Let It Be (Beatles album)

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Let It Be
A black cover with four square photos of the band members' faces
Studio album by
Released8 May 1970 (1970-05-08)
RecordedFebruary 1968 ("Across the Universe"),
January 1969,
January and April 1970
VenueApple Corps rooftop, London
StudioApple and EMI, London
ProducerPhil Spector
The Beatles chronology
Abbey Road
Let It Be
The Beatles' Christmas Album
The Beatles North American chronology
Hey Jude
Let It Be
From Then to You
Singles from Let It Be
  1. "Get Back"
    Released: 11 April 1969
  2. "Let It Be"
    Released: 6 March 1970
  3. "The Long and Winding Road"
    Released: 11 May 1970

Let It Be is the twelfth and final studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 8 May 1970, almost a month after the group's break-up, in tandem with the motion picture of the same name. Like most of the band's previous releases, the album topped charts in many countries, including both the US and the UK. The critical response was generally unfavourable, and Let It Be came to be regarded as one of the most controversial rock albums in history.[1][2]

Rehearsals began at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969 as part of a planned television documentary showing the Beatles' return to live performance. Paul McCartney conceived the project as an attempt to reinvigorate the band by returning to simpler rock and roll configurations.[3] The filmed rehearsals were marked by ill feeling, leading to George Harrison's temporary departure from the group. As a condition of his return, the members reconvened at their own Apple Studio, with guest keyboardist Billy Preston contributing. The project yielded a single public concert held on the studio's rooftop on 30 January, from which three of the album's tracks were drawn.

In April 1969, the Beatles issued the single "Get Back", after which engineer Glyn Johns prepared and submitted mixes of the album – titled Get Back and subsequently rejected by the band.[3] The project then lay in limbo as they moved onto the recording of Abbey Road, released that September. In January 1970, four months after John Lennon's departure from the group, the remaining Beatles finished the album with the completion of "Let It Be" and "I Me Mine". The former was issued as a single in March 1970, and like all the album's recording to this point, was produced by George Martin.

When the documentary project was resurrected for a cinema release, as Let It Be, Lennon and Harrison asked American producer Phil Spector to assemble the accompanying album. Among Spector's changes was to include a 1968 take of "Across the Universe" and apply orchestral and choral overdubs to four tracks. His work offended McCartney, particularly in the case of "The Long and Winding Road". In 2003, McCartney spearheaded Let It Be... Naked, an alternative version of Let It Be that removes Spector's embellishments. In 2021, a remixed and expanded edition of Let It Be was released with session highlights and the original 1969 Get Back mix.


The Beatles completed the five-month sessions for their self-titled double album (also known as the "White Album") in mid October 1968.[4] While the sessions had revealed deep divisions within the group for the first time, leading to Ringo Starr quitting for three weeks, the band enjoyed the opportunity to re-engage with ensemble playing, as a departure from the psychedelic experimentation that had characterised their recordings since the band's retirement from live performance in August 1966. Before the White Album's release, John Lennon enthused to music journalist Jonathan Cott that the Beatles were "coming out of our shell ... kind of saying: remember what it was like to play?"[5] George Harrison welcomed the return to the band's roots, saying that they were aiming "to get as funky as we were in the Cavern".[6]

Concerned about the friction over the previous year, Paul McCartney was eager for the Beatles to perform live again.[7] In early October 1968, he told the press that the band would soon play a live show for subsequent broadcast in a TV special.[8] The following month, Apple Corps announced that the Beatles had booked the Roundhouse in north London for 12–23 December and would perform at least one concert during that time.[9] When this plan came to nothing, Denis O'Dell, the head of Apple Films, suggested that the group be filmed rehearsing at Twickenham Film Studios, in preparation for their return to live performance,[10] since he had booked studio space there to shoot The Magic Christian.[11]

