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|Let It Be|
Let It Be cover
|Written by||Paul McCartney|
|Released||6 March 1970|
|Album||Let It Be|
|Also featured on||Let It Be... Naked|
|Recorded||31 January 1969|
|Length|| 3:50 (single version)|
4:03 (album version)
|Let It Be guide|
|Let It Be... Naked guide|
Across the Universe
The single reached #1 in the U.S., Australia, Italy, Norway and Switzerland and #2 in the UK.
It was the final single released by the Beatles while the band was still active. The song was played in the ending of the song, "The Complete Beatles"
McCartney said he had the idea of "Let It Be", after a dream he had about his mother during the tense period surrounding the Get Back/Let It Be sessions. McCartney explained that his mother — who died of cancer when McCartney was fourteen — was the inspiration for the "Mother Mary" lyric. McCartney later said, "It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing 'Let It Be'." He also said — in a later interview about the dream — that his mother had told him, "It will be alright, just let it be." He was trying to save his band from breaking apart.
Recording and Version HistoryEdit
The first recording of Let It Be took place at Twickenham Film Studios on 3 January 1969, where The Beatles had the previous day begun what would become the Let It Be film. A single take was recorded, with just Paul McCartney on piano and vocals. The first group attempt was made on 8 January. Work continued on the song throughout the month, initially at Twickenham and from 23 January at Apple Studios. The master take was recorded on 31 January 1969, as part of the 'Apple studio performance' for the project Get Back. McCartney played piano (a Blüthner Flügel from Leipzig), Lennon played bass, Billy Preston played organ and George Harrison and Ringo Starr assumed their conventional roles. This was one of two performances of the song that day. The first version, designated take 27-A, would serve as the basis for all officially released versions of the song. The other version, take 27-B, was performed as part of the 'live studio performance', along with Two of Us and The Long and Winding Road. This performance, in which Lennon and Harrison harmonised with McCartney's lead vocal and Harrison contributed a subdued guitar solo, can be seen in the film Let It Be. On 30 April 1969, Harrison overdubbed a new guitar solo on the best take from 31 January that year. Harrison reportedly overdubbed another solo on 4 January 1970. The first overdub solo was used for the original single release, and the second overdub solo was used for the original album release. Some fans mistakenly believe that there were two versions of the basic track — based mostly on the different guitar solos, but also on some other differences in overdubs and mixes.
The single used the same cover photograph as the Let It Be album, and was titled "an intimate bioscopic experience with THE BEATLES". It was originally released as a single on March 6, 1970, backed by "You Know My Name (Look up the Number)", with a production credit for George Martin. This version includes orchestration and backing vocals overdubbed on January 4, 1970 — under the supervision of McCartney — with backing vocals that included the only known contribution by Linda McCartney to a Beatles song. It was during this same session that Harrison recorded the second overdubbed guitar solo. The intention at one point was to have the two overdub solos playing together. This idea was dropped for the final mix of the single, and only the April 30 solo was used, although in practice the January 4 overdub can he heard faintly during the final verse. Martin mixed the orchestration very low in this version. Someone can also be heard whispering something indistinct at around 1:08. The single mix was included on the 1967-1970 compilation album. Original pressings erroneously show the running time of 4:01 (as per the Let It Be album), and not the single version's running time of 3:52.
On March 26, 1970, Phil Spector remixed the song for the Let It Be album. This version features the "more stinging" January 4, 1970 guitar solo, no backing vocals (except during the first chorus), an echo effect on Ringo's cymbals, and more prominent orchestration. The other guitar solo can be heard faintly through the right speaker, as the original was planned. There are three lines in the last chorus of the song as the "There will be an answer" line is sung twice instead of once as on the single. On the album, before the song Lennon is heard saying in a falsetto voice, mimicking Gracie Fields: "That was 'Can You Dig It' by Georgie Wood, and now we'd like to do 'Hark The Angels Come'," and then giggles. Allen Klein brought in Spector to mix the album without telling McCartney or asking for his agreement, because McCartney had not signed Klein's management contract. McCartney later complained that he was not happy with Spector's production of the recording. At about nine seconds into the song, you can hear Ringo click his drumsticks together by accident.
An early version of the song also appears on Anthology 3 which was released on October 28 1996. This version, Take 1, was recorded on January 25 1969. It is a much more simplified version, as McCartney had still not written the final verse yet ("And when the night is cloudy...I wake up to the sound of music..."). Instead, the first verse is simply repeated. The song also features studio talk between Lennon and McCartney prior to another take: “John: Are we supposed to giggle in the solo? Paul: Yeah. John: OK. Paul: This'll — this is gonna knock you out, boy.”
Also, following the end of the recording, John can be heard saying, "Well I think that was rather grand. I'd take one home with me. Ok lets track it. Ugh you bounder you cheat!" The running time of the "Anthology" version is 4:05.
"Let It Be... Naked" versionEdit
Another version of the song appeared on the Let It Be... Naked album in 2003. Starr disliked Spector's version where his drumming was augmented by Spector's "tape-delay-effect" to his hi-hats during the song's second verse and added shakers, so Let It Be… Naked features his original "stripped-down-approach" drumming. Also deleted were the tom-tom overdub rolls, heard after the guitar solo during the third verse. The guitar solo used in this version — similar to the single version — was taken from the subsequent take as seen in the film "Let It Be". Starr also commented that after the release of Naked, he would now have to listen to McCartney saying, "I told you so", when talking about Spector's production. The song's running time on Naked is 3.54.
