Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/the End – the Beatles

Sometimes life is heavy. It presses down on your back, compresses your chess, constricts your throat, and pushes down on your temples, like a large, calloused, relentless fist. Maybe life has added something to the weight, thrown something at you that was unexpected or unwanted. But it seems to me that the weight is heaviest when it takes something away from you, something that you didn’t realize was actually keeping you up on your feet. Sorrow does not crush you instantaneously like rage, or dangle above your head guilt. It is a load that drags behind you, making sure that you are always looking back and never ahead. Eventually, this load may become a part of you, some extra piece of luggage that you must take with you everywhere you go. Is there any way to rid ourselves of this weight? The struggle to stay afloat in a world that seems to be trying to drag you down is beautifully detailed in the Beatles’ medley “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/the End”, an eloquent and insightful conclusion to Abbey Road, the final album that they would record together.

Beatles1969

Ringo, John, Paul, and George (respectively) in 1969.

The famous Abbey Road.

As the grandiose finale to Abbey Road (and in a way to the Beatles themselves), “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/the End” has some interesting, Beatlesque quirks to it. Already a medley, “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/the End” also incorporates parts of other songs, most notably the reprise of “You Never Give Me Your Money”. Although the Beatles had done this before (as in “All You Need is Love”), it never ceases to amaze me how seamlessly they can blend one song into another, and there is no greater example than this grand finale of one of the grandest bands of all time. Moreover, one of the verses in “Golden Slumbers” was taken from the Thomas Dekker poem “Cradle Song“. According to legend, Paul McCartney once saw the sheet music for it on his father’s piano, but because he was unable to read music, he composed his own music for the words.

Although Paul McCartney specifically wrote this song about the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, and the conflicts between band members and keeping them all together, I believe that in the broader, overall spectrum of life, “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/the End” is applicable to any situation in life that leaves you with the heavy feeling of sorrow, loss, or despair. Not only that, but it also tells of the way to free oneself of your burden — to be light again. Because of this, much of this post will relate more to my personal interpretation of the song rather than me trying to figure out exactly what McCartney was trying to say.

101998 BRIAN EPSTEIN

Brian Epstein

“Once there was a way,
to get back homeward,
Once there was a way,
to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry,
and I will sing a lullaby”

When life is easy, it isn’t too hard to find your way back home — to sit on the couch, talk and laugh with friends and family, to go to bed and sleep peacefully. When there is nothing to worry about, you are free to enjoy life as you please. But life is not static. It can never be carefree forever because change, whether for better or for worse, is inevitable. During those dark times, it becomes difficult to return to your house and enjoy your usual at-home rituals because no matter how hard you try to distract yourself, there is still something plaguing you. It could be something financial, social, or even someone’s ghost lingering within the depths of your mind. It is times like these, when the conflict you must face has infested itself in your own mind, that it seems that to quietly slip out of consciousness — to be lulled to sleep — is the only escape from your own thoughts.

Leonid Afremov

“Golden Gate Bridge By Sunset” – Leonid Afremov

“Golden Slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby”

“Golden Slumber” and awakening represent rebirth and new beginnings. This is where Dekker’s words come in. His poem, titled “Cradle Song”, is a nursery rhyme. Because infants and children represent beginnings and innocence, what this verse suggests is that although the present may be bleak, when you wake up in the morning it could be different. The darkness can not last forever and with each day comes the hope that perhaps today will be the day that you will be able to move on.

bernardo_strozzi_sleeping_child

“Sleeping Child” – Bernardo Strozzi

“Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time”

But a deep wound will not heal overnight. As human beings, we have the tendency to hold on to our fears and anguish. We never forget when we are wronged. We hold grudges. We worry and fret over looming threats. We are afraid to let go of those we have lost for fear of forgetting them.  We hold onto all of our pains so tightly that it is nearly impossible to let go. Therefore, we must “carry that weight a long time”

VincentVanGogh-Women-Miners-Carrying-Coal-1881-82

“Women Miners” – Vincent Van Gogh

“I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down”

“I never give you my pillow”, refers to being incapable of sharing. And just as one would assume, it’s not really a pillow that is hard to share, it’s your fears. Instead of letting them out, we just grasp them even tighter, adding more and more pressure to the weight. By trying to carry on with life without coming to terms with our problems, we only create even greater conflicts. We try to hold our heads high and appear dignified “in the middle of the celebrations”, or the public eye, but it is impossible to carry on like this forever — at some point you will break down.

?????????

“the Scream” – Edvard Munch

“Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time”

Many us really will continue to carry all of our pains with us all throughout our lives. That is, unless something changes. Once the chorus ends, George’s guitar riffs come in, Ringo launches into a solo and the beat picks up. Then all of a sudden:

“Oh yeah, all right
Are you gonna be in my dreams
Tonight”

Instead of looking back and mulling over the past, the song now talks about anticipation and looking forward. Hope. By looking ahead, we can move on, not forget, but continue to live life. Life will walk us through landscapes of mountains and valleys, but it’s not important where we are, it’s the fact that we keep on moving.

Vladamir_Kush-Departure_of_Winged_Ship

“Departure of the Winged Ship” – Vladamir Kush

But just because we have to leave something, that does not mean that it has to leave us. As we travel through the landscape of life, we come into contact with many people and places that will have an impact on us. Some might be wise men who immediately leave a deep impression, others are acquaintances that slowly grow on us. They might open our eyes to a new world or show us an old world in a new light. But no matter how we grow to learn and love from them, at some point or another there will come time to part. This is always difficult, but there is a way to move on in peace: by taking what we have learned with us, bringing this loved one wherever we go and to those we have yet to meet as well. Chances are that at some point in our lives we will all leave a deep impression on someone, just as someone else has done to us before. Therefore, whenever it comes time to go separate ways there of course can be tears and mourning — we have to share our grief somehow. But this is not what we want to take away from the experience. It is up to you to choose the weight you wish to carry. You can take the loss with you, focusing only on the absence of those you have grown to love, or you can take the love itself, which is never lost, and carry it with you and to those whose paths will surely touch your own.

“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make”

world love

Hello Goodbye

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/the End – the Beatles

    • Thank you so much! At the time I wrote this, I had only just lost someone and I was mostly just trying to get my feelings out. I was actually expecting it to turn out sounding like the ramblings of a crazy, depressed madman but I would have never thought that it would remind anyone of one of the most eloquent and influential crazy, depressed madmen of all time. Thank you for teaching me so much this year.

      Like

  1. Whilst listening to ‘Abbey Road’ a couple of months ago, I felt this sense of finality when the CD reached ‘Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End’. Like you say, it was the end — for both the album and The Beatles. And whether The Beatles knew it or not (I’m not sure about the other three, but I have a feeling that John knew it would be the last Beatles album), it feels like the end, too. The climatic strings; the philosophical lyrics, some musing on the loss of a loved one (which, as you say, alludes to The Beatles’ struggles with each other at the time); even the fact that Ringo plays a drum solo, something which he notoriously hated — all of these help contribute to the sense of ‘the end’. When I listen to the trio, I feel that The Beatles have come to a finish. A beautiful yet somewhat sad finale to a beautiful album.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s