Let It Be

Let It Be single artwork - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 25, 26, 31 January; 30 April 1969; 4 January 1970
Producers: George Martin, Chris Thomas
Engineers: Glyn Johns, Jeff Jarratt, Phil McDonald

Released: 6 March 1970 (UK), 11 March 1970 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, backing vocals, piano, bass guitar, maracas
John Lennon: backing vocals
George Harrison: backing vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums
Billy Preston: organ, electric piano
Linda McCartney: backing vocals
Uncredited: two trumpets, two trombones, tenor saxophone, cellos

Available on:
Let It Be
Past Masters
Anthology 3
Let It Be... Naked

The Beatles' final single prior to the 1990s Anthology releases, Let It Be was also the title track of the last album of their career.

Download on iTunes

The song was written during the sessions for the White Album, at a time when Paul McCartney felt isolated as the only member of The Beatles still keen to keep the group together. His enthusiasm and belief had kept them going after the death of Brian Epstein, but increasingly he found the others at odds with his attempts to motivate them.

Although his public persona remained upbeat, privately McCartney was feeling insecure and wounded by the gradual disintegration of the group. During this period, his mother Mary - who had passed away in 1956 when McCartney was 14 - appeared to him in a dream.

One night during this tense time I had a dream I saw my mum, who'd been dead 10 years or so. And it was so great to see her because that's a wonderful thing about dreams: you actually are reunited with that person for a second; there they are and you appear to both be physically together again. It was so wonderful for me and she was very reassuring. In the dream she said, 'It'll be all right.' I'm not sure if she used the words 'Let it be' but that was the gist of her advice, it was, 'Don't worry too much, it will turn out OK.' It was such a sweet dream I woke up thinking, Oh, it was really great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing the song Let It Be. I literally started off 'Mother Mary', which was her name, 'When I find myself in times of trouble', which I certainly found myself in. The song was based on that dream.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

It was perhaps inevitable - even fortuitous for the group - that Let It Be took on religious overtones, with many listeners interpreting it as referring to the Virgin Mary.

Mother Mary makes it a quasi-religious thing, so you can take it that way. I don't mind. I'm quite happy if people want to use it to shore up their faith. I have no problem with that. I think it's a great thing to have faith of any sort, particularly in the world we live in.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

John Lennon felt little affection for the song, and was partly responsible for sandwiching it between the throwaway Dig It and Maggie Mae on the Let It Be album, which effectively sent up any perceived portentousness.

That's Paul. What can you say? Nothing to do with The Beatles. It could've been Wings. I don't know what he's thinking when he writes Let It Be. I think it was inspired by Bridge Over Troubled Waters. That's my feeling, although I have nothing to go on. I know he wanted to write a Bridge Over Troubled Waters.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Chart success

Let It Be was the last single to be released by The Beatles before their split was announced to the press. A final US single, The Long And Winding Road, was issued two months later, and a month after Paul McCartney revealed to the press that the band were no more.

Let It Be was released in the UK on 6 March, billed as "an intimate bioscopic experience with THE BEATLES". Its b-side was You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).

The single reached number two in the charts. It fared better elsewhere, charting at number one in the US, Australia, Italy, Norway and Switzerland.

80 responses on “Let It Be

  1. Marking Time

    Good Lawd! This is quite well-researched and instructive. Thanks a heap. I did a bit of writing on the biblical Mary today, and how the Beatles’ disparate spiritual experiences can be linked to this song. This piece about Paul’s dream was new information, though. The Great Spirit works in so many mysterious ways…

  2. Paul Schmid

    Preston played a Lowrey Heritage Deluxe, not a hammond on “Let it Be”. The instrument is clearly visable in the move at Twinkingham, where Preston wasn’t and at Apple, where he was. The instrument was also used in earlier sessions at Abbey Road.

    To futher clarify, Naked is a different recording than the album or 45. It is slower, and the piano pedal phrasing is different than the other two, aside from the techno tricks.

        1. william

          I think we all make comments like that. If John is taken to be commenting about a temporal sequence, then clearly, he was mistaken.

          If he was, rather, looking back and saying that Paul was aiming for a certain type of song, say like Paul Simon achieved with Bridge Over Troubled Water, then there is nothing inconsistent with his statement.

