In 1970 the Beatles released their twelfth and last studio album ‘Let It Be’ and the track of the same name was one of the singles released from the album. Whilst the song is credited (as with all Beatles songs) to Lennon and McCartney, it was actually written by Paul, but why did Paul McCartney write ‘Let It Be’?
A Message From His Mum
Paul himself tells the story about how ‘Let It Be’ first came to him, in a dream. In the 60’s he was sleeping and during the night he had a dream about his mum coming to him and telling him not to worry about things, to relax and just let it be.
He talks about how he woke the following morning and immediately remembered the dream and in particular those words. Thinking it was a phrase he had not heard before and loving the sentiment, he set about writing the iconic lyrics right away.
This story is evident from the opening lines of the song when he talks about ‘Mother Mary’ coming to him and ‘speaking words of wisdom’. Obviously, this refers to his own mum, Mary McCartney, and his dream of her coming to him.
Over the years, people have speculated whether the Mary in question could be the mother of Jesus and whilst it is very clear from Paul’s own story that it is his own mother he refers to, he will typically tell people that they can interpret the song however they would like.
At the time of the dream that Paul refers to, where his mum appears, he was in sessions that would provide the follow up to the White Album and it was a tense period for the band, who had started to have problems. In various interviews, most of the group have commented that they felt around this time that the break-up of the Beatles was inevitable.
Paul was going out a lot at this point, as the only member of the band still single, he was clubbing a lot, drinking and taking drugs, so often struggling to get proper sleep. This was allowing the stress of the bands’ troubles to get to him more than the other members of the band.
Paul has also commented that at the time he felt it was time to settle down again, that the idea of finding someone was constantly at the back of his mind. It was within this context that this dream appeared.
His mum had died 12 years earlier and Paul struggled to remember her face at times, so when she appeared in his dream, so clearly, he saw this as a sign that his mum knew he needed her and it is why her message was so reassuring to Paul and why it stuck with him so much when he woke.
A few months after Paul first wrote ‘Let It Be’, he met his future wife Linda and he still feels that she was a gift from his mum. In fact, ‘Let It Be’ was the first time that Paul and Linda worked together on a song.
Whilst Linda was not a professional singer, Paul liked her singing around the house and decided to take her with him to Apple Studios, which he would often visit by himself when he knew an engineer would be around, just to try things out. Linda can be heard on the song to this day.
It was played at her memorial service and Paul also sang it at the service in New York after the 9/11 attacks. He often comments on the pride he gets from it being his mum coming and talking to him, leading to a better time for him personally, but also how the song speaks to so many and is often used to comfort those in troubled times themselves.
The song was released in March 1970, topping the Billboard charts in the US, but only reaching number two in the UK. The song itself has achieved a number one chart position in the UK when the charity band ‘Ferry Aid’ recorded the track (including Paul) to raise money after the Zeebrugge disaster.
Critics seem to be split over the merits of the song, but John Lennon was very clear about his feelings. In an interview with Playboy magazine in 1980, he says that it is a ‘Paul song’, claiming it should have been a Wings track rather than the Beatles.