The Beatles’ “Michelle” Lyrics Meaning

This Beatles’ classic is a love song being relayed from the vocalist to the titular Michelle. And for starters, let it be known that said individual was not a real-life person. Rather, just as the lyrics state, “Michelle, ma belle” sounds cool together. So The Beatles are using that opportunity to drop a song around said scheme.

But that said, Michelle is someone whom the vocalist clearly has feelings for. And the timeline of their relationship is such that at the moment he is now professing his love. Or more to the point, he is stating that he actually ‘needs’ her. And as such it appears that Macca is not willing to take no for an answer. Or rather let’s say that he is convicted to keep pursuing her until he is actually successful.

And, that’s pretty much it. Besides for the fact that people who don’t speak French may not understand some of the wording, lyrically this is by far one of the simplest Beatles’ songs we’ve come across thus far. And perhaps, in more modern times, it can be said that the vocalist is being a bit too aggressive in his pursuit of her. 

But it’s more obvious that what his character is likely meant to represent is a young man who simply will not cease chasing the apple of his eye. Those who have ever been consumed by such an emotion would know exactly what we’re talking about. Indeed even now, although he doesn’t have Michelle in his arms nor is there any guarantee he ever will, the narrator still more or less considers her to be his own.

Lyrics to The Beatles’ “Michelle”

Facts about “Michelle”

“Michelle” may be a lesser-known Beatles’ song amongst non-fans of the band, but it was a big hit nonetheless. For instance, it was named Song of the Year at the 9th Grammy Awards, which were held in 1967. And to note, that marked the only time The Beatles won that particular award.

This classic was also a number one hit in all but two of the countries it charted in, appearing in eight nations overall. And amongst the states in which it was a chart topper was France, Belgium and New Zealand.

You may be wondering why in the last paragraph we didn’t mention the US Billboard Hot 100 or UK Singles Chart, i.e. the two countries in which The Beatles were most poppin. And that’s because it was never released as a single in those nations. So that means The Recording Academy, i.e. the organization behind the Grammys, would have picked this off of the album it was featured on in order to grant it the aforementioned accolade.

And said album would have been The Beatles’ sixth (in their core catalog), which was 1965’s “Rubber Soul”, one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

And the reason why it did chart in the aforementioned countries is because the song was eventually released as a single in a few select European states, as well as New Zealand.

The Beatles’ “Michelle”

Creation of “Michelle”

“Michelle” is another of many great songs that were composed by Paul McCartney and his regular songwriting partner back in the days, the late John Lennon (1940-1980). And the producer of the track was one of the select few individuals who earned the distinction of being recognized as a ‘fifth Beatle’, that being George Martin (1926-2016).

In putting together the instrumental, Macca was trying to emulate the style of one Chet Atkins (1924-2001) and more specifically a song he came out with in 1962 entitled Trambone. And concerning the French flavor of the lyrics, he was inspired by a popular subculture at the time known as “French bohemian” he came across at a party in 1959.

In fact McCartney conceptualized the song back at said party, which both he and Lennon attended, years before “Michelle” was actually released and even slightly before they became The Beatles. At the time, Lennon, who was older than McCartney by a couple of years, was already engaged in his post-educational pursuits, while Macca was still a student in high school.

Paul McCartney explains "Michelle"

When was “Michelle” released?

And as for the release date of the original, that was on 3 December 1965 as part of the aforementioned album. And the labels that put it out are Parlophone in the UK and Capitol in the US.

More Facts

Besides The Recording Academy, The Beatles musical peers also took a strong liking to this song, considering it is one of their most-covered works. In 1966 a British duo known as David and Jonathan did break the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 with their rendition. That same year The Overlanders, another act from across the pond, actually topped the UK Singles Chart with their own cover.

None of The Beatles themselves actually spoke French. So there was one Ivan Vaughan (1942-1993) whose wife assisted them with the French lyrics. And accordingly McCartney compensated her afterwards. Vaughan was a childhood friend of John and Paul’s.

In 2010, Paul McCartney was the recipient of one of the highest honors the American government can bestow upon a mainstream musician, which is the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Music. And he used the opportunity to render this song for the First Lady at the time, that being Michelle Obama.

2 Responses

  1. Vala G says:

    Thank you. I appreciate the info. I sing the lyrics to my Lord and savior. Now at 69 years old I love reading the history of the song, I was a Beatles fan big time. And loved reading the reference to my favorite first lady of all time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You never give the interpretation of the French…

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