In a recent study led by a Harvard and Dalhousie University professors, the two mathematicians claim to have determined that The Beatles’ 1965 hit, “In My Life”, was actually written by John Lennon, contrary to Sir Paul McCartney’s memory. By going back and comparing the two Beatles’ unique approaches to songwriting, Mark Glickman and Jason Brown illustrate that the song far more closely resembles John Lennon’s work stylistically. This leads them to the conclusion that Paul McCartney most likely “misremembers” writing the Rubber Soul classic.

The Beatles–”In My Life”

[Video: The Beatles]

Authorship for the track has been a long, ongoing debate, though as with all their collaborative material, the track is credited to both Lennon and McCartney. Months before his death, John Lennon claimed that McCartney only wrote the middle-eight and harmonies to “In My Life”, explaining (via

It was the first song I wrote that was consciously about my life. [Sings] ‘There are places I’ll remember/ All my life though some have changed…’ Before, we were just writing songs a la Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly — pop songs with no more thought to them than that. The words were almost irrelevant. ‘In My Life’ started out as a bus journey from my house at 250 Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning every place I could remember. I wrote it all down and it was ridiculous… it was the most boring sort of ‘What I Did On My Holiday’s Bus Trip’ song and it wasn’t working at all. But then I laid back and these lyrics started coming to me about the places I remember. Paul helped with the middle-eight. It was, I think, my first real major piece of work.

This contradicts a statement McCartney made a decade later, in which he claimed, “Those were the words John wrote, and I wrote the tune to it. That was a great one.” According to, McCartney once noted,

I think I wrote the tune to that; that’s the one we slightly dispute. John either forgot or didn’t think I wrote the tune. I remember he had the words, like a poem… sort of about faces he remembered. I recall going off for half an hour and sitting with a Mellotron he had, writing the tune…

Why would Sir Paul not be able to remember a song of his own? Glickman and Brown note that McCartney and Lennon have very different songwriting styles. McCartney’s writing was very complex and featured varied arrangements, while Lennon’s work throughout his career stayed very consistent, with little change in pitch and tone.

Furthermore, Dr. Glickman claims,

We wondered whether you could use data analysis techniques to try to figure out what was going on in the song to distinguish whether it was by one or the other,” Dr Glickman said of the purpose of the study, which analysed such features as frequency of chords, chord transitions and melodic notes from Beatles songs which were written between 1962 and 1966.

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.

As Glickman and Brown note, the deciding factor in regards to their conclusion came from the fact that the majority of Paul McCartney’s contributions to The Beatles’ catalog are very different from anything John Lennon’s ever written.

“Consider the Lennon song, ‘Help!’” Glickman explained. “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.”

McCartney’s spokesperson said the legendary rockstar will not be responding to the results of the study.

It’s alright, Sir Paul, things get foggy sometimes, and you’ve contributed immeasurably to the canon of modern pop music either way. “In My Life” is an undeniable classic, no matter who wrote what…