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Music

Why did John Lennon hate The Beatles song 'Let It Be'?

@SamWKemp

‘Let it Be’ may be one of The Beatles most well-known and beloved songs, but that doesn’t mean that it was popular with The Beatles themselves. Indeed, John Lennon loathed the track.

Why exactly did John Lennon hold such disdain for ‘Let It Be’? Well, there are multiple answers to that question, but the most apparent is linked to the famously tense recording sessions for The Beatles final album Let It Be. By the time The Beatles got to 1968’s The White Album, the cracks were beginning to show. That legendary album marked the beginning of the end in many ways, coinciding with a period of creative conflict, business disagreements, and frequent walk-outs, which lasted well into the sessions for Let it Be.

During the recording of that final album, The Beatles found themselves bickering at frequent intervals, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney constantly locking horns about the album’s creative direction. They had each established a robust independent writing style by this time and were keen to direct the album’s flow. However, this only pulled the pair further apart, because, while McCartney had grown weary of Lennon’s experimental meanderings, Lennon couldn’t stand McCartney’s traditionalist view of songwriting, a style he branded “granny music” – perhaps in reference to the way McCartney had grown up singing songs around the piano with his family.

In a way, it’s surprising Lennon had such a problem with McCartney’s song idea. Like many of Lennon’s greatest works, ‘Let It Be’ was inspired by a dream, a dream in which McCartney had seen his dead mother. Alas, when McCartney sat down to sing that now-immortal refrain, Lennon just sat there grimacing.

Lennon’s biggest problem with ‘Let It Be’ was that it felt more like a song Paul had written for one of his side-projects and then decided to pass on to The Beatles. “That’s Paul. What can you say? Nothing to do with the Beatles,” Lennon would later explain to David Sheff. “It could’ve been Wings. I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be.'”

Perhaps Lennon found ‘Let It Be’ regressive, the kind of song that would have been perfect in the mid-’60s but which felt archaic, dull, and conservative by 1969. On hearing McCartney’s song, Lennon was convinced he was trying to recreate the folkish poignancy of Simon & Garfunkel: “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.'” However, Lennon’s memory was clearly playing tricks on him by this point because ‘Let It Be’ was recorded a whole ten months before ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was taken into the studio.

It’s much more likely that Lennon opposed the strident religiosity of ‘Let It Be’. In the song, Paul McCartney makes frequent references to ‘Mother Mary’. Considering Lennon was strongly against organised religion, it’s understandable why he felt nervous about being associated with a song that, from certain angles, reads like a hymn. When Phil Spector was bought in to complete Let It Be in 1970, he even included audio of Lennon teasing McCartney’s efforts, in which he can be heard saying “And now, we’d like to do ‘Hark the Angels Come'” at the end of ‘Dig It’.

While Lennon may have loathed the song, the rest of the world clearly felt differently. On release, the single hit Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it The Beatles 19th song to reach the top spot. Alas, it would also be the last single ‘The Fab Four’ would put out as a collective unit.