The initial plan was that the rehearsal footage would be edited into a short TV documentary promoting the main TV special, in which the Beatles would perform a public concert or perhaps two concerts.[10][12] Michael Lindsay-Hogg had agreed to direct the project, having worked with the band on some of their promotional films.[10] The project's timeline was dictated by Harrison being away in the United States until Christmas and Starr's commitment to begin filming his role in The Magic Christian in February 1969.[13] The band intended to perform only new material and were therefore under pressure to finish writing an album's worth of songs.[14] Although the concert venue was not established when rehearsals began on 2 January,[15] it was decided that the 18th would serve as a potential dress rehearsal day; the 19th and 20th would serve as concert dates.[16]

Recording and production[edit]

Twickenham rehearsals[edit]

It was a disaster. They were still exhausted from the marathon The Beatles sessions. Paul bossed George around; George was moody and resentful. John would not even go to the bathroom without Yoko at his side ... The tension was palpable, and it was all being caught on film.[11]

Barry Miles, The Beatles Diary

The Twickenham rehearsals quickly disintegrated into what Apple Corps executive Peter Brown characterised as a "hostile lethargy".[17] Lennon and his partner Yoko Ono had descended into heroin addiction after their arrest on drugs charges in October and Ono's subsequent miscarriage.[18][19][20] Unable to supply his quota of new songs for the project, Lennon maintained an icy distance from his bandmates[21] and scorned McCartney's ideas.[19] By contrast, Harrison was inspired by his recent stay in the US; there, he enjoyed jamming with musicians in Los Angeles[22] and experienced a musical camaraderie and creative freedom with Bob Dylan and the Band in upstate New York that was lacking in the Beatles.[23][24] Harrison presented several new songs for consideration at Twickenham, some of which were dismissed by Lennon and McCartney.[21][24] McCartney's attempts to focus the band on their objective were construed as overly controlling,[25] particularly by Harrison.[21]

The atmosphere in the film studios, the early start each day, and the intrusive cameras and microphones of Lindsay-Hogg's film crew combined to heighten the Beatles' discontent.[26] When the band rehearsed McCartney's "Two of Us" on 6 January, a tense exchange ensued between McCartney and Harrison about the latter's lead guitar part. During lunch on 10 January, Lennon and Harrison had a heated disagreement in which Harrison berated Lennon for his lack of engagement with the project.[27] Harrison was also angry with Lennon for telling a music journalist that the Beatles' Apple organisation was in financial ruin.[24] According to journalist Michael Housego's report in the Daily Sketch, Harrison and Lennon's exchange descended into violence with the pair allegedly throwing punches at each other.[28] Harrison denied this in a 16 January interview for the Daily Express, saying: "There was no punch-up. We just fell out."[29][nb 1] After lunch on 10 January, Harrison announced that he was leaving the band and told the others, "See you round the clubs."[13] Starr attributed Harrison's exit to McCartney "dominating" him.[27][32]

Apple sessions[edit]

During a meeting on 15 January, the band agreed to Harrison's terms for returning to the group: they would abandon the plan to stage a public concert and relocate from the cavernous soundstage at Twickenham to their Apple Studio, where they would be filmed recording a new album, using the material they had gathered at this point.[13][33] The band's return to work was delayed due to the poor quality of the recording and mixing equipment designed by Lennon's friend "Magic" Alex Mardas[34] and installed at Apple Studio, in the basement of the Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row. Producer George Martin, who had been only a marginal presence at Twickenham, arranged to borrow two four-track recorders from EMI Studios;[35] he and audio engineer Glyn Johns then prepared the facility for the Beatles' use.[34] Sessions commenced at Apple on 21 January[36] and ended on 31 January, along with filming.[37]

The atmosphere in the band was markedly improved during the sessions.[35] To help achieve this, Harrison invited keyboardist Billy Preston to participate, after meeting him outside the Apple building on 22 January.[34] Preston contributed to most of the recording and also became an Apple Records artist.[38] McCartney and Lindsay-Hogg continued to hope for a public concert by the Beatles to cap the project.[35]

Get Back mixes[edit]

Cover of the aborted Get Back album, mirroring the cover of the band's first album, Please Please Me

Days after the sessions at Apple had ended, Glyn Johns put together a rough mix acetate of several songs for the band to listen to. A tape copy of this acetate made its way to the United States, where it was played on radio stations in Buffalo and Boston over September 1969.