Still another version appears in the Let It Be film. In this version, McCartney makes several improvisations on piano, placing fill-in notes and sometimes substituting long notes for several short notes. As with the album version, McCartney repeats the "there will be in an answer" line in the chorus. Unlike the album version, however, he does this during the second chorus, not the final chorus. During the final verse and final chorus, McCartney also substitutes the lines "speaking words of wisdom" and "there will be an answer," replacing them with "there will be no sorrow." This version also uses Ringo's more simplified drumming. The film version has never been officially released on record. The running time clocks in at 3:59.
Glyn Johns mixed the song on May 28 1969 as he finished the mixing for the Get Back album. This version was never released. He used the same mix in a January 5 1970, which was an attempt to compile an acceptable version of the LP. Again, this version of the LP was never officially released.
Main Piano ThemeEdit
The main piano theme from Let it be, in C Major, introduces the song, in a sober yet powerful series of cadences, consisting of bouncing four-beat-bar triads riding over left hand piano single note tempered keystrokes, which drive the whole harmony, from a nascent confidence feeling (first measure), to subsequent melancholic anxious sentiment (measures second and third) and back to a definite grateful, self assured stance (last measure). The effect of pleading gloomy mood is achieved by McCartney blending in major 6th and 7th intervals, when playing F and C chords, in the middle of the theme. As harmony is circumscribed by the bass tones, inversions are also a frequent feature worth mentioning in the composition, that lastly shape the settling of emotions of the tune’s intent.
Critical reception for "Let It Be" has been mostly positive. In 2004, it was ranked number 20 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Allmusic said it was one of "The Beatles' most popular and finest ballads". Ian MacDonald had a dissenting opinion, writing that the song "achieved a popularity well out of proportion to its artistic weight" and that it was "'Hey Jude', without the musical and emotional release." John Lennon also commented on "Let It Be". Prior to a take during the January 31 1969 recording session, he asked, "Are we supposed to giggle in the solo?" (This a similar quote to Lewisohn's "The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions" (p170) but Lennon says "during the solo" not "in the solo" as quoted here). In Lennon's Playboy interview in 1980, he disavowed any involvement with composing the song. He said, “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 [sic] '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.'” As MacDonald explained, Lennon is wrong about "Bridge over Troubled Water" being McCartney's inspiration: "Let It Be" was recorded approximately a year before "Bridge over Troubled Water" was released. According to Allmusic, Simon and Garfunkel performed the song live in 1969 prior to releasing it, but it is unlikely that McCartney could have heard it before the recording session on January 31 1969. Ironically, "Let It Be" knocked "Bridge over Troubled Water" out of the top spot as Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, April 11 1970. (see below)
Memorial service for LindaEdit
Along with a 700-strong congregation, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr sang "Let It Be" during a memorial service for Linda McCartney at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, in 1998.
- Album Version
- Single Version
Selected cover versionsEdit
"Let It Be" has been covered numerous times by various artistes, but this is just a short selection:
- The first recording of the song to be released (even before the Beatles' version) was a cover by Aretha Franklin, in January 1970, on the album This Girl's in Love with You, along with her cover of "Eleanor Rigby".
- Gladys Knight and The Pips released a version of the song on the tribute album, Motown Sings The Beatles.
- Singer-songwriter Bill Withers covered "Let It Be" on his 1971 debut album, Just As I Am.
- Estonian vocal group Collage recorded their version 1972, titled "See on nii" (Estonian lyrics by Heldur Karmo) backed by a lush orchestral arrangement set by Peeter Saul. It was probably the first version recorded in the then Soviet Union. It was released 20 years later on a MC only collection of Estonian Beatles covers titled "Eile veel". Later it was loaded into Youtube.
- Ray Charles covered it on his 1977 album, True to Life.
- John Denver included a version of "Let It Be" on his 1971 album, Poems, Prayers, and Promises. This version includes the line "There will be no sadness" during the final chorus.
- Joan Baez included "Let It Be" on her 1971 album, Blessed Are..., and released the song as a single. The song also appears on her live album, Diamonds & Rust in the Bullring, and she performed it at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970, as captured in the film, Message to Love.
- Leo Sayer covered the song for the 1976 ephemeral musical documentary, All This and World War II.
- Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist and vocalist, Danny Kirwan, recorded a version for his 1976 album, Midnight in San Juan, (released in the USA under the name, Danny Kirwan).
- Charity ensemble Ferry Aid — in the wake of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster — recorded a version (featuring McCartney) which reached #1 on the UK singles chart in March 1987.
- In 1995, Meat Loaf covered the song on his single, "Not a Dry Eye in the House"; the single reached up to #7 in the UK.
- Australian rock musician Nick Cave recorded a cover of the song for the soundtrack to the 2001 film, I Am Sam.
- Lesley Garrett sang an operatic version on her 2002 album, The Singer.
- The song is featured in the Academy Award nominated 2007 film Across the Universe, where it is sung by a gospel choir and set against the backdrop of the 12th Street riot.
- Brooke White of American Idol (season 7) performed this song during the first Beatles tribute week. She also be performed this song on the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2008 that ran from July 1 to September 13.
- Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer adapted the song into Hebrew, entitled "Lu Yehi." It was most famously sung by Chava Alberstein in 1973.
- Eric Burdon recorded it, likely in the early 1980s, and it was bootlegged and released on February 27 2008 on the album "Ultimate Rarities Vol. 2".
- In 2003, McCartney performed a private rendition for Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Kremlin — before McCartney played a concert in Red Square.
The Beatles: Release: March 6 1970 Tracks: 7" Single (Apple) Let It Be b/w You Know My Name Look Up The Number Producer: George Martin and Chris Thomas UK chart position: #2 U.S. chart position: #1 (2 weeks) U.S. adult contemporary chart: #1 (4 weeks)