The great Aretha Franklin was the first artist to release “Let It Be” on her album “This Girl’s in Love with You” in January 1970, a full two months before The Beatles version came out.
Our version is dedicated to her. Our hearts are with you, Aretha.
In 1969 the dream was breaking. The Beatles were squabbling over music, money and pretty much everything else. Even Paul was feeling down, drinking and smoking more that he usually did.
John was spending all of his time with Yoko and her constant presence in the studio made Paul confused, angry and hurt. George was sullen because he had most of his songs rejected by John and Paul. Even Ringo was bored and ready for something new.
Paul knew what he had to do. He had skill as an organizer. He could encourage the troops – maybe George had few decent songs. He had the energy. He had the vision. He was the most accomplished musician in the band. It was his time to become The Leader.
It was Paul’s destiny to ‘save’ The Fab Four with the his most powerful weapon.
The other three would thank him for his belief and leadership. Even John, when he was done with that crazy conceptual artist phase, would hug him and thank him, and maybe even write a song with him again.
Unfortunately the other three did not see him like that. George, Ringo and especially John, did not see a savior. They saw Das Fuhrer.
As the pressure mounted on Paul, his sleep suffered. One sleepless night he rolled up some Hippie Lettuce and smoked it. This certainly sent him off to a deep slumber but it also induced a very vivid dream where his mother appeared before him telling him to, yeah, you guessed it “LET IT BE”.
Paul immediately ignored his mother’s request. Paul could not let it be, he was on a mission. He got out of bed and wrote THE SONG THAT WOULD SAVE THE BEATLES.
This was not the first time that Paul had written a classic in his sleep. Six years previously he awoke with the melody and chords to “Yesterday” fully formed.
I’d like a mattress like that.
“Let It Be” is the simplest of songs. The most beautiful of songs. Certainly one of the best Paul, or anyone else, has ever written. Paul has tried to re-write it more than a couple of times but has never bettered it. Just four chords: C, F, G, Am and it never leaves the home key.
It is perfect, like a newborn child.
It drips with quasi-religious overtones that would make Christopher Hitchens reach for an Uzi. But there is something in the song that transcends mere religion. It pulses with a spiritual honesty rarely found in pop music. Every melodic line seems carved in stone.
The arrangement has been written about on a million different websites and I can’t see the point of doing that here. There is something so human about “Let It Be” that words break down when I try to describe it. It is the very thing that makes music… well.. music.
“Let It Be” was the final single released by The Beatles before McCartney announced his departure from the band. It sounds as if it was written as a goodbye to their partnership but it was recorded a full 14 months before its release.
By the time that “Let It Be” was to be released George had released two instrumental albums. John had released three experimental LPs (Two Virgins, Life With The Lions and The Wedding Album) that make “Revolution#9" sound like “Ob-LaDi Ob-La-Da". More importantly John had released three period defining singles – “Give Peace A Chance”, “Cold Turkey” and “Instant Karma”.
These were game changing records. John was obviously living in a post-Beatles world but the world was soon be forced to catch up.
Paul’s first solo album was due for release April 17th and “Let It Be” was due for release May 8th. Ringo Starr was sent by George and John to ask Paul to delay his solo debut.
Paul was not amused. In a later interview he said.
"They eventually sent Ringo round to my house with a message: ‘We want you to put your release date back, it’s for the good of the group’, and all of this sort of shit. He was giving me the party line; they just made him come round, so I did something I’d never done before or since: I told him to get out. I had to do something like that in order to assert myself because I was just sinking. I was getting pummeled about the head, in my mind anyway."
A short while after the single of “Let It Be” came out Paul publicly announced that he would be leaving the Beatles because of "personal, business and musical differences" and that the band would never work together again. This of course did no harm to sales of his solo record.
Paul was breaking an agreement by the band not to say anything to the public about the break up of the group until after the “Let It Be” album was released.
All hell broke loose. Headlines in every paper in the world. Denials from Apple. Angry phone calls and lots and lots of swearing.
This period of chaos is beautifully described in Richard DiLello’s book, “The Longest Cocktail Party”. DiLello was working in the press office at Apple at the time and the insanity that permeated the office is captured in that book. I understand that Liam Gallagher has bought the rights and will be making it into a movie soon. I look forward to that one.