In early March, Lennon and McCartney called Johns to Abbey Road and offered him free rein to compile an album from the Get Back recordings.[39] Johns booked time at Olympic Studios between 10 March and 28 May to mix the album and completed the final banded master tape on 28 May. Only one track, "One After 909", was taken from the rooftop concert, with "I've Got a Feeling" and "Dig a Pony" (then called "All I Want Is You") being studio recordings instead. Johns also favoured earlier, rougher versions of "Two of Us" and "The Long and Winding Road" over the more polished performances from the final, 31 January session (which were eventually chosen for the Let It Be album). It also included a jam called "Rocker", a brief rendition of the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me", Lennon's "Don't Let Me Down" and a four-minute edit of "Dig It".[40][nb 2]

The cover of the proposed album featured a photograph of the Beatles by Angus McBean taken in the interior stairwell at EMI's Manchester Square headquarters.[42] The photo was intended as an update of the group's Please Please Me cover image from 1963 and was particularly favoured by Lennon. The text design and placement similarly mirrored that of the 1963 LP sleeve.[40][nb 3] The sequencing of "One After 909", a Lennon–McCartney composition from the early 1960s, as the opening track furthered the back-to-the-roots aesthetic.[45]

On 15 December, the Beatles again approached Johns to compile an album, but this time with the instruction that the songs must match those included in the as yet unreleased Get Back film. Between 15 December 1969 and 8 January 1970, new mixes were prepared. Johns' new mix omitted "Teddy Boy" as the song did not appear in the film. It added "Across the Universe" (a remix of the 1968 studio version, as the January 1969 rehearsals had not been properly recorded) and "I Me Mine", on which only Harrison, McCartney and Starr performed, as Lennon had already left the band. "I Me Mine" was newly recorded on 3 January 1970, as it appeared in the film and no multi-track recording had yet been made. The Beatles once again rejected the album.[46][47]

Final mixing[edit]

"Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down" were released on a single in April 1969 and "Let It Be" was the A-side of the band's March 1970 single.[48] Three tracks were recorded live from the rooftop performance: "I've Got a Feeling", "One After 909" and "Dig a Pony". An additional four tracks were recorded "live in the studio" with the band members playing together in a single take, and without overdubs or splicing: "Two of Us", "Dig It", "Get Back" and "Maggie Mae". Seven of the tracks were thereby released in accordance with the original plans for the Get Back project, whereas the album versions of "For You Blue", "I Me Mine", "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" include editing, splicing and/or overdubs. "Don't Let Me Down", recorded live in the studio two days before the rooftop concert, was omitted from the album.[49] The third track on the album is an edited version of the original 1968 recording of "Across the Universe", played back at a slower speed (which lowered the key from D to D♭), which had only been rehearsed at Twickenham and not professionally recorded on multi-track tape during the January 1969 sessions.[50]

Producer Phil Spector was invited by Lennon and Harrison to take on the task of turning the Beatles' abandoned Let It Be recording sessions into a usable album.[51]. McCartney was dissatisfied with Spector's treatment of some songs, particularly "The Long and Winding Road". McCartney had conceived of the song as a simple piano ballad, but Spector dubbed in orchestral and choral accompaniment. Lennon defended Spector's work in his "Lennon Remembers" interview for Rolling Stone, saying, "[H]e was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit, with a lousy feeling toward it, ever. And he made something out of it. He did a great job."[52]

Lennon chose not to credit Johns for his contribution as a producer.[53] When EMI informed Martin that he would not get a production credit because Spector produced the final version, Martin commented, "I produced the original, and what you should do is have a credit saying 'Produced by George Martin, over-produced by Phil Spector'."[54]


In most countries except the United States,[42] the Let It Be LP was originally presented in a box with a full colour book. The book contained photos from the January 1969 filming, by Ethan Russell; dialogue from the film, with all expletives removed at EMI's insistence; and essays by Rolling Stone writers Jonathan Cott and David Dalton.[42][55] Despite the new album title, the book was still titled Get Back.[56] Its inclusion was another step in the Beatles' efforts to provide increasingly elaborate packaging for their records since Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[42] The book's lavishness increased production costs by 33 per cent, however,[57] driving the retail price higher than for any previous Beatles album.[58]

