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I'm the Greatest

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Title: I'm the Greatest  
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Subject: The Songs Lennon and McCartney Gave Away, Klaus Voormann, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Ringo (album), John Lennon
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I'm the Greatest

"I'm the Greatest"
Song by Ringo Starr from the album Ringo
Published Lennon Music/ATV Music Publishing
Released 2 November 1973 (US)
23 November 1973 (UK)
Genre Rock
Length 3:21
Label Apple
Writer John Lennon
Producer Richard Perry
Ringo track listing

"I'm the Greatest" is a song written by English musician

Recording for the song took place in Los Angeles in March 1973 during a time when tensions among all the former members of the Beatles had eased, after Starr, Lennon and Harrison had severed ties with their manager, Allen Klein. News of the Richard Perry-produced session led to speculation that the Beatles might re-form. The presence on the recording of bassist Klaus Voormann and keyboard player Billy Preston, as supposed stand-ins for Paul McCartney, created a line-up that the press had dubbed the Ladders since 1971.

"I'm the Greatest" appeared as the opening track on the well-received Ringo album and was later included on Starr's compilations Blast from Your Past (1975) and Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr (2007). Starr has performed the song in concert with his All-Starr Band, whose second album, Live from Montreux (1993), opens with the track. A version with Lennon on lead vocals appeared on the 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology.


  • Background and composition 1
  • Recording 2
  • Personnel 3
  • Citations 4
  • Sources 5
  • External links 6

Background and composition

John Lennon began writing "I'm the Greatest" after watching the first TV airing of the Beatles' 1964 film A Hard Day's Night, on BBC1 on 28 December 1970.[1] Working at his home studio at Tittenhurst Park, Lennon then made demos of the new composition and "Make Love Not War", the latter of which he would re-record as "Mind Games" in 1973.[1] Towards the end of recording sessions for his Imagine album in July 1971, Lennon recorded another demo of "I'm the Greatest".[2]

Lennon's lyrics to the song are autobiographical, referring to his past as a member of the Beatles:[3]

"I was in the greatest show on Earth,
For what it was worth.
Now I'm only thirty-two;
And all I wanna do, is boogaloo
Yes, my name is Billy Shears,
You know it has been for so many years.
Now I'm only thirty-two;
And all I wanna do, is boogaloo for ever"


Lennon had completely forgotten about it until Starr requested a song from him to record for the 1973 Klaus Voormann on bass. It is one of only a few non-Beatles songs to feature three members of the band. Richard Perry produced the recording.[5]

At this point after the end of the Beatles as a band, three of them—Starr, Lennon and Harrison—in addition to Voormann and Preston (who was often referred to as one of the multiple "Fifth Beatles"),[6] appear on this record. When word of the session hit the media, Beatles reunion rumours began spreading.[7][8]

"I'm the Greatest" is the only record that features the line up of a post-Beatles group the Ladders, which Harrison intended to install with his two former bandmates and other fellow musicians like Voormann and Preston.

Near the end of the song, it musically quotes Harrison's "I Dig Love", which Starr had played on three years earlier.

A version with John Lennon lead vocals appears on 1998's [10]



  1. ^ a b Badman, p. 19.
  2. ^ Badman, pp. 37–38.
  3. ^ Urish & Bielen, p. 46.
  4. ^ Harry, p. 222.
  5. ^ Clayson, pp. 241, 242.
  6. ^ Harrington, Richard (8 June 2006). Fifth Beatle' Billy Preston Made the Greats Even Greater"'".  
  7. ^ Schaffner, p. 160.
  8. ^ Rodriguez, pp. 74, 140.
  9. ^ Urish & Bielen, p. 47.
  10. ^ Chris Hunt (ed.), NME Originals: Beatles – The Solo Years 1970–1980, IPC Ignite! (London, 2005), p. 25.


  • Badman, Keith (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970–2001. London: Omnibus Press.  
  • Carr, Roy; Tyler, Tony (1978). The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. London: Trewin Copplestone Publishing.  
  • Castleman, Harry; Podrazik, Walter J. (1976). All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.  
  • Clayson, Alan (2003). Ringo Starr. London: Sanctuary.  
  • Doggett, Peter (2011). You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup. New York, NY: It Books.  
  • Harry, Bill (2004). The Ringo Starr Encyclopedia. London: Virgin Books.  
  • Ingham, Chris (2006). The Rough Guide to the Beatles (2nd edn). London: Rough Guides/Penguin.  
  • Madinger, Chip; Easter, Mark (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium. Chesterfield, MO: 44.1 Productions.  
  • Rodriguez, Robert (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970–1980. Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books.  
  • Schaffner, Nicholas (1978). The Beatles Forever. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.  
  • Spizer, Bruce (2005). The Beatles Solo on Apple Records. New Orleans, LA: 498 Productions.  
  • Urish, Ben; Bielen, Kenneth G. (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Westport, CT: Praeger.  
  • Woffinden, Bob (1981). The Beatles Apart. London: Proteus.  

External links

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