In less than 10 years, The Beatles produced over 200 songs, which often makes it hard to come up with a favorite. But, when I heard “In My Life” for the first time, I just loved it. I think those are the most powerful and even poetic songs: the ones that immediately speak to you, transcend your pain, and stay with you all those years later (and of course what Perrine said too). I have memories even now listening to this with my sister while dropping her off at college, with my dad on any given night, and with myself during stressful moments.
This is the song that when people tell me they aren’t Beatles fans I tell them they should listen to. Though I’m not as big of a fan of their earlier work, this song is the highlight of their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It’s credited to both Lennon and McCartney, but Lennon wrote most of the lyrics here. It tends to be a favorite among many Beatles fans, and, well I think that’s because it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever.
The song starts off with a nostalgic tone as Lennon reflects on past places and people in his life. He begins, “There are places I’ll remember/All my life, though some have changed” and continues, “With lovers and friends, I still can recall/Some are dead, and some are living/ In my life, I’ve loved them all”. I think this first verse is particuallry strong because though he uses some vague language, you can tell he looks fondly upon on these memories. To the reader, there is not much specificity, but that really sets up the second half of the song by emphasizing that his current lover is more important to him.
Lennon said that this song was the first time he put his “literary self” into music, and I think that really shows. It has such a reflective and nostalgic tone. He effortlessly discusses the different influential people in his life and how much love he had for all of them. The tone of this song converys the reflection Lennon was doing while he wrote it and pulls the listener in. It makes you stop and reflect on similar people in your own life.
While he begins the song by reflecting on past moments, places, and friends, he quickly transitions to the present in the 2nd verse. He switches to addressing his current, “imaginary” lover (this is pre Yoko Ono). He writes, “But of all these friends and lovers/There is no one compares with you.”
That shift in time is something we’ve seen in a lot of poems. In “Those Winter Sundays” the author shifts from writing about what he remembers to what he understands. Lennon does the same here. I think that shift is an example of multidimensional language as it adds to the overall reflection of the song. He is able to convey how much his current best friend and lover means to him in contrast to past people.
As with many Beatles songs, there is a poetic flow. The lyrics are beautiful and descriptive and the melodies only make it better. On their own, the lyrics are poetry to me because they conjure up images of friends and specific places that Lennon was thinking about at the time.
Towards the end of the song he writes, “For people and things that went before/I know I’ll often stop and think about them/In my life, I’ll love you more.” “Penny Lane” is famous for literally describing a place, but this song does the same. The images that Lennon creates here are extremely powerful because where his own memories are more vague, you as the listener fill in your own. Perrine, in describing poetry, discussed how it’s about experience and this song fits exactly that. Lennon makes it easy for the listener to understand his experience while reflecting on their own experience with life and meaningful people.