The LP cover was designed by John Kosh and includes individual photos of the four band members, again taken by Russell. On the front cover, the photos are set in quadrants on a black surround. The album title appears in white text above the images but, as on Abbey Road and other Beatles LPs, the cover does not include the band's name.[59]

Critical reception and legacy[edit]

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
The A.V. ClubB−[60]
Billboard4/5 stars[61]
Chicago Sun-Times2.5/4 stars[62]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[63]
The Daily Telegraph2/5 stars[64]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[65]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[67]

Let It Be topped album charts in both the US and the UK, and the "Let It Be" single and "The Long and Winding Road" also reached number one in the US. Despite its commercial success, according to Beatles Diary author Keith Badman, "reviews [were] not good".[69] NME critic Alan Smith wrote: "If the new Beatles' soundtrack is to be their last then it will stand as a cheapskate epitaph, a cardboard tombstone, a sad and tatty end to a musical fusion which wiped clean and drew again the face of pop."[70] Smith added that the album showed "contempt for the intelligence of today's record-buyer" and that the Beatles had "sold out all the principles for which they ever stood".[71] Reviewing for Rolling Stone, John Mendelsohn was also critical of the album, citing Spector's production embellishments as a weakness: "Musically, boys, you passed the audition. In terms of having the judgment to avoid either over-producing yourselves or casting the fate of your get-back statement to the most notorious of all over-producers, you didn't."[72]

John Gabree of High Fidelity magazine found the album "not nearly as bad as the movie" and "positively wonderful" relative to the recent solo releases by McCartney and Starr. Gabree admired "Let It Be", "Get Back" and "Two of Us", but derided "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe", the last of which he described as "bloated and self-satisfied – the kind of song we've come to expect from these rich, privileged prototeenagers".[73] While questioning whether the Beatles' split would remain permanent, William Mann of The Times described Let It Be as "Not a breakthrough record, unless for the predominance of informal, unedited live takes; but definitely a record to give lasting pleasure. They aren't having to scrape the barrel yet."[74] In his review for The Sunday Times, Derek Jewell deemed the album to be "a last will and testament, from the blackly funereal packaging to the music itself, which sums up so much of what The Beatles as artists have been – unmatchably brilliant at their best, careless and self-indulgent at their least."[74]

In a retrospective review, Richie Unterberger of AllMusic described Let It Be as the "only Beatles album to occasion negative, even hostile reviews", but felt that it was "on the whole underrated". He singles out "some good moments of straight hard rock in 'I've Got a Feeling' and 'Dig a Pony'", and praises "Let It Be", "Get Back", and "the folky 'Two of Us', with John and Paul harmonising together".[1] Let It Be was ranked number 86 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003,[75] number 392 in the 2012 version,[76] and number 342 in the 2020 edition.[77] It was voted number 890 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[78] On Metacritic, the 50th Anniversary multi-disc Super Deluxe Edition of the album holds a score of 91 out of 100, based on seven professional reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[79]

In 1971, Let It Be won the Grammy Award for the Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special.[80] Despite his objections to Spector's embellishments and the expensive packaging, including the "blatant hype" printed on the LP's back cover,[57] McCartney personally accepted the band's award.[81] The Beatles also won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song Score for the songs in the film.[82] In 1988, the Slovenian band Laibach released a martial industrial version of the album, also titled Let It Be.[83]


The original box set packaging of Let It Be. It contained a 160-page booklet with photos and quotes from the film.

