Let It Be – The Beatles

MANILA: Packed with 40 plus songs, the touring show LET IT BE: A Celebration Of The Music Of The Beatles was presented 08 February 2015 at the Centrepointe Theatre in Ottawa in Canada. The international show, starting in September 2012, musically charts the band's meteoric rise through the heart of Beatlemania and on to their studio compositions (centrepointetheatre.com). The show has played in London for 2 1/2 years and toured all across the United Kingdom (Chris Jones, 19 February 2015, chicagotribune.com).

45 years ago: After the often fractious sessions for the White Album in 1968, Paul McCartney realized The Beatles were in danger of disintegrating if they continued to work independently of each other. He hit upon the idea of filming a television special in front of an audience; Paul is quoted as saying (beatlesbible.com):

We started Let It Be in January 1969 at Twickenham Studios, under the working title Get Back. Michael Lindsay Hogg was the Director. The idea was that you'd see The Beatles rehearsing, jamming, getting their act together and then finally performing somewhere in a big end-of-show concert. We would show how the whole process worked. I remember I had an idea for the final scene, which would be a massive tracking shot, forever and ever, and then we'd be in the concert.

This was to be a continuation of the back-to-the-basics ethos that the group had adopted since Lady Madonna in February 1968. "Let It Be was supposed to be the album that would bring the Beatles back together again," doing live performances (Michael Gallucci, 08 May 2015, ultimateclassicrock.com). They recorded in London's Twickenham Film Studios, and then at their own Apple Studios, during the first month of 1969, "to respark their dying flame." No outside visitors, no bullshit. They called it Get Back. Says Michael:

There are great songs – "Two Of Us," "I've Got A Feeling," "Get Back" (a different mix of the song reached #1 in 1969 – scattered among the ruins. It's a fascinating work, no matter how you hear it (the album was remixed in 2003 as Let It Be ... Naked, with Spector's often intrusive production removed). It's the sound of a band falling apart. It's the sound of a band trying to hold together. And it's the sound of an era ending.

The album: Let It Be is the 12th and final studio album by the Beatles, released on 08 May 1970, almost a month after the group's break-up. Like most of the band's previous releases, it was a #1 album in many countries, including the US and the UK, and was released in tandem with the motion picture of the same title. It was Paul McCartney's idea. The recording made little or no use of studio artifice or multiple overdubbing, to allow the group to return to their roots as a true ensemble. This idea mirrored the "back to the basics" attitude of a number of rock musicians at that time in reaction to the psychedelic and progressive music dominant in the previous 2 years. The concert itself would be filmed for broadcast on worldwide television, with the album released to coincide with it. "The whole Let It Be project was really to see work in progress, to see the Beatles working" – Paul McCartney, thebeatles.com). Working again.

The ballad: "Let It Be" is a song by the Beatles, released in March 1970 as a single and (in an alternate mix) as the title track of their album Let It Be. At the time, it had the highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #6. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney. It was their final single before McCartney announced his departure from the band. Both the Let It Be album and the US single "The Long And Winding Road" were released after McCartney's announced departure from and subsequent break-up of the group. (The image above is from the cover of the album Woman released by Peter Michael McCartney, also known as Mike McGear, Paul's brother and only sibling. He is a musician and photographer, a well-known artist in his own right.)

In 1987, the song was recorded by charity supergroup Ferry Aid (which included McCartney). It reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart for 3 weeks and reached the Top 10 in many other European countries.

McCartney said he had the idea of "Let It Be" after he had a dream about his mother during the tense period surrounding the sessions for The Beatles ("The White Album") in 1968. According to McCartney, the song's reference to "Mother Mary" was not a biblical reference. It just happens that Paul's Mother Mary was a Roman Catholic. (His father belonged to the Church of England, and later turned agnostic.) Mary had married Jim on the promise that any children would be baptized in the Catholic faith. The children, Paul and Michael, were not enrolled in Catholic schools, as their father believed that they learned too much towards religion instead of education. Paul remembers his mother encouraging them to use the Queen's English instead of the Liverpool dialect, unusual in the area they lived in.

Paul's parents were Jim McCartney and Mary Patricia Mohan. Like many families in Liverpool, they were of Irish descent. Paul's Mother Mary was a trained nurse and midwife. The McCartney family lived in council houses during Mary's life of 47 years, but Paul later bought his father a house called Rembrandt, in Heswall, Cheshire. 2 years after Mary was born, her father met and married his second wife, Rose, who had 2 children from a previous marriage. Mary, who had been looking after the Mohans, realized that Rose did not care much for domesticity or her new husband's children, so she chose to live with her aunts. In 1923, at 14 years of age, Mary started work as a nurse trainee at the Smithdown Road Hospital, and then took a 3-year training course at Walton Road Hospital in Rice Lane, Liverpool, eventually becoming a state registered nurse.

Mary became a health visitor and midwife, and was on-call day or night, riding a bicycle to houses where she was needed as a midwife. Her eldest son Paul said his first memory was watching her cycling away when it was snowing heavily. The family could not afford a TV set until the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953; they never owned a car.

