Sir Paul McCartney has long claimed he played a key role in writing The Beatles hit song ‘In My Life’, despite the track being attributed to bandmate John Lennon.
Since Lennon’s murder in 1980, the mystery around the track, which was included on the 1965 album Rubber Soul, gone unsolved.
However, scientists who used statistical analysis to single-out the musical signatures of each of the songwriters now claim to have a definitive answer.
According to the research, which highlights 149 different metrics to determine the musical fingerprints of each songwriter, it is overwhelmingly likely ‘In My Life’ was penned by Lennon and that McCartney simply ‘misremembers’ writing the song.
Sir Paul McCartney has always maintained that he put John Lennon’s lyrics to music, while Lennon insisted his fellow band member had minimal input in the creation.
However, the latest findings reveal that stylistically, there is less than one in 50 chance of McCartney having written the music to ‘In My Life’, which is listed as number 23 on Rolling Stone’s list of greatest songs ever made.
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The two Beatles frontmen each penned some of the band’s hits, but debate rages over who actually created ‘In My Life’. Sir Paul McCartney (left) says he put John Lennon’s (right) lyrics to music, while Lennon insisted his colleague had minimal input
Mark Glickman, senior lecturer in statistics at Harvard University, and Jason Brown, Professor of Mathematics at Dalhousie University, used computer analysis to break down the musical styles of The Beatles.
The researchers found a clear difference in how the two musical icons use pitch.
McCartney’s tracks had a tendency to be complex and varied, while the pitch in Lennon’s rarely changed, the study revealed.
‘Consider the Lennon song, “Help!”,’ explained Dr Glickman.
‘It basically goes, “When I was younger, so much younger than today,” where the pitch doesn’t change very much.
‘It stays at the same note repeatedly, and only changes in short steps.
‘Whereas with Paul McCartney, you take a song like ‘Michelle”. In terms of pitch, it’s all over the place.’
They ‘decomposed’ the Beatles songs from between 1962 and 1966 and looked at 149 different metrics to determine the musical fingerprints of each songwriter.
This allowed the researchers to develop an auditory signature for the artist based on frequency of chords, chord transitions, melodic notes, as well as pitch.
‘The basic idea is to convert a song into a set of different data structures that are amenable for establishing a signature of a song using a quantitative approach.
‘Think of decomposing a colour into its constituent components of red, green and blue with different weights attached.
‘The probability that “In My Life” was written by McCartney is .018. Which basically means it’s pretty convincingly a Lennon song. McCartney misremembers.’
US researchers used computer analysis to break down the musical styles of both the Beatles. They found the probability that ‘In My Life’ was written by McCartney (left) is .018. Which basically means it’s pretty convincingly a Lennon (right, pictured in 1971) song
Researchers ‘decomposed’ Beatles (pictured) songs from 1962 to 1966 and looked at 149 different metrics to determine the musical fingerprints of each songwriter. These allowed the researchers to develop an auditory signature for the artist
Sir Paul McCartney has long claimed he created the classic tune, telling the music writer and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini in the 1970s: ‘Those were the words John wrote, and I wrote the tune to it. That was a great one.’
According to McCartney, he set the lyrics to music after finding inspiration from Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.
John Lennon always disputed this fact and said only the ‘middle-eight’ and harmonies came from his bandmate.
The research also threw a curveball into the mix – after revealing that a track long thought to be penned by Mr Lennon was actually created by McCartney.
‘The Word’, also from Rubber Soul, has always been attributed to Lennon, but the researchers claim it is almost certainly by Sir Paul.
Sir Paul McCartney will not be responding to the study, a spokesperson for the singer said.
HOW DOES THE HUMAN BRAIN DETECT PITCH?
Changes in vocal pitch, part of what linguists call ‘speech prosody’, are almost as fundamental to human communication as melody is to music.
In tonal languages such as Mandarin Chinese, pitch changes can completely alter a word’s meaning
But even in a non-tonal language like English, differences in pitch can significantly change the meaning of a spoken sentence.
The brain’s ability to interpret these changes in tone on the fly is remarkable given that each speaker has their own typical vocal pitch and style – some have low voices and others high.
The brain must track and interpret these pitch changes while simultaneously parsing which consonants and vowels are being uttered, what words they form, and how they combine into phrases and sentences – within a millisecond.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found the brain cells responsible by studying ten patients suffering from epilepsy in 2017.
These cells are located in a small area known as the superior temporal gyrus (STG).
As the pitch of the sentence goes high, neural activity increased.
What this research showed is that there are specific regions and select cells which can detect differences in pitch.
Some neurons distinguish between sounds speakers based on differences in their average vocal pitch range.
As well as pitch, the human brain also has different regions which help determine between sounds.
Some neurons pick up fundamental differences in sounds of words – for example, ‘reindeer’ sounds different from ‘lawyers’ no matter who is talking.
Yet another group of neurons distinguish between different intonation patterns.