This week, May 8, 2023, marked 53 years since the release of The Beatles‘ final album, Let It Be.
The band’s 13th album has become steeped in legend, as it was released just months before the Fab Four announced they would be breaking up for good.
Included on the record are a number of iconic Beatles tracks including Let It Be, I Me Mine and Get Back.
The latter track was released as the album’s primary single and was backed with a heart-wrenching B-side titled Don’t Let Me Down.
This song was fundamentally written by John Lennon, and the lyrics came from a deeply emotional place.
Don’t Let Me Down was written and recorded in the 1969 Let It Be sessions, but was not officially included on the album. Despite this, it is one of the band’s most popular songs of all time.
At the time of writing, The Beatles’ rooftop performance of the song is their YouTube channel’s most-viewed video with more than 435 million views.
“John was with Yoko,” he remembered. “And had escalated to heroin and all the accompanying paranoias and he was putting himself out on a limb.”
McCartney, who was being interviewed for Barry Miles’ 1997 biography (Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now), explained that this relationship was a tough thing to swallow at the time.
“I think that as much as it excited and amused him, and the same time it secretly terrified him,” he remembered.
As a result, he wrote Don’t Let Me Down. “[It] was a genuine plea,” McCartney continued. “It was saying to Yoko: ‘I’m really stepping out of line on this one. I’m really letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down.’”
McCartney added: “I think it was a genuine cry for help. It was a good song.”
Don’t Let Me Down’s lyrics paint a picture of a scared lover who is yearning for a companion that will be there when they need them – at any time.
A particularly poignant line has Lennon crooning: “I need you, I need you, I need you right now / Yeah, I need you right now
So don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me down / I think I’m losing my mind now.”
Lennon himself spoke obliquely about the heartfelt song, saying: “When it gets down to it, when you’re drowning, you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.”