          Beyond dealing with the merely logical, who is so say that Paul had no knowledge of what other groups were working on? To me, Let it Be is a great, great song, especially on the version with George’s extended lead. Let’s not sully it with pettiness….

    1. go9025

      You know how it goes Lennon at times was a hater especially on his comments on “Let It Be” and songs not written by him… Hey it still bares the Lennon/McCartney name… Why can’t we just get along.

      1. McLerristarr

        Well, he called a lot of his own songs “a piece of garbage” too. He basically didn’t like much after he started his Plastic Ono Band thing.

        Bridge Over Troubled Waters was recorded in 1969 – don’t know when, perhaps it was before Let It Be.

          1. Vonbontee

            It’s also not impossible that Lennon’s meaning was something like “That was Paul’s attempt to write a kind of gospel-influenced song, as Paul Simon later did so, with his own ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters'”

            1. James Ferrell

              Correct. The two songs were very distinctive in mood and tone. At the time I saw them both as a product of a wish to pull back from confrontation toward peace. I saw them as a reaction to big societal dysfunction but maybe in both cases it was equally a reaction to intragroup strife.

              1. Dianne Appel

                I enjoy both songs, but don’t see them as very similar in mood or intent (maybe in harmony or octave or cadence). LIB is an Earthly plea, while Bridge is a goodbye song. . clearly a gate to heaven. Further, it matters not when a song was first published by the industry, some songs are written years or even decades before they are first recorded. Both are noteworthy efforts by musicians I love.

          1. Daniel Lawton

            Catholickid is right. Two of my high school buds saw S&G at Cobo Hall Winter 1969 and said, “They did this beautiful song on piano about a bridge”. It came out as a single January 1970. The Beatles’ “Let It Be” single came out March 1970. Of course Paul was jealous and had to beat it. That’s the normal ego of a genius songwriter. George admitted he wrote “If I Needed Someone” as a response/Tip of the hat to the Byrds’ sound. Paul admits Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows” is better than anything he wrote, and that the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” inspired “Sgt Pepper”.

            1. Jake

              Let it Be was a finished product in January 1969.Not released as a single until 1 yr later. A song conceived in late 1968. If there was a jealousy then is would have to be on Paul Simons part. Not Paul McCartney.

    2. Catholickid

      I would have to agree Jonny. It always seemed to me that there was competition between the two. I don’t think John liked it that a song wrote by Paul would become the name of their last album and their last hit single not to mention “Let It Be” is considered by many to be the best song put out by the band. That is not to say Paul was a better writer or singer then Lennon, I think that argument needs to be left alone, because the two were clearly at their best when they worked together in the band.

    3. Daniel Lawton

      “Bridge” was released January 26 1970, and hit #1 February 28 1970. “LIB” was released as a single March 1970. Was there competition back then between the Beatles, Dylan, the Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, etc? Did they feed and encourage and challenge each other? Having lived through it all, I can reply unequivocally: yes.

  3. Sumbi William

    Why can’t I believe that the solo on LET IT BE, from the LET IT BE album, was done by a Beatle member? It seems like the same person who did the solo on LET IT BE is the same person who performed the solo on DIG A PONY. It sounds outside of the range of any Beatle member because no Beatle album prior to the LET IT BE album had a solo in that style and no post Beatle member ever had any solo remotely close the those two solos.

    1. william

      I think it was George Harrison on both of those songs. Hey, nobody could believe that the Beatles were the same group in 1963 that went off to Hamburg at the end of the 50’s either….

  4. Deadman

    I bought the remastered Let It Be album for the LIB lead break alone.

    Outside the range? Most discerning listeners who compare the leads in, say, I Me Mine and Let It Be would have no doubt that both are by the same player—George.

    No Beatle or post-Beatle solo is remotely similar? Even allowing for the difference in techniques of slide-style and finger-style leads, many of GH’s lead breaks share the same melodic approach and similar note-bending. Compare, for instance, the leads of Isn’t It a Pity and Free as a Bird and the aforementioned IMM and LIB. Listen also to George’s last mini-lead in The End.

    I’d say that the lead breaks of Something and the album version of Let It Be are (a) two of the finest lead breaks in rock and (b) demonstrably and indisputably, by George Harrison.

    1. Razor

      On Let It Be I’ve read that there were two different lead guitars both played by George. The second one is my favorite. It’s been called a STINGING LEAD, and I just love that one, the one on the album. George had the respect of people like Clapton and Alvin Lee, two great lead guitar players. His lead on the end of The End is classic! I’ve never heard playing like that by anyone else.

