Death of Samantha (song)
|"Death of Samantha"|
|Single by Yoko Ono|
|from the album Approximately Infinite Universe|
26 February 1973 (US)|
4 May 1973 (UK)
3:40 (single edit)|
6:22 (album version)
|Producer(s)||Yoko Ono, John Lennon|
|Yoko Ono singles chronology|
"Death of Samantha" is a song written by Yoko Ono and first released on her 1973 album Approximately Infinite Universe. It was also released as a single, backed by "Yang Yang." It has also been covered by a number of artists, including Boy George, Hermine Demoriane and Porcupine Tree.
"Death of Samantha" is sung by Ono, with her husband John Lennon playing guitar and Elephant's Memory providing additional musical backing. Author Gillian Gaar has called the song a "moving portrayal" of a woman who has "repressed all feelings for the sake of outward appearance." Steven Mirkin of the Orange County Register describes the song as "slow twisty blues." Jon Pareles of the New York Times calls the song "elegiac." Ono biographer Jerry Hopkins calls it "depressing." Author Bruce Pollock claims that in the song, Ono "sounds eerily like Kate Bush."
Ono's son Sean Lennon claims that the song was inspired by an incident that occurred on election night in 1972. That night, Richard Nixon, whose administration had Lennon under surveillance and wanted Lennon deported, was re-elected as President of the United States. Lennon got drunk at a party and fondled another woman's breasts. Sean has stated that the song "was all about dad having sex with some girl at a party where my mom was." Ono has said that the song flashed to her in the studio, remembering "something terribly upsetting" that had happened to her, and was feeling like she was "really sad."
Ono has stated that when she wrote the song she "sort of saw this graveyard," explaining that it was not exactly a graveyard because there weren't lots of gravestones, but rather a gray day with "gray people standing around like somebody has died."
After John Lennon's death, many fans found the lyrics of "Death of Samantha" descriptive of the vigil for Lennon. Ono has said that at the time "many fans sent me the 'Death of Samantha' lyrics saying that it was uncanny that the lyrics seemed to be describing the vigil. They said, 'You were talking about now.' It was very sad but in a way it was kind of spot-on."
Porcupine Tree covered "Death of Samantha" on the 2007 collaboration album Yes, I'm a Witch, performing with Ono's vocals. James Hunter of SPIN Magazine describes their version as "gothlike." Robert Sandall of The Telegraph remarks on the contrast between Ono's "gravely tremulous vocal" and the acoustic guitar backing, which he describes as "a stark approach which lends her the air of a Leonard Cohen impersonator." Amy Longsdorf of The Spokesman-Review calls it one of the best songs on Yes, I'm a Witch, claiming it has a "silvery spaciousness" to it, describing the song as "aching."
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