Paul McCartney on how Shakespeare’s Hamlet inspired Let It Be
Macca shares his theory on the origins of the Fab Four’s 1970s hit.
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In a recent episode of his podcast, Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, Macca shares how the title of one of the Fab Four’s greatest hits was etched on his mind thanks to Shakespeare.
“In those days [at school], I had to learn speeches off by heart. So I could still do a bit of ‘to be or not to be’, or ‘O that this too too solid flesh’,” he says.
“And it had been pointed out to me recently that Hamlet, when he has been poisoned, he actually says, ‘Let it be’ — act five, scene two. He says ‘Let be’ the first time, then the second time he says, ‘Had I but time — as this fell sergeant, Death, Is strict in his arrest — oh, I could tell you. But let it be Horatio.’”
“I was interested that I was exposed to those words during a time when I was studying Shakespeare so that years later the phrase appears to me in a dream with my mother saying it,” the musician explains.
McCartney’s mother died in 1956 following a battle with pancreatic cancer when he was aged 14.
Recalling the dream where his mother said the phrase to him, Macca says: “It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing Let It Be.”
Last month, the Beatles unveiled Now and Then, the band’s final song featuring sonic contributions from all four members, including the late John Lennon and George Harrison.
Originally written and recorded by Lennon circa 1977 as a solo piano home demo, the song was completed with the help of the machine-learning-assisted audio restoration technology commissioned by producer Peter Jackson for his 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back.
“It’s strange when you think about it,” McCartney said of the track. “There’s John, in his apartment, banging away at a piano doing a demo. And now we’ve restored it and it’s a crystal-clear, beautiful vocal.”