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Paul McCartney’s mother Mary passed away in 1956, when Paul was only 14 years old. Over a decade later, she appeared to him in a dream, lending a few immortal words of wisdom: “Let it be.” These words arrived in time to help see Paul through the difficult days after The Beatles’ gave up touring to enter the studio full time. And, of course, they went on to become the basis of the song that’s now a popular standard and the title of The Beatles’ final studio release, “Let It Be.”
“McCartney: A Life in Lyrics” is a co-production between iHeart Media, MPL and Pushkin Industries.
The series was produced by Pejk Malinovski and Sara McCrea; written by Sara McCrea; edited by Dan O’Donnell and Sophie Crane; mastered by Jason Gambrell with sound design by Pejk Malinovski. The series is executive produced by Leital Molad, Justin Richmond, Lee Eastman and Scott Rodger.
Thanks to Lee Eastman, Richard Ewbank, Scott Rodger, Aoife Corbett and Steve Ithell.
And thank you to the Melbourne Soul & Gospel Choir for their rendition of “Let It Be,” arranged and conducted by Darren Wicks for the album “Stand Strong.”
Pushkin. Hi, everyone, it’s Paul muldoon. Before we get to this episode, I wanted to let you know that you can binge all twelve episodes of McCartney A Life and Lyrics right now, add free by becoming a Pushkin Plus subscriber. Find Pushkin Plus on the McCartney A Life and Lyrics Show, pedge in Apple Podcasts, or at pushkin dot fm slash plus. The conditions for our tours had deteriorated as the success had come along. The crowds had got louder, the venues had got bigger, and so now we were getting a little bit fed up with him. The guys variously had said, oh God, this is terrible. This is terrible. George had said that, John had said that. I think even Ringo had sort of expressed displeasure of the whole thing. I generally just sort of soldiered on, but after this candlestick Park I just finally said, oh fucking he, this is like just so bad. I agree with all you guys, we should just give up touring. These circumstances were at the time that I’d been doing too much of everything. Sleep had a dream where my mom, who died ten years previously came to me and she said, let it be. Seeing her beautiful kind face, I immediately felt at ease and loved and she said words, she said words, let it. I loved that. Yes, let it be, Let it be, Let it be, Let it be. Oh, I could tell you, but let it be. And I’ve been for to spend time with one of the greatest songwriters of our era. And will you look at me, I’m going on to I’m actually a performer, that is, sir Paul McCartney. We worked together on a book looking at the lyrics of more than one hundred and fifty of his songs, and we recorded many hours of our conversations. She’s a songwriter. My god, Well, that crypto homie. This is McCartney, a life in lyrics, a masterclass, a memoir, and an improvised journey with one of the most iconic figures in popular music. In this episode let It Be. It was nineteen sixty eight and the Beatles were recording the White Album. Tensions were high in and out of the studio. The band’s members were beginning to pursus to individual interests and songwriting styles. Lennon and McCartney’s friendship was becoming increasingly strained. The group was still mourning the nineteen sixty seven death of their manager Bryan Epstein. The Beatles were barreling toward their eventual breakup. We were heading towards the breakover the Reetles, and it was a period of change because John and Yoko had got together and that was bound to have an effect on the dynamics of the group. As the love between John Lennon and the artist Yoko Ono was intensifying, the two became utterly inseparable. John insisted Yoko be present in the studio, So things like Yoko being in the in the middle, literally in the middle of the recording session was, you know, something you had to deal with. And the idea was that if John wanted this to happen, then it should happen. And there’s no reason why not, Well except that there is a reason why not. You know, you’re there to do some work. Yeah, and anything that disturbed us is disturbing. At a deference to John, we will allow this and not make a fuss. And yet at the same time, I don’t think any of us particularly liked it. It was an interference in the workplace. We had a way we worked of four of us, We worked with George Martin and an engineer and that was basically it. And we’d always done it like that, So not being very confrontational, I think we just bottled it up and just got on with it. And you had to make it work because the idea of the Beatles, it was something that you wanted to continue with. I suppose it’s some profile. I mean it was such a great thing. I mean it was the idea of the Beatles was also just a straight practical thing of this was our job. This is what we did in life. We were the Beatles. That meant if we didn’t tour, we recorded, and that meant if we recorded, we wrote it. When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom, let it be, And in my redondness, she standing right in front of me speaking words of wisdom. Let it be, Let it be. Paul McCartney says this impulse to avoid confrontation, to be accommodating may have been passed done from his parents, who valued kindness and good manners and taught such values to their children. We were encouraged to be good guys in our family, so that you know, if we were at a bus stop and there were women in the queue, my dad would raise his trophy to them good morning, and he encouraged us to raise our schoolcaps good morning. He was that kind of polite, gentlemanly guy, even though they were working class. Oh my family. I think we’re like that. And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be. I like that, it’s nice to be nice. I like courtesy, I value politeness, courtesy, and don’t particularly like confrontation. If it’s absolutely necessary, then then you do it. But I mean generally speaking, we would try, all of us, I think, would try not to do that. There is still a chest that they will see. There will be an answer. Let it be. Let it be as a refrain is a moral message, echoing other hits that were popular when Paul McCartney was growing up, Like k Sarah Sarah. When I was just a little hugerl, I asked my mother what will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me. Hey, s I’ve always known that people in listening to your song may take a message away, So that if your song is a good message. Love is all you need, then that’s a good message to put out rather than sympathy for the devil. Pleas to meet you? Who can give my today? But what bol you with the nature of makey? You know, Micks not a bad boy at all, It’s exactly