Music Monday: George Harrison’s “It Don’t Come Easy”

“It Don’t Come Easy” is a staple of Ringo Starr’s long career as a solo artist. The catchy single was released early in Starr’s post-Beatles tenure and remains one of his most recognizable solo tracks. There is a lesser-known version of the song by a different Beatle. When you listen to George Harrison’s “It Don’t Come Easy,” the song changes completely. Even though the track superficially sounds the same, Harrison created a deeper and more enduring piece of music.

Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy”

Ringo’s version of “It Don’t Come Easy” was released as a non-album single in April of 1971. It was the second single of Starr’s solo career, following the country song “Beaucops of Blues.” The single peaked at number four on the U.K. charts and spent ten weeks in the Top 40.

Ringo’s cut of the song remains one of the best examples of his music style. His unique sense of rhythm that made him an underrated contributor to The Beatles is present on “It Don’t Come Easy.” The drummer’s knack for laying down a pop beat, frequently augmented by a tambourine, was an essential part of the band’s sound.

The single is an undeniable pop hit. It is three minutes of steady rhythm augmented by  backing vocals and a tight guitar part.

Ringo Starr’s video for “It Don’t Come Easy” –

The heart of the lyrics for “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Peace, remember peace is how we make it/Here within your reach/If you’re big enough to take it,” relays a sentiment that has long been a part of Starr’s public message. The drummer has frequently included peace and love into his art.  George Harrison’s “It Don’t Come Easy,” however, adds a spiritual touch that enhances the music.

George Harrison’s “It Don’t Come Easy”

The recording of “It Don’t Come Easy” began in early 1970. The genesis of the song was rooted in sessions for Starr’s album Sentimental Journey. Harrison produced the recording of the song, which sounds very similar to the version that Starr eventually put out.

There are two fundamental changes in the two songs, both of which are found in Harrison’s voice.

The most tangible difference is Harrison’s inclusion of “Hare Krishna,” a Hindu mantra, into the lyrics. This is a natural fit for Harrison, who frequently incorporated meditation into his music. This adds a more spiritual affect to the song. *

You can also hear a yearning in Harrison’s vocals that is not present in Ringo’s singing. Starr presented a straightforward delivery of the song’s words that aids the pop-nature of the music. Perhaps it is because the song did not receive the studio polish given to the eventual single, but Harrison’s vocals have a raw edge not found in the original. There is a determination to his singing that calls more attention to Harrison’s words than Starr’s. This gives the track a more dramatic feeling that separates the unreleased version from Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy.”

These two elements give George Harrison’s “It Don’t Come Easy” a timeless and more artistic feel to the same piece of music.

Harrison’s “It Don’t Come Easy” is a tricky find. To the best of my knowledge it has never been released commercially and is only available on bootleg records and YouTube. Starr and Harrison performed the song together at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971.

George Harrison’s “It Don’t Come Easy”- 

*A reader correctly pointed out that the backing vocalists do sing “Hare Krishna” on Ringo’s Starr’s version of “It Don’t Come Easy.” Their vocals appear at 1:43 at a significantly lower volume. 

This is the fourth post in a recurring series from the Flat Circle. Every Monday the Flat Circle will feature a new song, deep cut, or live track from my personal collection or travels on the Internet. Here are the previous posts in the series: 

The xx deep cut “Insect.”

Mike Campbell’s Heartbreaking Dirty Knobs’ Set

Class Actress’s “Journal of Ardency”

www.flatcircleblog.com is a Philadelphia pop-culture blog that covers television, music, podcasts, and movies. Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, or subscribe by e-mail to catch all posts. 

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