John Lennon recorded this as a demo in 1977. The other Beatles recorded around his tracks to complete song in 1994. The next year, it was released as a single.
Jeff Lynne of The Electric Light Orchestra produced this. Ringo Starr and George Harrison both played on E.L.O.'s 2001 album Zoom. Lynne had quite a task on this song, as Lennon's original vocal was mixed with the piano track.
Yoko Ono agreed to release Lennon's demo to the other Beatles the day after he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yoko got a bad rap by a lot of Beatles fans, but she has been very protective of Lennon's legacy. This is one of the few projects she has authorized on his behalf.
Before their breakup, The Beatles won just four Grammy Awards, but they picked up three more in 1997 when "Free As A Bird" won for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Music Video, Short Form, and Anthology won Best Music Video, Long Form.
Some royalties were donated to a Romanian AIDS charity set up by Elton John and the Beatles' wives.
The phrase "Turned out nice again" at the end of the song is a reference to George Formby, a musical hall entertainer who played the ukulele and is represented in the closing scenes of the video. "Turned out nice again" was Formby's catchphrase. The connection here is that George Harrison played the ukulele and was a member of the George Formby Appreciation Society. He even attended their gatherings. Harrison was said to have had a ukulele in every room of his home and gave one to McCartney early on in their career.
PJ - Glasgow, Scotland
McCartney told Observer Music Monthly
that they put some backward recordings at the end of the single as a joke, "To give all those Beatles nuts something to do."
Bertrand - Paris, France
While locked up in Wormwood Scrubs prison for breaching a probation order, the controversial rock vocalist Pete Doherty claimed he listened to this song every day.
Jeff Lynne told The Daily Mail that of all the songs he's produced, "Free as a Bird" is the one he's most proud of. "I just had to improvise and come up with a few things to make it work," Lynne recalled. "I did it late at night, 3 a.m. in the studio, just me and the engineer, because I didn't want to do it in front of Paul and George. But I came in the next day and Paul gave me a hug and he said, 'You've done it, well done!'"