First recorded (as a demo) by George Harrison (1970).
Hit version by Ringo Starr (US #4/UK #4/CAN #1 1971).
From the wiki: “‘It Don’t Come Easy’ was first taped on February 18, 1970 during the sessions for Ringo Starr’s first solo album Sentimental Journey. Although Ringo is givens sole composing credit on the recording, he told VH1 Storytellers that ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ was co-written with George Harrison – that he (Ringo) had written just the first two song lines and the chorus; that George composed the remainder. The demo was recorded by George to help Ringo learn the completed lyrics.
“With Beatles producer George Martin initially handling production, George Harrison plays acoustic guitar and sings at the demo session and directed the other musicians – Stephen Stills (keyboards), old Beatles friend Klaus Voormann (bass), and Starr (drums) with backing vocalists, Pete Ham and Tom Evans from Badfinger. After the basic track was completed, George added two electric guitar parts. At this point the song was titled ‘You Gotta Pay Your Dues’.
“It took two more recording sessions to bring ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ to fruition. The recording of the third version of the song began at Trident Studios on 8 March 1970. Harrison produced the sessions and played guitar. Voormann and Stills contributed as before, while the other participants included Mal Evans (on tambourine) and Ron Cattermole (saxophone, trumpet). Overdubs were added to the new basic track on 11 March, again at Trident. The song was then left until October 1970, at which point further overdubs were made, including a new piano part, performed by Gary Wright (then of the group Spooky Tooth; later a solo artist).
“When news of the recording sessions reached the music press, Apple Records told them there were ‘absolutely no plans for the record to be released as a single at the present time’, and the song wasn’t issued as a single until early 1971.”
Ringo Starr, “It Don’t Come Easy” (1971):