Ranking the 6 Best Beatles Songs on Which Only One Member Appears

The Beatles succeeded in large part due to the chemistry evident whenever the four men plugged into play. They honed that chemistry via years of playing live shows, as they learned how to complement each other on both their original songs and choice covers.

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But there were a few times during their amazing run where individual members would go sort of solo, even though those songs were released on Beatles albums. Let’s rank the best six of these Beatles/solo tracks.

6. “Good Night”

The White Album is the source for many of these recordings featuring just one of The Beatles. After all, it was a time when the group was churning out a ton of material and weren’t always waiting on the others to do it. “Good Night” is the only one of these songs, however, where the lone member appearing didn’t write the track. Ringo Starr was given the opportunity to close out the double album with this lullaby, credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney (although by all accounts Lennon did most of the writing). And Starr does a charming job with it, even if the song isn’t too substantial.

5. “Julia”

Many folks know how John Lennon addressed the pain of mother’s death on his solo song “Mother.” But he first called out to her on this meditative acoustic track from the White Album, one where no other Beatle appears. It’s just Lennon and his acoustic guitar, trying to come to terms with the memories of his mother that haunted him. “Julia” is quite a lovely song, but the imagery is sort of vague and laboriously poetic. It doesn’t really render a flesh-and-blood portrait of his mother as much as idealize her. As a result, it doesn’t hit nearly as hard as the later song, where he fearlessly confronts her premature death.

4. “Mother Nature’s Son”

The Beatles wrote much of The White Album while in India on meditation retreat. Needless to say, the idyllic surroundings influenced more than a few of those songs, with “Mother Nature’s Son” coming from Paul McCartney. (John Lennon wrote a song with a similar theme, but later kept the music and changed the words to create his solo song “Jealous Guy.”) This infinitely melodic track finds McCartney getting the help of some brass musicians (but no Beatles) to express the bond he feels with the outdoors, a bond that also ties into his love of solitude and making music.

3. “Within You, Without You”

Although no Beatle members appear on this track besides George Harrison, Neil Aspinall, a longtime member of their association, does play the tambura. Otherwise, Harrison gathered and arranged Indian musicians to give this song an authentic Eastern music vibe. But he also added cellos and violins to kind of tie the hemispheres together in an impressive music-making feat. Just as impressive are the lyrics, as Harrison writes with startling clarity about the need for unity, since all the things that separate us are, in his estimation, illusory anyway.

2. “Yesterday”

When a song is played as much as “Yesterday” has, from every imaginable radio format to every possible cover version, you might think it would become aural wallpaper. Yet if you focus on it the next time you hear it and let all distractions fall away, you’re likely to be mesmerized by it anew, just as audiences in 1965 were upon hearing it for the first time. Paul McCartney felt sheepish about the song at first and self-conscious about the fact the other members weren’t on it. The fact that the other three realized the solo version was proper and didn’t object says a lot about their dedication and contribution to the band’s greatness.

1. “Blackbird”

Paul McCartney wrote this song with the Civil Rights movement in his mind. While John Lennon always received the credit for being the most overtly political of the group, here was McCartney taking his own subtle stand and not beating his chest about it. In that way, the focus goes to where it should. There’s a kind of dignity he lends to the bird to whom he’s singing, but there’s also an undeniable sadness that creeps now and again into the melody. In this way, “Blackbird” acknowledges the pain while also landing on hope as its dominant emotional tone.

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