My Top 1000 Songs #209: Dear Boy

Given my deeply emotional connection with Paul & Linda McCartney's Ram--yes, I wrote all about it in my book; you can find an excerpt in my Ram write-up--I could probably put almost all of that album's wonderful, inauspicious pop music somewhere on this list. But I'm resisting this urge, so this is only the second one so far.

And "Dear Boy" was sort of a quiet contender. Beyond "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," whose exuberant silliness won me over as a five-year-old, the power-pop tunes that bookend the record--"Too Many People" and "Back Seat Of My Car"--were always favorites of mine and obvious contenders. 

But "Dear Boy" is particularly magical. The opening, just a boyish-sounding Paul and his piano, is captivating, with the band (well, mostly just Paul in his home studio) casually dropping in over the course of the song. But it's the vocal performances that make the song magnificent. It's Paul in full Brian Wilson mode, paying tribute to the master with his multi-tracked harmonies (there's some Linda in there as well). And it's not just that the layering of those harmonies is artistically astonishing. There's a poignancy in the way they hit--glad that he's netted the love of his life, yet somehow sad for the ex-boyfriend who'd foolishly (but beneficially for Paul) let her go--that I hear lingering in my head long after the brief track subsides. It's a lovely, joyous yet melancholy choir, those breathy doo-doo-doos, that's been haunting me for over half a century.

It was never part of Paul's live shows, but here's Tim Christensen and friends performing it during their tremendous Pure McCartney tribute, where they cover Ram in its entirety: