Maggie May (traditional song)

Maggie May (traditional song)

"Maggie May" (or "Maggie Mae") is a traditional Liverpool folk song (Roud #1757) about a prostitute who robbed a sailor. It has been the informal anthem of the city of Liverpool for about 180 years.

John Manifold, in his Penguin Australian Song Book, described the song as "A foc'sle song of Liverpool origin apparently, but immensely popular among seamen all over the world..."[1]

Stan Hugill in his Shanties from the Seven Seas writes of an early reference to the song in the diary of Charles Picknell, a sailor on the convict ship Kains that sailed to Van Diemen's Land in 1830.

In 1964, the composer and lyricist Lionel Bart (the creator of the musical Oliver), used the song and its backstory as the basis of a musical set around the Liverpool Docks. The show, also called Maggie May, ran for two years in London.


The Beatles version

"Maggie Mae"
Song by The Beatles from the album Let It Be
Released 8 May 1970
Recorded 24 January 1969
Apple Studios
Genre Folk rock
Length 0:40
Label Apple, EMI
Writer trad. arr. LennonMcCartneyHarrisonStarkey
Producer Phil Spector
Let It Be track listing

The Beatles performed a brief extract of the song in a jokey manner during their Get Back sessions, in early 1969, at a point in the proceedings when they were warming up in the studio by playing old rock and roll and skiffle songs that they had known and played in their teenage years. Though the performance, which trails off after just 39 seconds and was obviously tongue-in-cheek, is truncated, the recording was included on the 1970 album drawn from those sessions, Let It Be, appearing immediately after the title song. The version they performed was spelt "Maggie Mae" on the track listing and all four Beatles were credited as arrangers of the traditional song, thus allowing them to collect the writers' share of the publishing income for this public domain song. The song had been a staple of the repertoire of The Quarrymen, the skiffle group formed by Lennon that evolved into The Beatles in 1960.

This song and "Dig It" appear on the Let It Be album, but are not included on the Let It Be... Naked album. Let It Be... Naked contained "Maggie Mae" (segueing into "Fancy Me Chances") on the bonus disc, "Fly on the Wall".

At 40 seconds long, it is the second-shortest song released on an official Beatles album (the shortest being "Her Majesty", at 23 seconds).


Personnel per Ian MacDonald[2]


  1. ^ "Australian Folk Songs". 
  2. ^ MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). p. 336. ISBN 1-84413-828-3. 

External links

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