With the break up of The Beatles the world heard “Let It Be” in a new light and took it to its heart. No1 everywhere. Even now in 2011 as I look on the iTunes chart, it is the most popular Beatles song.
The album version was remixed by the quixotic and ultimately tragic Phil Spector. Alan Klein hired Spector to remix and rearrange the album without telling McCartney or asking for his permission, because McCartney had not signed Klein’s management contract.
Spector not surprisingly went for the wide-screen approach. He added tons of brass bathed in reverb. He also re-created Ringo’s part using tape delay. He got George to re-record his solo using a much more distorted sound, but you can just about hear the old one in the background.
There is much argument about what Phil Spector added or took away from the song but I’m quite glad to have both the Spector and McCartney versions.
This is what John had to say about “Let It Be”.
“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". I think it was inspired by "Bridge Over Troubled Waters". I know that he wanted to write a "Bridge Over Troubled Waters".
John here is proving what we have suspected all along. That is, McCartney has the ability to time-travel. Paul wrote and recorded the song in January 1969. Bridge Over Troubled Waters was written by Paul Simon in July 1969.
Obviously what McCartney did was to program his Yellow Magic Tardis to jump forward in time and space to Paul Simon’s writing room at 1619 Broadway, at 49th St. NYC. At that point he hid behind Art Garfunkel’s discarded platform boots, figured out what the diminutive genius was doing, got back into his time machine, went back to St Johns Wood in London, sat down at the piano and stole the Simon and Garfunkel hit before it had been written.
Such is the cunning and relentless professionalism of Paul McCartney.
Either that or John may have been a Jealous Guy.
Paul plays the song at nearly all of his concerts and it is clearly one of his favorites. In 1998 he sang the song for his wife Linda at her memorial at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square.
In a less spiritual context, McCartney performed a private rendition for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. We have made no secret that we would like to have Vladimir sing a song for TBCOU. So Mr. Putin, if you are reading this, drop us a line at email@example.com
and we will find you a tune to perform.
The Ukulele Version is performed by “The Beatles Complete On Ukulele Community Choir”. They are some of the best singers on the planet, brought together by vocal arranger Gregory Clark for this project.
If there was a backing vocal session in New York City at any time, in the last 20 years there is a very good chance that one of these singers was on it.
It is always an honor to work with a great musician. To work with a studio full is truly humbling. The session where we recorded the choir is one of my most treasured studio memories. You can see photos of the session HERE.
The President’s voice is sampled from speeches he has made from The White House, although I’d be happy to arrange a re-recording session should he wish to improve on the performance.
The video is cut from various concerts held in The White House over the last couple of years. Big thanks to John Philp at Bad Dog Tales who’s digital razor blade helped made the video possible.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th President of the United States. He shares his birthplace with the spiritual home of the ukulele.
ABOUT THE CHOIR
The Beatles Complete On Ukulele Community Choir are a collective of some of the best singers on the planet.
If there has been a major vocal session in New York City in the last 20 years, there is a very good chance that one of these singers was part of it.
Choirmaster Gregory Clark had a daunting task.
David Barratt assigned him to assemble an international dream team choir to accompany the President. How do you get the best of the best together in one room for two hours on one night in New York?
Not such a problem to Clark. He dialed, Facebooked, Twittered and emailed and the choir gods smiled down upon him.
With the gathering of such an eclectic group, the session was magical and intimate. Many of the singers have contributed to The Beatles Complete on Ukulele project already, or will in time to come.
The choir is: Neal Coomer, Aisha De Haas, Margaret Dorn, Jenny Douglas, Tabitha Fair, Keith A. Fluitt, Michael Inge, John James, Janice Pendarvis, Sophia Ramos, Nicki Richards, Giovanni Stella and Victoria Villalobos.
Choirmaster: Gregory Clark
(Appearing in video in order of appearance)
Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, The Howard University Choir, Mike Huckabee, Michael Steele, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, Elvis Costello, Corrine Bailey Rae, The Congress of The United States, Blind Boys Of Alabama, Brad Paisley, Abe Laboriel Jnr., Nicki Richards, The Jonas Brothers, Faith Hill, Dave Grohl, Lang Lang, Jerry Seinfeld, Herbie Hancock, Emmylou Harris, Jack White.