The 1960s in Europe are associated with several historical and cultural changes that are often reflected in European music popular at the time. One of the most popular cultural icons of the 1960s in Europe was the band known as The Beatles. Originated in the United Kingdom, this band has produced a large variety of beautiful songs many of which were designed to carry philosophical meanings and provoke discussions. That is why their song entitled “Let It Be” was chosen for the exploration in this essay. Even though “Let It Be” was officially released in 1970, it was written and recorded in a few years earlier and contains reflections of social, historical, and cultural context experienced by the European society in the 1960s.
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The birth and growth of youth musical culture
Discussing the song “Let It Be”, it is important to mention that originally it was written by Paul McCartney as a tribute to his mother who died when the songwriter was a teenager.1 McCartney’s late mother’s name was Mary, and so the song contains the following repeated line: “Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be”.2 The general public that was not aware of the actual intention of the songwriter saw the second meaning of this line – the reference to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
Exploring this aspect, it is critical to point out that the 1960s represented the decade of religious crises that hit Europe as well as the United States.3 To be more precise, the number of religious people began to decrease significantly, and the popularity of faith went down.
One of the representatives of people challenging faith was John Lennon, another member of The Beatles, who disliked the second meaning of “Let It Be” and made sure that in the album it was followed by “Maggie Mae” – a song about a prostitute.4 This was done because Lennon was highly displeased by the song with this type of content present in the album of the band because he did not wish for the band to become associated with religion and religious motifs. In that way, the content, as well as the history around the song, reflects the European socio-cultural tensions of the 1960s.
Apart from the religious conflicts and controversies, the lyrics of the song also mention “the hour of darkness”, “broken-hearted people”, and “waking up to the sound of music”.5 All of these symbols can be attributed to the growth and development of the young people who needed advice and guidance and who often tended to feel lost, hurt, misunderstood, and lonely. The 1960s in Europe were the time of the birth of the youth culture when bands and sole musicians formed a community-powered and led by popular music.
This community mainly included youth and teenagers. As a result, it was common for the music and lyrics of the songs to become the major providers of guidance for young people. In “Let It Be”, McCartney spoke to the young listeners offering to share the wisdom of his late mother as if saying that all the sad and hard times would pass and time would heal everything.
To sum up, The Beatles were one of the most powerful and popular musical icons of the 1960s and, as a result, their songs could serve as a good reflection of the time when the band was active. The song “Let It Be” was released in 1970, but it was written and recorded in the 60s carrying the reflections of religious crises that happened in Europe at the time, as well as the birth and growth of youth culture that formed a community around pop music.
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“The Beatles Lyrics.” AZlyrics. Web.
Field, C. D. Secularization in the Long 1960s: Numerating Religion in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
“Let It Be by The Beatles.” Songfacts. Web.
MattAndJojang. “The Story Behind Paul McCartney’s Song: “Let It Be”.” MattAndJojang’s Blog. Web.
- MattAndJojang, “The Story Behind Paul McCartney’s Song: “Let It Be”,” MattAndJojang’s Blog. Web.
- “The Beatles Lyrics,” AZlyrics. Web.
- Clive D. Field, Secularization in the Long 1960s: Numerating Religion in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 1.
- “Let It Be by The Beatles,” Songfacts. Web.
- “The Beatles Lyrics,” AZlyrics.