opposite. But images to show is of that. Whereas we just didn’t really have a bothered with that. Whereas the Rolling Stones wrote songs about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the Beatles wrote lyrics that were more likely to be parent approved or that would at least sound familiar to parents who are listening to other classics of the time. Kas whatever will be, will be? The future is not ours to see, okay, seta what will be will be? Whatever will be will be? Yeah, Well do you think in any way it might be feeding into this a little bit? You know? I mean there were loads of songs that were about that were encouraging you to be good, and I think Cash is one of them. When I was a little girl, I asked my mother, what would I be? Will be this? The mother said, who knows? You know? Case Rah, what will be will be? But that’s not let it pick Paul McCartney’s mother had passed away when he was only fourteen, and both her death and her absence strongly influenced the young songwriter. So it’s not a surprise that in such a time of stress, it would be his mother who would come to comfort him in a dream, his mother, whose name was in fact Mary, and I sort of fell into the dream feeling great, and woke up feeling still feeling great, and they got Oh my God. And remembering the dream and remembering how she looked and how it felt, and what she said, and I remembered particularly that she said the words let it be. Because of his dream, I woke up and thought, that is that’s a great subject for a song, and I will start it with my present circumstances. When I find myself in time to trouble. Mother Mary comes to me. It’s just exactly what has just happened, speaking words of wisdom, Let it be, let it be, let it be, and let it be, Let it be for all. Paul McCartney knew the words let it be had come from his subconscious or as a message from beyond the grave, but after the song was released, he realized that he may have encountered these words long before he wrote the lyrics, back when he was a schoolboy at the Pool Institute for Boys. There, in the English class of Paul’s favorite and most formative teacher, Alan Durband, the students read Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the first time. So in those I had to learn speeches off pie Heart, so I could still do a bit of a bill not to be all over this two two solid flash. And it’s been pointed out to me recently that Hamlet, when he’s poisoned, he actually says let it be. Back five, scene two. It just happened to report, so we can give you the exact quote. He says let be the first time, but then the second time he says, had I got time as this fell? Sergeant death is strict in his arrest. Oh, I could tell you, but let it be, Horatio, let it be, and let it be. Let it be with these words the Prince of Denmark clutching his fatal wound, except that his death is eminent, that he will not live to tell his tragic story. But I was interested that I was exposed to those words during a time when I was studying Shakespeare. So did years later the phrase appears to me in a dream, with my mother saying, now, of course I must realize that it’s me saying it through her. It’s kind of, I think, very interesting. The phrase let it be seems simple enough when we first hear it, but we might each take it to mean something different. Please God, let it let it be. I want run your car, let it pay, you know, knock it off, pack it in, let it pay. Just don’t don’t bother, you know, just let it be. And there’s let’s leave things as they are It’s okay, Which is pointed out to me, is the answer to to be or not to be? Mm hmmm, let it be with to be or not to be Hamlet’s famous question. It was also, in a sense the question that was beginning to haunt the Beatles as a group. Their future existence as a band was entirely uncertain. In that way, both meanings of the phrase let it be are fitting. Let it be as hopeful plea, let it be as stoic, resignation, edity. In this song with a title that has multiple meanings, there’s another lyric Paul McCartney left open to interpretation. To the sound of music. Mother Mary comes to me singing word of wisdom edity. By calling his mother by her first name, Mary McCartney, opens the door to a more sacred aspect of the song, as I called her mother Mary rather than my mom Mary. I think no I knew enough to know that. Okay, we’ve got a sort of double meaning going here. I think you’re aware of that when you write these things. But it was kind of good because it opens the song to a religious crowd who want to take it like that, so it guess performed my gospel. Paul McCartney’s father was Protestant and his mother Catholic, though when it came to their children’s schooling, the priority was a good education. The fact that she was a nurse had meant that she’d been called to a lot of schools, and she thought the Protestant school’s education was better. So she wanted the best education for her kids, and no doubt my dad, being Protestant, would say, yeah, they better and agree with them. The Catholic aspect, it was really only one thing was that we’d been christened to save our immortal souls, which I was always rather pleased with. I’m glad my immortal soul is safe, and you know so I thank you for doing that. Why Let it Be wasn’t written with a particular religious angle, it certainly contains a spiritual dimension. The words of wisdom delivered by Mother Mary are repeated throughout the song as the music swells, and they take on the quality of a chant, a prayer, or another type of holy incantation. Mother Mother Mary nast You know someone said what your religion? I wouldn’t just sort of say Christian, but I take Christian, Buddhist, Jewish. There are many great teachings in all the religion, in its spiritual ambiguity. Let it Be offers a sort of common right and necessary break from the conflicts of different belief systems. And at a time when the divisions within the Beatles were becoming only more pronounced, the song called for and made possible a few moments off togetherness, because it is a song of hope. Sure, you know about all people are going to sort of come together. You do think, is there ever going to be a time when people agree? And you know, realist you have to think, well, probably not. No, probably not. But it’s a great dream. It’s a beautiful dream, and the more you push towards it, the more it may Happen. Let It be released in nineteen seventy as the title song from the Beatles’ last album. In the next episode, we go to the rolling Hills of Scotland, where Paul’s wife, Lynda McCartney helped him to discover his life of nature and the joys of fixing up their form. McCartney A Life in Lyrics is a co production between iHeartMedia NPL and Pushkin Industries.