Why John Lennon Hated the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’
"Let It Be" was a massive hit and has become one of the Beatles most popular songs, but John Lennon hated it.
The reasons are multifaceted. The clearest line can be drawn to the infamously contentious recording sessions for the Let It Be album.
By this point in their career, the Beatles were constantly fighting, with Lennon later describing the experience as “going through hell.” While Lennon and Paul McCartney had always maintained differing writing styles, their creative desires had pulled them further apart than ever before. Paul McCartney grew tired of Lennon’s experimentations, while Lennon called McCartney’s brand of storytelling songwriting “granny music.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that Lennon was immediately dismissive of the idea his songwriting partner brought to the studio in January of 1969. Explaining that he’d been inspired by a dream in which he’d seen his deceased mother, McCartney launched into the now-familiar phrases of “Let It Be.” Lennon was unimpressed, feeling that the style didn’t suit the band.
“That’s Paul. What can you say? Nothing to do with the Beatles,” he’d later explain to writer David Sheff. “It could’ve been Wings. I don’t know what he’s thinking when he writes ‘Let It Be.’”
In the rocker’s opinion, McCartney was trying to recreate the magic of another classic tune. “I think it was inspired by [Simon & Garfunkel’s] 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters (sic).' That’s my feeling, although I have nothing to go on. I know he wanted to write a 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters.'”
It's possible that Lennon is mistaken on the Simon & Garfunkel influence, given that "Let It Be" was recorded in January 1969, 10 months before "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was tracked. But another source of Lennon’s frustration stemmed from “Let It Be”’s reference to “Mother Mary.” Though McCartney insisted the phrase was a reference to his own mother, Lennon -- who was famously anti-religion -- loathed any lyrics that could be interpreted as such.
When Phil Spector was brought on to complete Let It Be in 1970, he added audio of Lennon mockingly saying “And now, we’d like to do ‘Hark the Angels Come’” at the end of “Dig It,” the track which immediately preceded “Let It Be.” Whether the producer did so at the direction of Lennon or whether the Beatle was merely a passive participant has long been debated. Regardless, the comment seemed to be a direct criticism of “Let It Be”’s holy overtone.
Despite Lennon’s disregard for the track, “Let It Be” became an iconic hit. On April 11, 1970 the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was the Beatles' 19th tune to reach that lofty achievement and their final single released as a unified group. Both the Let It Be album and the succeeding single, “The Long and Winding Road,” would be released following the band’s breakup.