The Beatles, grief, and a mother’s love

I am at that age when many people have lost their mothers. This is a painful blow at any stage of life. I feel blessed, though, to have had a kind and loving mother. Not everyone is so fortunate.

But still, we miss our moms. So does Paul McCartney, whose mother died of cancer in 1956, when the future Beatle (who turned eighty last year) was only fourteen years old.

McCartney wrote the lyrics to the 1970 song, “Let It Be”. If you listen to the lyrics, they are somewhat ambiguous. 

“When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me 

Speaking words of wisdom

Let it be

And in my hour of darkness 

She is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom

Let it be”

Having been raised Roman Catholic, I had always assumed that the song’s “Mother Mary” was a reference to the Mary of the New Testament. Mary has a prominent role in Catholic worship and theology, after all. Paul McCartney, as it turns out, was also baptized in the Catholic faith.

“Let It Be”, though, is really a song about Mary McCartney, Paul McCartney’s late mother. He wrote the song after having an intense—and emotionally reassuring dream—about his mother in 1968. In the dream, McCartney felt his mother’s presence.

Was McCartney’s mother really with him, in some sense? Or was that his subconscious at work? Questions like that are above this writer’s pay grade. I’ll leave the answer up to the reader.

Likewise, McCartney has told interviewers that listeners who prefer to interpret “Let It Be” in a religious sense are free to do so.