      I also love his lead work on the song Basketball Jones which he played for Cheech and Chong. Some of the licks are similiar to the lead on The End.

      I guess you can see who my favorite Beatle was. Thank you for the great insight you showed on George.

  5. Why Don't We Do It in the Road

    Maybe you can’t believe a Beatle played that well because they never studied at a conservatorium like real musicians. Surely, trained studio musicians must have recorded all the Beatles’ music which real, properly trained composers must have composed.
    Similarly, I can’t believe that Shakespeare, who never studied at university, could have written such fine plays; an Oxford or Cambridge scholar must have written them. Agatha Christie, a woman who never went to school apart from a year or so at a finishing school, obviously never wrote all those popular novels; a man must have written them. The Egyptians could not have designed and built the pyramids: it must have been done by aliens.

    1. Preston Phillips

      He makes a great point. And besides, look at how much George improved over the years. Listen to his stuff from 1963, then 1966, then 1969, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

      1. Razor

        Not only did George improve his guitar playing, John and Paul did also. They were all very good guitar players and could all play lead.

        In the early years George knew more chords and played better than Paul or John so he became the lead guitar player. He loved Carl Perkins and played like Carl on quite a few of the Beatle songs. These early recordings are so pure and beautiful. I’ts easy to see why he was the lead guitar player. He also taught John how to really play.It’s my guess that George and Paul were truly guitar players while John became better later. Of course they all became better later, John later than the other two.

        1. David

          All three played lead, bass, and rhythm on the records. GH was also surpressed (sp?). His only 4 songs on White album?

          It was amazing he got three on Revolver, but Paul sounds somewhat like him when he played lead on Taxman.

  6. Scott

    In my opinion the album version was much better than the single version. The guitar solo changes the entire makeup of the song; I feel a much greater emotional connection to the album version.

  7. Wolfram

    Non one recognized untill today, that on the LP/single-Version there’s a bass-overdub. So it’s not John playing. It must have been from 4th January 1970. So I think Paul played a new bass track. An the naked-version, John’s bass and the overdub bass are combined.

  8. Gustavo Solórzano Alfaro

    In this album, at least on rock songs like “Don’t let me down”, “Dig a Pony”, “I’ve got a feeling”, “Get back” and “one after 909″, John was lead guitarist. “Get back” for sure, so it´s muck likely that he plays lead on his own songs.

    Some say (not me) it’s because Paul felt guilty about taking control over the group, so he encouraged John to play lead guitar.

    1. GeorgeTSimpson

      You haven’t seen the let it be film, have you? John played lead guitar on get back only (and slide guitar on for you blue). Watch the video of the rooftop concert, it’s george playing lead on every song, except Get Back

      1. Joseph Brush

        Yes I saw the movie when it came out. Otherwise your comment about John’s studio work on Get Back and For You Blue is the same as mine.

  9. robert

    I am pretty sure John is NOT lead guitar on Dig A Pony or One After 909 it’s George. Get Back yes – and I don’t recall a lead guitar solo on Don’t Let Me Down.

    There is a Don’t Let Me Down version with a Billy Preston keyboard solo (“Hit it Bill!” Lennon yells). It’s on the bootlegs.

  10. robert

    I’m pretty sure there are three different guitar solo versions of LIB – all by George of course.

    By the time the album came out my friends and I had had the single and the bootlegs for quite some time.

    Hearing George’s new solo on the album was a shocker.

  11. Sumbi William

    On October 1 2009 I wrote that I didn’t believe that any Beatle did the solo on Let It Be (album version). I did receive a lot of disappointed fan reply because of saying this and please believe me, I am a die hard Beatle fan myself but no one has come remotely close in convincing me that I’m wrong. I went out and got the Naked album and yes, it’s a Beatle doing the solo and I like it but, come on guys, that solo on Let It Be (album version) is one of the all time best solos ever and there is no video, interview or witness talking about it and no other Beatle member did anything close to it during and after they went solo??? I’m not hating on my favorite rock band but some say it was Paul, some say George, and some say John. I’ll take a very long shot and say it was Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck because it sounds like a Stratocaster Master.

    Don’t whine and hate me, let’s get to the truth and team up to ask Paul himself.

