Some songs are meticulously crafted and strenuously honed. In fact, the majority of Paul McCartney’s songs for The Beatles were crafted in this way. That said, one song was born out of a somewhat miraculous set of circumstances and saw Macca write one of the Fab Four’s most cherished songs after the lyrics came to him in a very special dream.
The track arrived at McCartney in a curious way and at a strange time for the singer. The band’s manager and driving force, Brian Epstein, had passed away and Macca was feeling more and more isolated from the group as he tried to pick up the artistic direction of the band. His isolation and loneliness meant that he, along with the rest of The Beatles, were drinking too much, staying out late, and generally being a bit wild. That was until he was visited in a dream.
In the public space, Paul McCartney was as upbeat and jovial as ever. But on his own, he was flirting with the downward spiral of depression. Losing Epstein was a huge blow for McCartney and the rest of the band, the manager had acted as a father figure to the young lads and guided them as a unit toward success. But without him, Macca was feeling lost.
It was a lost sense of direction that he had experienced before. Losing his mother in 1956, at the tender age of 14, the singer had always dealt with death rather difficultly. But during this period, while he was beginning to lose his sense of self, he was visited by his mother Mary in a dream and it gave him the start of one of The Beatles’ most beloved songs ‘Let It Be’.
The track would go on to become the title of the final album the band ever released and a mainstay of McCartney’s solo sets ever since. Speaking with Barry Miles for his authorised biography, Many Years From Now, the bassist said of the song’s conception: “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.”
As well as providing a respite from the chaos that swirled around his life at the time, Mary also came with some advice: “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.”
The songsprung from there, capturing the tender moment that the two shared if only in McCartney’s subconscious. “So that got me writing the song ‘Let It Be’,” he continued, “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.”
The song gathered extra pace when the religious association to the song was made with Mother Mary possibly being a reference to the Virgin Mary, “Mother Mary makes it a quasi-religious thing, so you can take it that way. I don’t mind,” said McCartney. “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.”
There is a certain amount of miraculous conception with McCartney’s song, which has gone on to become one of The Beatles most famous tunes. But one man wasn’t a fan, was John Lennon. Speaking with David Sheff in 1980 for Playboy, he curtly said: “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’.”
The track became the final single to be released by the Fab Four before they publically announced their split. It neared the top of every chart it entered in and has become an iconic hit. Whether or not it’s your favourite Beatles song is by the by, the fact remains that one of Paul McCartney’s undying hits was a gift from his late mother, in some form or another.