Let It Be
- Paul McCartney – lead vocal, backing vocal, piano, maracas
- John Lennon – six-string bass, backing vocal
- George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocal
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Billy Preston – keyboards
- Linda McCartney – backing vocal (single version only)
Let it Be was written by Paul McCartney. It was released as a single in March of 1970, more than 6 months after the group had effectively split up but before anything was official. It was a number one hit in many countries, including the US, Germany, Norway, Italy, Australia and Switzerland. It made number two in the UK. Let It Be is also the title track of the Beatles' twelfth and final album. Paul said that the song came to him as the result of a dream about his mother, who died of cancer when he was just 14. This inspiration came during the very tense period within the group at the time of the recording sessions for The White Album. He later said that this vision of his late mother advised him, "It will be all right." In other words, "Let it be."
Recording took place for the first time on January 3, 1969 in the Twickenham Film Studios where the Beatles were participating in a promotional film, later to be called Let It Be as well. Paul recorded a single take with his own vocal and piano, nothing more. On January 8 and January 23 (back at Apple Studios), group recordings continued. The master was finally completed on January 31, as part of the "Get Back" project. Lennon played the bass, Billy Preston was on organ. Ringo and George played drums and lead guitar respectively, as usual. Take 27-A was the version released on the album. Take 27-B included harmonies by Harrison and Lennon and a guitar solo. It was the version used for the Let It Be film. Harrison added overdubs in April (for the single) and the following January (for the album). The base track was the same in both cases.
The Let It Be single came out on March 6, 1970 with You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) on the b-side. George Martin is listed as producer. Linda McCartney sang backup vocals (the only time she did so in a Beatles song), and orchestration was added. The single mix came out on the compilation The Beatles 1967-1970 as well as on 20 Greatest Hits, Past Masters, Volume Two, and The Beatles 1.
The album mix was performed on March 26, 1970 by Phil Spector, using George's January 1970 solo and without most of the backing vocals. The orchestration comes through stronger, and there is reverb on the cymbals. Neither McCartney nor Starr liked the Spector mix. The Let It Be . . . Naked album, which came out in 2003, contains an alternative mix. It removes the reverb (or echo-delay) from the cymbals, and takes out the tom-toms and the shakers. It is a much simpler approach to the percussion. The version of the song from the film (the "live performance" of Take 27-B) has never been released on a record. The first take, from January 25, 1969, appears on Anthology 3. Bootlegs of Glyn Johns' two mixes of the song (one from May 28, 1969 and one from January 5, 1970) have been in circulation as part of his attempt to make something sensible out of the "Get Back" sessions, but nothing has been officially released.
Let It Be was ranked 20th in Rolling Stone's 2004 list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Allmusic called it the one of the Beatles' "most popular and finest ballads." Ian MacDonald felt it attracted more popular attention that it deserved from an artistic viewpoint. Lennon commented that it was Paul, 100%, but had nothing to do with the Beatles. He said, "It could have been 'Wings'."