    1. Luke

      Clapton wasn’t quite in his stratocaster phase yet, and I believe its either George or Paul. George because of the melodic nature, and Paul because the it was played (it sounds like the player is hitting the strings a little hard, something I found Paul always did on solos, possibly bc of playing so much bass) besides, George played both Telecasters and stratocasters.

      1. Cameron McIntosh

        Interesting observations, I heard and read somewhere it was George on everything except the initial Let It Be album, which was John. It is certainly a different style use Penatonic scale. I doubt very much it was Paul doing any of the solos on this song. Does The Beatles Sessions book say anything?

  12. Dartos

    Agreed, the lead guitar on the album version must be George. Other songs on the album such as “One After 909″ and “Dig a Pony” feature George, and sound similar to the lead guitar on “Let It Be.” I’ve never heard any Beatle mention Beck or Clapton being at the Let It Be sessions, so I think that at least narrows it down to John, Paul or George.

  13. robert

    The solo on the album is for certain by George Harrison. Perhaps the biggest advancement in George’s playing around the time of LIB was he was starting to use the Major Penatonic scale in his playing (it is also featured on Abbey Road a lot).

    All the LIB solos are penatonic based – included the stronger album version

    No doubt this was influenced by his friendship with Clapton who used the scale a lot (as well as Dwayne Allman).

    Remember LIB is after George had been spending time with Delaney and Bonnie in the US where the major penatonic scale was becoming the back bone of emerging Southern rock.

    So yes it’s George on the album version of Let It Be.

  14. robert

    one more thing on this George solo bit – one big difference between the single version and Naked versions of LIB and the Spector album version is the sound of George’s guitar.

    In the movie sessions George was using a Telecaster – usually a thin sounding guitar.

    In the studio for the LIB Spector solo I am assuming George used most probably his Les Paul – maybe his Strat – but I doubt it was his Tele – although it could have been – if really amped up.

    That sound of the guitar more than the actual playing is what’s so striking to me.

    However it’s the same tone he got on I, Me, Mine – also finished in the studio.

  15. Sumbi William

    Thanks Dartos and Robert, I’ll do more research based on the info you gave me, although I’m sill not convinced about this issue, I do respect your opinion and I won’t stop till I a non biased witness speaks up…
    It’s not just the song Let It Be on the Let It Be Album, It’s most of the overdriven guitar parts(with Overdrive or Fuzz) like Dig A Pony lead etc…

    I’ll be back after I get proof or better reasons to feel this way. I’ll love to also find real solid proof that it really was George, I love the Beatles.

  16. Cameron McIntosh

    This is my all time favorite song; it gives me chills every time I hear it. I want it played at my funeral, seriously. One thing I like is that there are different versions. My favorite version is the telecasted one where Paul sings the words… ‘there will be no sorrow” I just love that! I like all the solos except the one on the Let It Be bootleg.

  17. Nepomuceno

    “A new mix was made for 2003’s Let It Be… Naked. […] The guitar solo was Harrison’s from 30 April 1969.”

    Are you sure about that?

    Listen carefully to the solo from the single version and the one from the Naked version, they are different; though I admit they sound quite similar. I’ve read on various other pages that the solo on Naked is from take 27b, the take that appeared in the film, and not the single solo from April 1969.

    1. Joe Post author

      You’re right, thanks for that. I’ve amended the end of the article to say the solo was from a different 31 January take. I think this is correct – let me know if not.

  18. Kentabulary

    George Martin scored and recorded the brass on this one? And not Phil Spector?

    I had no idea! So it was the Beatles themselves who broke their own rules with extraneous arrangements being overdubbed, before Phil Spector even got there!?

  19. Cchight

    Although Let It Be was recorded before Bridge Over Troubled Water, it was released a month after Bridge in March 1970. Perhaps that’s why the comparisons were drawn. Bridge was written in the summer of 69 and released in Feb 1970. It’s unlikely Paul would have heard Bridge until its release and therefore would not have been influenced by it.

