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.

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 Beatles. 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 1970, 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.

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