Yer Blues is the second song on the third side of The Beatles classic 1968 album The Beatles (aka The White Album). On the CD release, it appears as the second track on the second CD.

The song was credited to be written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, though by this point in their songwriting career, they were writing their songs largely independent of each other, only offering occasional input on each other's work. Yer Blues is all Lennon and features him on lead vocal with an odd twinge of desperation in his voice.

This song is about deep depression, suicide, and the constant pain that romantic relationships can sometimes take. Lennon's life, at the time of the writing of this song, was romantically a mess. The first real love of his life, Cynthia Lennon, and him were stumbling down the road to divorce and were barely on speaking terms at this point. He had just begun an affair with Yoko Ono as well. Up to that point, he had had occasional flings while on the road, but Cynthia had always remained the love of his life. Now he was utterly confused and lost because she was slipping away from him.

I became a major fan of The Beatles when I was in junior high, slowly acquiring their albums along the way. The White Album as a whole always struck a chord with me, and I found myself listening to the album more and more during my sophomore year in high school. I had no idea who I was, felt completely socially and romantically rejected, and just felt lost. My grades slipped, and I spent all of my free time hiding in my room, listening to music and reading and writing some frighteningly angry and depressed stuff. This all came to a head one evening, the day after Thanksgiving 1993.

Yes I'm lonely wanna die
Yes I'm lonely wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

As usual, I spent the day in my room. I had a large bed that was pushed up against the corner of the room, so I could sit there nestled in the corner. My journal was open in my hands and I had just spent six hours writing almost nonstop. My hand was cramping, and I realized that I literally didn't feel any better than when I started. In fact, pouring everything out was making me feel worse.

My parents had went out for the evening with another couple, so I was home alone. I sat in my room, listening to The White Album spin through the second side, and as the needle slipped off, I decided, right then and there, that I didn't want to live any longer. I walked downstairs and began collecting a variety of things from the medicine cabinets.

In the morning wanna die
In the evening wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

I picked up some alcohol (for those who know me, I have an extremely low tolerance for alcohol), a large bottle of sleeping pills, and a mix of prescription medications that were in the cabinet. With my hands loaded full of stuff, I walked back to my room and laid the stuff across my bed. I went to the turntable and put on the third side of The White Album and retreated to my corner as the first notes of Birthday began to play.

I knocked back a large gulp of the alcohol, grimacing at the bitter taste, and gobbled down a handful of sleeping pills, washed down with some more alcohol. I took several of each kind of prescription medication as well, and laid back on my pillow, feeling woozy already.

And then Yer Blues came on.

My mother was of the sky
My father was of the earth
But I am of the universe
And you know what it's worth
I'm lonely wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

I sat there, slowly drifting away from consciousness, as Lennon's depressed vocals and lyrics filtered into my ears. Hearing the song drift into my mind, to this day, haunts me. I felt like I was slowly drifting away from everything as the words and music issued forth from my speaker. It felt almost as though the words were carrying me.

George Harrison's guitar work on the song became my last thread holding me in the conscious realm. My mind took to his repeated riffs and held on as the rest of me drifted away into unconsciousness, my head sinking to my pillow as the music played on and on.

The eagle picks my eye
The worm he licks my bone
I feel so suicidal
Just like Dylan's Mr. Jones
Lonely wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

At some point, though I don't recall it, I must have stashed the stuff away into my closet, because the next thing I remember the sunlight was streaming in my window and my father was standing in the doorway to my room, telling me in a very calm voice that I needed to wake up because we were going to a family dinner. I don't think they ever knew for sure what happened that night; I found the stuff the next day on a shelf in my closet, underneath a blanket. I was really groggy, and it took me a while to get up and around. I took one of the longest showers of my life after that, and with the song still ringing in my ear and the warm water rushing over me, something happened.

For the first time in a long time, I was somehow glad that I was alive. I realized how good and warm the water felt on my skin. I realized that, even if they sometimes didn't show it too well, I had two parents that cared about me quite a lot. I realized that I did have some reason for living.

Black cloud crossed my mind
Blue mist round my soul Feel so suicidal
Even hate my rock and roll
Wanna die yeah wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

For years I had a very hard time listening to this song. It identifies to me in words, sounds, and memories, the lowest point of my life. I wouldn't even play the third side or the second CD of The White Album because I was afraid that I might hear it. Now, though, I listen to it and I realize something even more amazing. What I went through that night is exactly what John Lennon is singing about. The melancholic lyrics, the depressing vocals from John Lennon, the haunting instrumentation of George Harrison. It's an audio snapshot of an emotional low that happened to coincide with the lowest point in my life as well.

For me, Yer Blues is the best example of all of life imitating art and vice versa.

Not to denigrate your personal experience with Yer Blues, but I believe you are wrong. I think that Yer Blues is not a serious song. It is a satire. A satire of the then dominate British Blues Explosion. That's part of the reason the lyrics are so simple and repetitive, to mimic the standard blues tune. Most people easily recognized that Back in the USSR is a satire of the Beach Boys because the lyrics are so obviously satirical, but if you were to just listen to the music it sounds like an honest piece of West Coast Pop. Likewise, the music of Yer Blues (while a bit psychedelic a la Cream) is a straight up blues rendition; however, the lyrics are so un-beatlesesque that one is led to question whether or not it is a satire.

For an example of a similar satire, check out Russian Poetry of the early 19th Century. In this time, Poets were forbidden to criticized the government openly so they did so covertly. At that time, Poetry was classified into several distinct forms with well known conventions: Odes, Idylls etc. So a Poet would title a poem an Ode, write stanzas praising the government, but instead of writing in the standard meter of an Ode (in english, iambic) he'd write in a different meter. There is not a direct connection between Yer Blues and these poets, but you can see the similarities.

Of course, I did not personally know John Lennon, so I cannot say for sure that Yer Blues is a satire; however, I have heard this position advanced several times before. For example, All Music Guide writes of The White Album:
"Never before had a rock record been so self-reflective, or so ironic; the Beach Boys send-up "Back in the USSR" and the British blooze parody "Yer Blues" are delivered straight-faced, so it's never clear if these are affectionate tributes or wicked satires."

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