Jim and Mary would often take Paul and Michael for a walk to the local rustic village of Hale. According to Paul, these frequent trips out of Liverpool to the countryside inspired his love of nature. The McCartneys had a full set of George Newnes encyclopedias, which Jim encouraged his two sons to use, and told them to look up any word they did not understand. It was hoped that Paul would become a doctor or a teacher.

Jim had a collection of old 78 rpm records that he would often play, or perform his musical "party pieces" – the hits of the time – on the piano. He used to point out the different instruments in songs on the radio to his sons, and took them to local brass band concerts. He also taught them a basic idea of harmony between instruments, and Paul credits that as helpful when later singing harmonies with John Lennon. After Mary's death, Jim bought Paul a nickel-plated trumpet as a birthday present; when skiffle music became popular, Paul swapped the trumpet for a £15 Framus Zenith (model 17) acoustic guitar. Paul also played his father's Framus Spanish guitar when writing early songs with John. With encouragement from his father, Paul started playing the family piano and then wrote "When I'm Sixty-Four" (his father was 64). Jim advised his son to take some music lessons, which he did, but soon realized that he preferred to earn by ear, as did his father.

How the song Let It Be was written, Songfacts says (songfacts.com):

McCartney had a dream one night when he was paranoid and anxious. He saw his mom who had been dead for ten years or so; she came to him in his time of trouble, speaking words of wisdom. This brought him much peace when he needed it. It was this sweet dream that got him to begin writing the song.

John Lennon hated this song because of its apparent Christian overtones. He made the comment before recording it, (in a falsetto voice), "And now we'd like to do 'Hark The Angels Come.'" Lennon saw to it that "Maggie Mae," a song about a Liverpool prostitute, followed it on the album.

In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine placed Let It Be at #8 on the Beatles' 100 Greatest Songs. Mojo magazine placed it at #50 in 2006. AllMusic said it was one of "the Beatles' most popular and finest ballads" but Ian MacDonald disagreed, saying 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." In a Playboy interview in 1980, John Lennon disavowed any involvement in 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 "Let It Be."

Let It Be

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Ah, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Oh, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

By Paul McCartney

1970: The song gave the Beatles their 7th consecutive year charting a #1 hit, sharing the all-time record at that time with Elvis Presley.

1971: John Denver recorded a solo acoustic cover of Let It Be on his album Poems, Prayers, and Promises. Gladys Knight and the Pips released a version of the song on the tribute album Motown Sings The Beatles. Joan Baez included Let It Be in her album Blessed Are...

1977: Ray Charles did a cover version of his album True To Life.

1985: The song is performed regularly during McCartney's performances. On 13 July 1985, Paul did Let It Be as one of the closing acts of the Live Aid charity concert in front of an estimated global TV audience exceeding one billion people. It was beset by technical difficulties when his microphone failed for the first 2 minutes of his piano performance, making it difficult for TV viewers and impossible for those in the stadium to hear him. As a result, previous performers David Bowie, Bob Geldof, Alison Moyet and Pete Townshend returned to the stage to back him up. He later joked about changing the lyrics to "There will be some feedback, let it be."

1995: A second instrumental rendition is from saxophonist Nelson Rangell from a compilation album (I Got No Kick Against) Modern Jazz – Celebration of the Songs of the Beatles.

1998: 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.

2001: Paul led a crowd-rousing rendition of the song as part of the finale of the Concert for New York City, a benefit concert he organized featuring many famous musicians held 20 October 2001 at the Madison Square Garden in response to the 11 September 2001 attacks.

2002: Lesley Garrett sang an operatic version on her 2002 album The Singer.

2003: McCartney performed the song as a private rendition for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.

2008: On 18 July 2008, Paul performed Let It Be with Billy Joel and his band to close the final concert at the Shea Stadium in Queens, New York, before its demolition.

2007: A gospel version is sung by Carol Woods & Timothy T Michum, featured in the film Across The Universe.

2012: On 04 June 2012, Paul performed the song as part of his set in the Concert for the Queen that celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

2013: The cast of the show Glee covered the song in the 2nd episode of the 5th season, "Tina in the Sky with Diamonds."

clip_image0042015: On 14 May 2015, Soutik Biswas says The Beatles went to India in February 1968 (bbc.com); the image here is from the ashram. A Times of India reporter asked John Lennon what The Beatles' ambition was, and he said, "We don't have any ambitions. We are not a missionary group."

Let It Be, the final original album released by The Beatles, is most memorable. Says Mike McPadden (08 June 2015, vh1.com):

The LP's toweringly brilliant music becomes even more powerful upon considering that it arose from the insanely intense bad feelings that did, in fact, break up The Beatles. That palpable strife uncomfortably dominates the film Let It Be, an unflinching documentary on the making of the album. All these years later though, the music, of course, is what matters.

Let it be, let it be!

Unlike any other blog posts I have written, this one comes mostly from Wikipedia.

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