The sad story behind The Beatles' Let It Be

15 November 2020, 21:00

The incredible inspiration behind Paul McCartney's song, which will appear in the new Peter Jackson documentary.

Filmmaker Peter Jackson has announced that his version of The Beatles' Let It Be film will be released to theatres on 27 August 2021. Titled The Beatles Get Back, it's a new version of the documentary that was first proposed by the Fab Four at the beginning of 1969.

Compiled from over 55 hours of unseen footage, the sessions were filmed by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg to become part of a TV special that would see The Beatles perform live, in front of an audience, for the first time in three years.

Paul and Linda McCartney in April 1970, after the Beatles split was announced
Paul and Linda McCartney in April 1970, after the Beatles split was announced. Picture: Associated Newspapers /Shutterstock

The live show was ultimately scrapped, so the documentary became about The Beatles making a new album... and the footage was sat on for a year, before being premiered in theatres in May 1970. By that point The Beatles had split up.

Sir Paul McCartney says of the new version of the film: "I am really happy that Peter has delved into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about The Beatles recording together. The friendship and love between us comes over and reminds me of what a crazily beautiful time we had."

The climax to The Beatles' Let It Be film: the rooftop concert in January 1969
The climax to The Beatles' Let It Be film: the rooftop concert in January 1969. Picture: Express/Express/Getty Images

But the "beautiful time" masks a rather sad story.

Written and sung by McCartney, the iconic track was the last Beatles single to be unveiled before he announced his departure from the band.

Speaking to James Corden on the his segment of Carpool Karaoke last year, McCartney has recalled how his late mother - who died from cancer when he was 14 - inspired him to write the track.

Linda and Paul McCartney at the very final Beatles photo shoot in August 1969
Linda and Paul McCartney at the very final Beatles photo shoot in August 1969. Picture: Cummings Archives/Redferns/Getty Images

The Liverpool legend explaned: "I had a dream in the Sixties where my mum who died came to me in a dream and was reassuring me, saying: 'It's gonna be OK. Just let it be..."

McCartney's mother was also named Mary, which has been cited as an inspiration for the "Mother Mary" lyric.

However, when in asked if it had any reference to the Virgin Mary, The Beatle has been known to leave it up to fans' interpretation.

A poster for the Apple Corps movie 'Let It Be', featuring The Beatles, 1970.
A poster for the Apple Corps movie 'Let It Be', featuring The Beatles, 1970. Picture: Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images

However, there is one other version of the story.

Mal Evans was one of The Beatles' right hand men. Together with Neil Aspinall (who ended up managing the band's Apple empire), Evans was the Fab Four's road crew, personal assistant and general go-to good guy and mate.

In 1975 TV special hosted by David Frost and called A Salute To The Beatles, Evans explained that it was him - and not Paul's mum - that was going to be the subject of the song,

Speaking to Frost, Evans said: "Paul was meditating one day and I came to him in a vision, abd I was just standing there saying “let it be, let it be…” And that’s where the song came from… It's funny because we were coming home from a session one night, and it was 3 o’clock in the morning, raining, dark in London, and Paul was telling this, saying I've written this song.

"It was gonna be Brother Malcolm but I’ve had to change it in case people get the wrong idea!”

Was Mal talking rubbish? A lot of people thought so and the "Mother Mary Dream" tale became the official version of the genesis of Let It Be. That was until an outtake appeared on the 2018 50th anniversary reissue of the classic "White Album", in which Paul tries out Let It Be while the band are midway through recording the song Piggies in September 1968. And there, in all its glory, are the lyrics: "When I find myself in times of trouble, Brother Malcolm comes to me..."

So who was right? Mal Evans died in January 1976 after a confrontation with armed police in Los Angeles. So, it would seem, Paul has the last word on this one...