No one really knows the meaning behind The Beatles song, “Let It Be.” But that doesn’t stop people from speculating. Some say it’s about a mother’s death and the comfort that can be found in the afterlife. Others believe it’s about finding inner peace and letting go of all your worries and fears. And then there are those who think it has something to do with Jesus’ return. Regardless of what it means, the song is a beautiful message of hope and peace.
“Let it be”, written by Sir Paul MacCartney is one of the last songs that legendary band the Beatles ever played together. It is considered to be the 20# of “The 500 greatest songs of all times” by Rolling Stones magazine and had top places in many countries at the time it was recorded.
The Beatles was literally one of the most popular rock’n’roll bands in the XX century and still is one of the most recognizable. The names of the members – John Lennon, Paul MacCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star – are still familiar to most of the population of the Earth.
Their songs changed and evolved from album to album. From the light songs mostly dedicated to love and relationship, to experiments with genres and styles and finally getting to the famous “White album” (which is actually called just “the Beatles”, but has white cover, so the name kind of stuck) and ending in the “Let it be”. The meaning behind the headliner song, “Let it be” itself, however, needs some clarification. And it’s impossible to explain without diving a little bit into the Beatles history.
The story behind song “Let it be”
The story behind the song is basically the story of the band’s break-up. The Beatles got together in 1956 (although the name “the Beatles” appeared later, in 1960), and by the 1970, when “Let it be” was written, they’ve came a long way. What started as a teenage band became worldwide phenomenon, testing all four of the musicians. Apart from temptations of fame, each one of the Beatles started to look for its own path. George Harrison dived into Krishnaism, and for some time he managed to inspire the others with it. Ringo Starr felt underappreciated, and wanted to be more involved in the songwriting process. John Lennon and Paul MacCartney had fights about the way the Beatles should be heading. John became too strange for the others and nobody actually embraced his new soulmate Yoko Ono. Paul, the author of “Let it be”, ended up the only one who tried to still hold the band together.
So by the 1970 the Beatles were falling apart. It caused a lot of sadness for all involved. And then Paul had a dream.
Paul MacCartney is famous for making jokes telling that the songs just come to him. Take one of the most famous songs of the Beatles “Yesterday” – at first, when it came to his mind, Paul didn’t even understand that he was inspired by it. He thought that it had to be some tune he heard somewhere. He kept asking people, what song is it, until he finally understood that this song is actually something new, something of his making.
Something similar happened with “Let it be”. In all the worries and uncertainty, all the Beatles were on edge. And in that state Paul had a dream about his mother Mary, already deceased at the time. In this dream Mary was comforting her son, convincing him to not try to control what he cannot control and open up to the future. So, basically, the song name “Let it be” means “Don’t regret the past, embrace whatever future brings”.
Understanding the meaning behind the song “Let it be”
Let’s analyze the text line by line to get a better grasp of its meaning.
“When I find myself in times of trouble” – that is what we’ve talked before, Paul is thinking about all the troubles the band is encountering, the friendship that goes through the rough time.
“Mother Mary comes to me” – we know now that Mary was the name of Sir Paul’s mother, but here it also has a second Christian meaning, referring to Saint Mary. This way MacCartney shares his mother experience, appealing to the ultimate mother image that everyone can understand. Not only because of that, but also because of the general style and mood, some people call this song a gospel and sometimes even a hymn.
“Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be” – in the 1970 none of the Beatles was a naive young man, they all knew that they would survive the crash, but still it took an image of a parent for Paul to accept this knowledge. So to everyone he sings this song to, he also reminds that there is some wisdom beyond a troubled person and when you feel that everything is dark and desperate, you can recall those that you love and respect to guide you through this. To show you that some things you don’t need to fear or fight, just to accept.
“And in my hour of darkness She is standing right in front of me Speaking words of wisdom Let it be” – here we have two sides, and in this context darkness in the first line apart from everything else means loneliness. But this loneliness disappears because the guiding person appears next to the author comforting him. So the meaning behind these lines is to remember that even if people who make you happy are far away, or on hard terms with you right now (as were the members of the band), or passed away like Paul’s mother, or even a part of a religious believe, they still can bring you some consolation and wisdom.
“And when the brokenhearted people Living in the world agree There will be an answer Let it be” – this part is quite clearly saying about the band relationship and a hope that despite all the differences that members of the Beatles had grown into, they still can come to some sort of agreement. Also it has more worldwide, spiritual meaning. Everyone can be called brokenhearted at least once in his life, it can be about love affairs, of, like in Paul case, it can be feeling of losing friends, career and meaning at the same time. These lines speak more about dreams and illusions that won’t be coming true, grieving the person who once dreamt it, because when changes come, the person in the middle gets change too and becomes someone new.
The whole song has deep Christian roots, and also the Beatles went through a period of Krishnaism in their life, adding some of the eastern philosophy to their lyrics. It should be said though that fighting that kept going in the band, didn’t leave this song alone either. John Lennon, who had a lot of disagreements with Paul, was skeptical towards its Christian motives and made jokes about it. So despite the fact that this song was created to make peace with the Beatles parting, the accumulated bitterness didn’t let musicians to let it inspire them, although, it was basically dedicated to them as well as Paul’s mother.
“For though they may be parted There is still a chance that they will see There will be an answer Let it be” – these lines once again call for acceptance. Although in the previous part Paul hopes for some kind of understanding and unity with his friends and colleagues, the image of his mother teaches him not to find what’s to come. So here he’s letting go of the people he cares about and hopes that even when they will be parted, they still will have some kind of connection.
“And when the night is cloudy There is still a light that shines on me Shine on ’til tomorrow Let it be” – the journey continues, and we now go with Sir Paul behind the point of parting ways. He thinks about the moment when all the farewells are said and sadness is the main feeling. So he reminds that after all is said and done there will still be a tomorrow. The night will end, the sun will shine and new things will come to fill the author’s life.
“I wake up to the sound of music Mother Mary comes to me Speaking words of wisdom Let it be” – here Paul comes closest to sharing his original experience, the dream of his mother. And the dream ends with the sounds of music – the sounds that surrounded all his path as a singer and songwriter in the Beatles. So the music, the one thing above all the other that matters to Ringo, George, John and Paul himself, doesn’t stop existing just because the band’s career is over. And we finish where we started, with the image of Mother Mary, speaking words of wisdom, and the music helps this thought plant and root.
In general, the song is started with hopes in the dark times, and then we come for a long journey alongside the author. We think about people we’re afraid to lose, and the ones that will always be in our hearts, even when they are not near. From regretting the things that he left behind, Paul is learning to brace himself for what’s to come and to hope for the future to bring new dawn. This is the meaning of this song, its mane theme – hope in desperate times. Hope and acceptance with guidance of someone that you can lean on when you feel lonely and lost. He will use this song to bring peace to the troubled souls many times, including his own, when this song will be performed on the Linda MacCartney’s funeral, the wife of Sir Paul, who supported him through the years.
The dream that inspired the song in the first place came to Paul when he was most anxious, and so, from his own words, the song was meant to be a very positive, peace bringing one.