The Legacy of Lennon–McCartney

John Lennon and Paul McCartney songwriting partnership is one of the most successful musical collaborations in history. Their partnership proved inspirational as the blueprint to which future band partnerships would follow. 

Lennon and McCartney first met on 6 July 1957, at a local church fête, where Lennon was playing with his skiffle group, the Quarrymen. McCartney impressed Lennon with his ability on the guitar. Soon after, Lennon asked McCartney if he would join the Quarrymen. McCartney accepted, and there the legacy was born.

They both lost their mother when they were teenagers. Lennon when he was 17 and McCartney when he was 14. 

Lennon and McCartney first musical idols were the Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and they learned many of their songs and imitated their sound.

Unlike many songwriting partnerships that comprise separate lyricist and composer, both Lennon and McCartney wrote words and music. Sometimes, especially early on, they would collaborate extensively when writing songs, working "eyeball to eyeball" as Lennon put it.

Lennon and McCartney agreed that all songs written by them (whether individually or jointly) should be credited to both of them. The precise date of the agreement is unknown. However, some other compositions from the band's early years are not credited to Lennon-McCartney.

Lennon–McCartney credit makes up the majority of the Beatles' catalogue. But, on their next three releases the following year ("Please Please Me", Please Please Me LP, and "From Me to You"), the credit was given as McCartney–Lennon. With "She Loves You" which released in August 1963, the credit reverted to Lennon–McCartney.

Lennon–McCartney credit makes up the majority of the Beatles' catalogue. But, on their next three releases the following year ("Please Please Me", Please Please Me LP, and "From Me to You"), the credit was given as McCartney–Lennon. With "She Loves You" which released in August 1963, the credit reverted to Lennon–McCartney.

"He provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, the bluesy notes. There was a period when I thought I didn't write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock 'n' roll. But, of course, when I think of some of my own songs—"In My Life", or some of the early stuff, "This Boy"—I was writing melody with the best of them." Lennon told Playboy Magazine in 1980.

Several songs credited to Lennon–McCartney were also released by artists other than the Beatles, especially those managed by Brian Epstein. Among them are: Mary Hopkin, the Applejacks, Cilla Black, Tommy Quickly, and The Fourmost. Recording a Lennon–McCartney song helped launch new artists' careers.

Many of the recordings were also included on the 1979 compilation album The Songs Lennon and McCartney Gave Away. Beatles versions of some of those were recorded; some were not released until after their split, on compilations such as Live at the BBC (1993) and The Beatles Anthology (1995–96).

1960 - 1966


The earliest Beatles recording credited to Lennon–McCartney to be officially released is "You'll Be Mine", recorded at home in 1960.

Lennon and McCartney gave songs to Ringo Starr to sing, and to George Harrison before he started writing his own material. As for the songs they kept for themselves, each partner mostly sang his own composition, often with the other providing harmonies, or they shared lead vocal.

Lennon said the main intention of the Beatles' music was to communicate, and that, to this effect, he and McCartney had a shared purpose. Although Lennon and McCartney often wrote independently—and many Beatles songs are primarily the work of one or the other—it was rare that a song would be completed without some input from both writers.

In many instances, one writer would sketch an idea or a song fragment and take it to the other to finish or improve; in some cases, two incomplete songs or song ideas that each had worked on individually would be combined into a complete song. Often one of the pair would add a middle eight or bridge section to the other's verse and chorus.

Beatles producer George Martin attributed the high quality of their songwriting to the friendly rivalry between the two. This approach of the Lennon–McCartney songwriting team—with elements of competitiveness and mutual inspiration as well as straightforward collaboration and creative merging of musical ideas—is a key reason for the Beatles' innovation and popular success.

After Help!, Harrison contributing between one and four songs on each record. Starr writing two songs ("Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden") and being given joint credit with Lennon and McCartney for "What Goes On", also "Flying" and "Dig It" (both songs credited to all four Beatles).

1967 - 1970


After the Beatles last concert at Candlestick Park on 29 August 1966, they stop touring to focus on their works by spending time in the studio, experimenting with music. Using studio artifice or multiple overdubbing. Often incorporating classical elements and unconventional recording techniques.
As time went on, the songs increasingly became the work of one writer or the other, often with the partner offering up only a few words or an alternative chord.

"A Day in the Life" is a notable and well-known example of a later Beatles song that includes substantial contributions by both Lennon and McCartney, where a separate song fragment by McCartney ("Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head ...") was used to flesh out the middle of Lennon's composition ("I read the news today, oh boy ...").

The Beatles released their final studio album on 8 May 1970. It was released in tandem with the film version of the same name.

The rehearsals and recording sessions for the album did not run smoothly. The Beatles were not getting along, both Lennon and McCartney weren't working together as before. Harrison walked out and quit the group, but eventually coaxed back a few days later. 

The film version is famous for showcasing a number of conflicts between the group members.

By 1962, the joint credit agreement was in effect. From the time of the Beatles' first A&R audition in January that year, until Lennon's announcement in September 1969 that he was leaving the band, virtually all songs by McCartney or Lennon were published with joint credit. The only exceptions were a handful of the McCartney compositions released by other artists.

After the partnership had ended, Lennon and McCartney each gave account of their individual contribution to each jointly credited song.

The last known photo of Lennon and McCartney together. March 29, 1974