It’s long been known that the Beatles’ song “Let It Be” was inspired by a dream Paul McCartney had about his mother, Mary McCartney, but in a recent episode of his podcast, McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, Sir Paul delved a bit deeper into the song’s origins, revealing an addition source of inspiration for the title track of the Fab Four’s final album: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Make no mistake, it was definitely the aforementioned dream that kicked off the writing process for "Let It Be." It occurred when the world was really weighing down on Paul, and the sight of his mother - who died of cancer when he was only 14 - made the words that she said during the dream all that more memorable.
“Seeing her beautiful, kind face, I immediately felt at ease and loved," he said during the podcast. "And she said words. She said, 'Just let it be.' I love that. Yes. And I sort of fell into the dream, feeling great, and woke up, still feeling great, and remembering the dream, and remembering how she looked and how it felt and what she said. And I remembered particularly that she said the words, 'Let it be,' and...I thought, 'That's a great subject for a song.'"
In retrospect, however, McCartney realized that - even though the words came from his mother in the dream - they might well have been retrieved from his subconscious, having heard them years before whilst studying the work of William 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’,” recalled McCartney. ““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.”
In closing, it's worth mentioning that a Beatles / Shakespeare connection can also be found within "I Am the Walrus," but that's a story for another time. For now, we'll only say, "Sit you down, father, rest you."