Boyd. When asked in 1969 during an interview on BBC with David Wigg, who inspired the classic Abbey Road song, Harrison said: “Maybe Pattie, probably.”

In her 2007 book, Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me, Boyd said that “Something” was written about her.

“George wrote a song called ‘Something,’” wrote Boyd. “He told me in a matter-of-fact way that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful and it turned out to be the most successful song he ever wrote, with more than 150 cover versions.

“George’s favorite version was the one by James Brown. Mine was the one by George Harrison, which he played to me in our kitchen. But, in fact, by then our relationship was in trouble.”

Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don’t need no other lover
Something in her style that shows me
I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

You’re asking me will my love grow
I don’t know, I don’t know
You stick around, now it may show
I don’t know, I don’t know

Married to Harrison from 1966-1977, Boyd also inspired two Eric Clapton songs — his earlier 1970 classic “Layla,” written about his then-forbidden love for her, and the 1977 release “Wonderful Tonight.” Boyd and Clapton were married from 1979 through 1988.

Joe Cocker

Harrison wrote “Something” while the Beatles were working on The White Album, and initially gave the song to Joe Cocker, who didn’t release it until a month after Abbey Road was out.

More Meaning: Hare Krishna

Harrison later said that the song was inspired by his deepened studies of Krishna Consciousness. Initially, the song was meant as a devotion to Lord Krishna, but he eventually changed the line Something in the way he moves, to Something in the way she moves.

For the second line, Harrison apparently scrapped attracts me like a pomegranate, and went with attracts me like no other lover.

“The words are nothing, really,” said Harrison in 1969. “There are lots of songs like that in my head. I must get them down. Some people tell me that ‘Something’ is one of the best things I’ve ever written. I don’t know. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong. It’s very flattering though. It’s nice. It’s probably the nicest melody tune that I’ve written.”

Beatles’ Songwriter

Along with Harrison’s other Abbey Road track, “Here Comes the Sun,” which remains the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify, his contribution to the album shifted his recognition as a songwriter within the band alongside Lennon and McCartney. 

Throughout the Beatles’ catalog, Harrison also wrote “Don’t Bother Me,” off their second album, With the Beatles, along with Help! tracks, “I Need You” and “You Like Me Too Much.” 

Still “Something”

Lennon considered “Something” his favorite song on Abbey Road.

Used in a Chrysler cars commercial in 1987, “Something” also earned the prestigious Ivor Novello Award in 1969. The song has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Johnny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Tanya Tucker, Elvis Presley, Barbra Mandrell, and Willie Nelson.

The Foo Fighters’ song “Oh George,” off their 1995 eponymous album, was a tribute to the Beatle and inspired by Harrison’s guitar on “Something.” The song was the first that lead singer Dave Grohl learned to play on guitar.

In 2002, McCartney performed “Something” on tour using a ukulele Harrison once gifted him. Years later, Harrison’s former Traveling Wilburys’ bandmate Jeff Lynne, along with son Dhani Harrison and Joe Walsh performed “Something” on the CBS special The Beatles: The Night That Changed America in 2014.

Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images

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