Lady Madonna



It is 50 years to the day that The Beatles released Lady Madonna in the UK and this is the story behind it.

Written by Paul, it was the band’s 20th number one. It was number one in the UK for two weeks but reached just number four in the US. The piano part for Lady Madonna was based on Bad Penny Blues, a 1956 song by Humphrey Lyttelton which had been recorded by The Beatles’ producer George Martin.

Paul said of it: “Lady Madonna was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing. It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my other voice to a very odd place."

Domino himself covered the song later in 1968:

Paul said of the song’s theme: “The original concept was the Virgin Mary but it quickly became symbolic of every woman; the Madonna image but as applied to ordinary working class women. It's really a tribute to the mother figure, it's a tribute to women.

Paul quote continued: "Your Mother Should Know is another. I think women are very strong, they put up with a lot of shit, they put up with the pain of having a child, of raising it, cooking for it, they are basically skivvies a lot of their lives, so I always want to pay a tribute to them.”

“One particular issue I saw in the Sixties had a woman, and she looked very proud and she had a baby. And I saw that as a kind of Madonna thing, mother and child, and I just… You know, sometimes you see pictures of mothers and you go, 'She's a good mother.' You could just tell there's a bond and it just affected me, that photo. And so I was inspired to write Lady Madonna, my song, from that photo.”

The photo Paul is referring to was taken by Howard Sochurek, and appeared in an article titled “American Special Forces in Action in Viet Nam”, in National Geographic's January 1965 issue. Here is that picture:

John was coy about his involvement in the song: “Maybe I helped him on some of the lyrics, but I'm not proud of them either way."

The famous saxophone solo was performed by Ronnie Scott although most of his performance was mixed out or buried in the mix, much to his chagrin, although more is heard on the version that is on the 2006 album Love which featured Beatles tracks that were piled and remixed as a mashup for the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name.