Lady Madonna – From Fats to McCartney to Fats

22 Sep

In 1968, The Beatles released “Lady Madonna,” a short, fast-paced groove about an overworked mother. It was written primarily by Paul McCartney, but credited to Lennon/McCartney. John Lennon did help with some of the lyric. In typical Beatles’ fashion, the song reached #1 in the UK and #4 in the U.S., and interestingly, was the Beatles’ last release on Parlophone. The Beatles would release “Hey Jude” on Apple Records a few months after “Lady Madonna.” Has anyone ever suggested that perhaps the Beatles were just too good. Perhaps they were all truly musical aliens, intergalactic hit machines. Well, some band had to be the greatest band to ever play, right?

Anyway, I mention Lady Madonna in this version of “Great Moments in Music Cover History,” not because it’s a cover (which it is not), and not even primarily because it spawned several covers, but because it was inspired by a musical legend, Fats Domino.  Yes, so I should perhaps title the category as “Great Moments in Music Inspiration History,” but you’ll all see how the covers fit into this in a few words.

  “‘Lady Madonna’ was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing,” said McCartney in a 1994 interview.  “It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my voice to a very odd place.”

You can hear the blues piano inspiration in this song and Fats Domino was such a champion of the burgeoning rock/piano genre. McCartney was also inspired by Humphrey Lyttelton‘s “Bad Penny Blues.” The beginning piano riff is somewhat similar to the piece. Take a listen:

The reason this fits into the cover category is because Fats Domino actually covered “Lady Madonna.” It’s sort-of like an ironic twist. McCartney thinks about how it would sound if Fats Domino was playing the piano, and then Fats gives McCartney the ultimate compliment and re-records the song. Here is the Fats version:

Not bad. The Fats flavor is cool. Plus, listening to Fats’ accent during the piece feels right. McCartney and Fats should perform this song together. That would be awesome.

Now, just for giggles, here is another cover of the song by…Elvis Presley! It is from a 1970 rare recording session (where he also performs “Got My Mojo Working”). He is obviously having a lot of fun with it. He doesn’t even know all the words.

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