“Goodnight” the White Album track would prove to be so tender, so emotionally charged and so delicate that Lennon decided he was not the right man to bring the song home and instead gave the song’s lead vocal over to Ringo Starr.
Talking about The White Album, John made it clear how he saw things. He wanted the new record to “get on with rocking because rockers is what we really are”. Lennon made no secret of his desire to be more authentic, adding: “You can give me a guitar, stand me up in front of a few people. Even in the studio, if I’m getting into it, I’m just doing my old bit… not quite doing Elvis Legs but doing my equivalent. It’s just natural.
“Everybody says we must do this and that but our thing is just rocking. You know, the usual gig. That’s what this new record is about. Definitely rocking.”
That didn’t mean that the album was without tenderness, however, and one such track which saw Lennon open himself up was ‘Good Night’, a song he wrote for his son Julian. Lennon told David Sheff in 1980: “‘Good Night’ was written for Julian, the way ‘Beautiful Boy’ was written for Sean… but given to Ringo and possibly overlush.”
Speaking in 1968, Ringo Starr noted that it was such a diversion from Lennon’s usual sound that most people thought it was McCartney who had written the song. “Everybody thinks Paul wrote ‘Goodnight’ for me to sing, but it was John who wrote it for me. He’s got a lot of soul, John has.”
It was a sentiment that McCartney himself reflected at the time, “John wrote it, mainly. It’s his tune, uhh, which is surprising for John— ‘cuz he doesn’t normally write this kind of tune. It’s a very sweet tune, and Ringo sings it great, I think,” he continued, a departure for Lennon meant the song had a “very sort of lush, sweet arrangement.”
‘Good night’ is one of the more touching moments on The White Album as Ringo sings out the beautiful lyrics which reflect on fatherhood and offer up sweet dreams to all those who hear it.
“I think John felt it might not be good for his image for him to sing it, but it was fabulous to hear him do it, he sang it great,” said Paul remembering one of the early sessions of the track back in 1994. “We heard him sing it in order to teach it to Ringo and he sang it very tenderly.
John rarely showed his tender side, but my key memories of John are when he was tender, that’s what has remained with me— those moments where he showed himself to be a very generous, loving person.
“I always cite that song as an example of the John beneath the surface that we only saw occasionally… I don’t think John’s version was ever recorded.”