  20. eddy

    I enjoyed the article and comments. I don’t think ‘Paul’ wrote the song. My best guess is Billy Preston wrote it and sold it (and was compensated with ‘billing- “THE BEATLES WITH BILLY PRESTON” instead of a performance credit). It’s a typical church style song, and Billy was a church guy, the Beatles at this point were chemical guys, not church guys. This is just my gut feeling.
    Read the lyrics to Billy’s song
    ‘I Wrote a Simple Song’ . The last album by the Beatles was Revolver, after that nothing was real

        1. josephbrush

          @eddy Let It Be was recorded in January of 1969 while Preston’s song was recorded in May 1969. Also Billy wrote a song called Hey Bro which is similar to Hey Jude.

  21. GeorgeTSimpson

    I prefer the single version solo and i think i think so because it fits better to let it be (don’t hate me for this comment). I don’t know anything about the bass thing but if johns bass and his vocals were not included that would mean that john has no contribution to let it be!! The most famous song of the beatles (at least one of the most famous) without john! I can’t beleave this but of course it’s possible.

    1. GeorgeTSimpson

      I just listened to the glyn johns mix of let it be and the backing vocals are completly different to the single/album version, so i think only the january 1970 backing vocals by paul, george and linda were used. In the let it be article in the rolling stone list of the greatest beatles songs i alo read that paul recorded a new bass so if that’s all right, john isn’t included on let it be. Of course this might be wrong

  22. william

    I am watching the movie as I type this and the cops are coming. I am nervous. The Beatles appear to be in big trouble.

    Maybe singing on the roof was not such a great idea….

  23. GeorgeTSimpson

    Why does this site says john played bass, it was paul he rerecorded the bass in january 1970 it’s even on the beatlesbible site of that day. If you listen to the glyn johns mix of let it be and the single/album mix you hear that it’s a different (and better) bass line

    1. Joe Post author

      That’s because the LIB song page was written (like the other song features) well before I wrote the day-by-day guides to the sessions, which contain more detailed and accurate information. Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy – it’s been corrected.

  24. GeorgeTSimpson

    It’s also mccartny on electric piano, the electric piano is audible before the little organ break and the guitar solo and also in the end of the song. It’s not audible on the glyn johns mix, so I must have been overdubbed later, and you wrote that it was paul on 4th January

  25. Pablo Castro

    I still think it´s John on bass, because the basic track was live, if it were re-recorded, shades of the orignal bass woul remain on the other tracks of the master.

  26. Terry

    Such an interesting story on the origins of Let it be. What a coincidense that in Luke 1:38 Mary says Let it be! Or is it? Perhaps there is a more spiritual purpose and application here that is bigger than even The Beatles!

  27. beatallabout

    On LIB single version,I can cleary hear someone whisper “shut up John” on the right channel after Paul sings “though they may be parted”. Anyone has a clue?

  28. Doug Pitts

    …and just a side note – on the single version, the one with the leslie lead, the producer is noted as George Martin. The album version, with the “stinging” lead is by Phil Spector. I personally like the single version better (and this is the one on Past Masters) since it more reflects what I see as the “reverential” tone of the song. The album version is just too jarring for me and too much of a contrast to the rest of the song. Of course it could be argued that after Spector layered on more loud prchestra on his version that a louder lead was called for.

  29. DarrenS

    While it is true that many great songwriters hear other great songs and try to top them, I doubt from the information provided that this is the case here. LIB was, as indicated in the above article, first brought to the group on January 3, 1969. Unless it sprung from his mind while he slept the night before (not wholly unreasonable, as he had done that before), Paul had been working on it probably towards the tail end of 1968. I fail to see how he could have been propelled by BOTW to write LIB, given these time frames.

  30. Karel

    On the roof session George is playing a rosewood Tele. That is not your ordinary Tele, which are indeed light and can be thin sounding. The rosewood version of the Telecaster is about as heavy as a LP Custom and can sound as fat and full (considering the Tele’s single coil pickups). It’s a pretty rare guitar which has later been reissued as a Japanese built version.

  31. Nick Danger

    I recently did the house tour of Paul’s Forthlin Road home thru the National Trust. The caretaker/tour guide explained that she ran into a 90+ neighbor who remembered Mother Mary. According to the neighbor, Let It Be was a regular expression of Mary McCartney to smooth out conflict. I have not seen this piece of trivia written anywhere else. This is something. that only Paul or someone who knew the family back then would know.

  32. Graham Paterson

    A great song and one of Paul McCartneys greatest compositions. I love the opening piano work on this. This will always be a favorite of mine. The song is a great ode to his late mother and to forgiveness.

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