Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Mary and Joseph: Let It Be

The Beatles: Let It Be
[purchase the basic version]
[purchase the Super Deluxe version

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, as we move toward year-end. I’ve had a bunch of work (yay!), there’s been tons of holiday prepping and gatherings, and my daughter and her boyfriend are visiting from Barcelona for a couple of weeks. And if that’s not enough, my 94 year-old uncle passed away, after a long, and mostly happy and healthy life, which required my wife and me to jump on a plane on Sunday night to get to Florida for the funeral, returning early Tuesday because, we thought, we had Broadway tickets for my family for that night. Unfortunately, the show got cancelled, because of COVID, which was disappointing.

All of this is in partial explanation of why I didn’t write last week, and why this piece is going to be a little shorter than my average Iliad-length posts. But I hate missing a theme, so I wanted to make sure that I put something up on the site before trying to figure out my [spoiler alert] In Memoriam post subject(s). 

Here’s the gist of what I want to say—if you like rock music, which you probably do because you are reading this, make sure you watch the Beatles documentary, Get Back. It’s worth the 8 hours of time, and you can usually get a free week of Disney+ if you don’t already have a subscription. It’s an incredible document of the four brilliant Beatles, and their world, in 1969. You can see their friendship, strained by their growing creative and other differences, their creativity and talent, their humor, and both their sophistication and naivete. And how much they smoked. Here they are, at the peak of their popularity and power, but clearly contemplating the end of their partnership. And none of them had celebrated their 30th birthday yet. 

I’m far from the biggest Beatles fan, but I was fascinated by the thing—not only the film itself, but thinking about how the director, Peter Jackson, chose what excerpts from the hundreds of hours of film he had available. Most critics have pointed out that the version that Jackson presented was more positive than the general received narrative—that the sessions were filled with bickering, and that Yoko Ono was disruptive. Instead, we see lots of camaraderie and collaboration interspersed with the bickering and nastiness, and mostly Yoko kept to herself and looked bored. What really happened? I don’t know, and unless you watch all of the raw film, there are really very few living people who actually do know. 

So, there’s a moment in the film where Paul McCartney sits down at the piano and starts playing what would become “Let It Be.” When I was watching, it seemed like he was creating it on the spot, but a little research turned up the fact that it was something he had been playing around with for a little while. Still, it was pretty cool to hear the song, which references McCartney’s mother Mary, in its embryonic stages. 

In addition to suggesting that you watch the whole documentary, I recommend that you read some of the many articles about the film and our feature song written by people who know much more about the Beatles than I do, and who are better writers. Use that Google thing—there are lots out there, discussing the film from many angles and points of view. Although I particularly liked this one, featuring a number of well-known songwriters discussing how they felt watching it. I mean, Jeff Tweedy said that he burst into tears a few times while watching it. And if that’s not an incentive to watch, what is?