I thought it was only fitting to spotlight a Beatles song today, fifty years after the band first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and changed the course of pop music. But since I’m also feeling slightly contrarian, I’m going to spotlight a Ringo song. And why not? I kind of look forward to the one song that Ringo sings on every Beatles album, and “Act Naturally” is one of my favorites.
“Act Naturally” isn’t even a Lennon/McCartney tune. It was originally made famous by country singer Buck Owens, so this version is technically a cover. But the thing about the Beatles doing covers is that they reveal a side of the band that you don’t typically hear. The Beatles cut their teeth playing covers of American rock & roll songs in Germany, so they were interpreting other people’s material long before they began writing their own. As a result, they’re wonderful mockingbirds—able to replicate someone else’s songs, but delivered with their own stamp.
The song’s country roots give George Harrison, hands down the band’s best guitarist, a chance to really show off the country licks he copped growing up listening to Chet Atkins and Scotty Moore. It’s a double-tracked recording, which helps give it the guitar that big, fat tone. He manages to create a part that sounds really haphazard and almost sloppy, but harmonically it’s just right, and the spaces between the notes say just as much as the notes themselves.
I also really love the vocal blend between Paul’s harmony vocal and Ringo’s lead—their voices work very well together, and the deviation from the typical John and Paul duets makes the mix sounds fresh. Ringo carries the emotion of the song simply and directly with his delivery, which is just about the best that any singer can do.