In early 1976, when the Beatles' EMI contract expired, the group's subsequent pressings ceased sporting Apple labels, Capitol labels replacing them; Let It Be, however, went out of print in America for three years.[84]

Let It Be... Naked[edit]

In 2003, a Paul McCartney–led remix of the album, titled Let It Be... Naked, was released. The album was presented as an alternative attempt to capture the original artistic vision of the project, to "get back" to the rock and roll sound of the band's early years. The album features alternate takes, edits, and mixes of the songs, mainly cutting out elements added by Spector. The album excludes "Maggie Mae" and "Dig It", and adds a live rooftop performance of "Don't Let Me Down", a song omitted from the original album and issued as the B side of the "Get Back" single in 1969.[85]

Deluxe editions[edit]

In November 2021, The Beatles: Get Back, a new documentary directed by Peter Jackson using footage captured for the Let It Be film, was released on Disney+ as a three-part miniseries.[86] It was originally going to be theatrically released in 2020 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Let It Be album, but was delayed to November 2021 and moved to Disney+. A book also titled The Beatles: Get Back was released in October 2021, ahead of the documentary.[87]

A super deluxe version of the album was released on 15 October 2021.

Track listing[edit]

Original release[edit]

All tracks are written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Two of Us"McCartney with Lennon3:36
2."Dig a Pony"Lennon3:54
3."Across the Universe"Lennon3:48
4."I Me Mine" (George Harrison)Harrison2:26
5."Dig It" (Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Richard Starkey)Lennon0:50
6."Let It Be"McCartney4:03
7."Maggie Mae" (traditional; arranged by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Starkey)Lennon with McCartney0:40
Total length:19:17
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."I've Got a Feeling"McCartney and Lennon3:37
2."One After 909"Lennon with McCartney2:54
3."The Long and Winding Road"McCartney3:38
4."For You Blue" (Harrison)Harrison2:32
5."Get Back"McCartney3:09
Total length:15:50

Rejected Glyn Johns versions[edit]

According to Mark Lewisohn:[88]


The Beatles

  • John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar on "Get Back", lap steel guitar on "For You Blue", acoustic guitar on "Two of Us", "Across the Universe" and "Maggie Mae", six-string bass guitar on "Dig It" and "The Long and Winding Road", whistling on "Two of Us"
  • Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar on "Two of Us" and "Maggie Mae", piano on "Dig It", "Across the Universe", "Let It Be", "The Long and Winding Road", and "For You Blue", Hammond organ on "I Me Mine", electric piano on "I Me Mine" and "Let It Be", maracas on "Let It Be"
  • George Harrison – lead and rhythm guitars, acoustic guitar on "For You Blue" and "I Me Mine", tambura on "Across the Universe", lead vocals on "I Me Mine" and "For You Blue", backing vocals
  • Ringo Starr – drums, percussion on "Across the Universe"

Additional musicians

  • Richard Anthony Hewson – string and brass arrangements on "I Me Mine" and "The Long and Winding Road"
  • John Barham – choral arrangements on "Across the Universe", "I Me Mine" and "The Long and Winding Road"
  • George Martin – Hammond organ on "Across the Universe", shaker on "Dig It", string and brass arrangements on "Let It Be", production
  • Linda McCartney – backing vocals on "Let It Be"
  • Billy Preston – electric piano on "Dig a Pony", "I've Got a Feeling", "One After 909", "The Long and Winding Road" and "Get Back", Hammond organ on "Dig It" and "Let It Be"
  • Brian Rogers – string and brass arrangements on "Across the Universe"




Sales certifications for Let It Be
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[130] 2× Platinum 120,000^
Australia (ARIA)[131] Platinum 70,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[132] 3× Platinum 300,000^
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[133] Platinum 20,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[134] Gold 100,000*
Italy (FIMI)[135]
sales since 2009
Gold 25,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[136]
2× Platinum 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[137] Platinum 300,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[138] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

dagger BPI certification awarded only for sales since 1994.[139]


  1. ^ The film audio tapes from 22 January capture Harrison and Lennon discussing the Daily Sketch article,[30] which was titled "The End of a Beautiful Friendship?"[31] Lennon was offended by the idea that the Beatles would ever use violence against one another and is heard asking O'Dell whether they can sue Housego for his false reporting.[30]
  2. ^ In an interview he gave to some American journalists in early May, Lennon described the Get Back album as "Apple Skyline", referring to Dylan's just-released Nashville Skyline.[41]
  3. ^ Although discarded for Let It Be, the two contrasting band photos were instead used for the covers of the Beatles' 1973 compilation albums 1962–1966 and 1967–1970.[43][44]


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External links[edit]