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"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is a song by the Beatles from their 1968 album The Beatles (often called "the White Album"). Although credited to Lennon-McCartney, the song was written solely by Paul McCartney. It was released as a single that same year in many countries, but not in their native United Kingdom, nor in the United States until 1976.
Paul McCartney wrote the song around the time that highlife and reggae were beginning to become popular in Britain. The starting lyric, "Desmond has a barrow in the market-place", was a reference to the first internationally renowned Jamaicanska and reggae performer Desmond Dekker who had just had a successful tour of the UK. The tag line "ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, brah" was an expression used by Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott-Emuakpor, an acquaintance of McCartney. Another example of the term in popular culture is the 1945 song 'In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee', which Mary Lou Williams composed for Dizzy Gillespie (heard on Dizzy Digs Paris).
Scott-Emuakpor later tried to claim a writer's credit for the use of his catchphrase in the song. McCartney said that the phrase was "just an expression", whereas Scott argued that the phrase was not a common expression, and was used exclusively by the Scott-Emuakpor family. He later dropped the case when McCartney agreed to pay his legal expenses for an unrelated issue.
The formal recording of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" involved several days of work, during which the Beatles experimented with different tempos and styles. At McCartney's insistence, the band remade the song twice in an effort to capture the version he was aiming for. According to studio engineer Geoff Emerick, John Lennon "openly and vocally detested" the song, calling it Paul's "granny music shit". Having left the studio during one of the sessions, Lennon then returned while under the influence of marijuana, went immediately to the piano and played the opening chords louder and faster than before. He claimed that was how the song should be played, and that is the version the Beatles ended up using.
When singing the vocals over the final verse, McCartney made a slip and said "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face" (rather than Molly), and had Molly letting "the children lend a hand". Reportedly, this mistake was retained because the other Beatles liked it. Harrison and Lennon yell "arm" and "leg" between the lines "... Desmond lets the children lend a hand" and "Molly stays at home ..."
The lyrics of Harrison's White Album track "Savoy Truffle" include the line "We all know Ob-la-di-bla-da, but can you show me where you are?" According to music journalist Robert Fontenot, Harrison (like Lennon) was "very vocal in [his] dislike of 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da'", and the reference in "Savoy Truffle" was his way of conveying his opinion of McCartney's song.
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-la-Da" was released on The Beatles on 22 November 1968. In the US, in 1976, it was released as a single with "Julia" as the B-side. An alternate version, known as "Take 5", was released on Anthology 3 in which the horns are much more prominent and feature less reggae-esque style of music, focusing on acoustic guitars.
The first time the song was performed live by any of the Beatles was on 2 December 2009, when McCartney played it in Hamburg, Germany on the first night of a European tour. McCartney also performed the song in Hyde Park on 27 June 2010 as part of the Hard Rock Calling event, and the song was well received by the crowd. He also added it as a number in the Latin American Leg of the Up and Coming Tour. In 2011, the song was performed during McCartney's on the Run Tour. It was also performed in front of Buckingham Palace for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, then at San Francisco's Outside Lands concert on 9 August 2013. Most recently, it was performed by McCartney on his 2013-2015 Out There! tour and his 2016-2017 One on One tour, as well as his September 7, 2018 Grand Central Terminal concert.
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" topped singles charts in Austria, Switzerland, Australia and Japan. In the UK and Norway, where it had not been released as a single by the Beatles, a cover version by the Marmalade also reached number 1.
The track is often the subject of ridicule. It was voted the worst song of all time in a 2004 online poll organised by Mars.New Musical Express website editor Luke Lewis has argued that the Beatles recorded "a surprising amount of ropy old toss", singling out "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" as "the least convincing cod-reggae skanking this side of the QI theme tune". Tom Rowley in The Telegraph named the track as a "reasonable choice" for derision, following the result of the Mars poll. It was also included in Blender magazine's 2004 list "50 Worst Songs Ever!"CNN journalist Todd Leopold reported in 2006 that Lennon "loathed" the song.
Conversely, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic includes the song among McCartney's "stunning" compositions on The Beatles. In his contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner wrote: "Part of the phenomenal talent of the Beatles is their ability to compose music that by itself carries the same message and mood as the lyrics. The lyrics and the music not only say the same thing, but are also perfectly complementary. This comes also with the realization that rock and roll is music, not literature, and that the music is the most important aspect of it. 'Obladi Oblada,' where they take one of the familiar calypso melodies and beats, is a perfect example. And it's not just a calypso, but a rock and roll calypso with electric bass and drums. Fun music for a fun song about fun. Who needs answers?"
The Scottish pop band Marmalade released their rendition of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in 1968. Their version reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in January 1969, making them the first Scottish group to ever top that chart. Their cover sold around half a million in the UK, and a million copies globally by April 1969. They appeared on BBC One's music programme Top of the Pops to perform the track in kilts.
Because the song features the lyrics "life goes on", a version performed by Patti LuPone and the cast of Life Goes On was featured on the 1989-1993 drama of that name on ABC.
Instrumental version was performed in the intro of the first episodes, and different covers were used for the outtros of the Branko Mili?evi?`s children TV series "Cube, Cube, Cublet" (1974), thus this song gained great popularity among the children in the former Yugoslavia.