It happened one night while I was watching the Cirque du Soleil performance “Love” on PBS. The beautiful “pregnant” dancer in the photo above, was the center of the choreography for the “Lady Madonna” piece. Of course, with my love of pregnant women and all things related to birth, I was interested. I was paying very close attention when the choreographer went on to explain why the pregnant woman theme was chosen for this song. “Pauls mother was a midwife, and we wanted to honor her with this song, as Paul had honored her by writing it”. Whoa! Paul McCartney’s mother a midwife?? Ok - I should have known this information before now. But there it was - a bit of midwife trivia I never knew before. I was happy.
Days went by before I had the next thought - “I wonder if there are any other references to his mother in his music?” Then I remembered the Let it Be lyrics - “When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom…” I sat up – could it be?? I jumped up to the computer and googled the name of Paul Mccartneys mother – and there it was – Mary. The reference in “Let it Be” is of his mother! Not the biblical reference I had always assumed. I continued doing my search and this is what I found… Pauls mother was a midwife and he loved her dearly. Some of his most vivid memories are of her getting up in the middle of the night and getting on her bicycle to attend a birth. Sadly, she died when Paul was just 14 from a complication during breast cancer surgery. Her death broke his heart and he mourned her intensely. His father, in an attempt to console Paul, gave him a trumpet, encouraging him to play it as a way to process his grief. He tries the trumpet but doesn’t really like it so decides to trade it in for a guitar at a second hand shop. The rest is history. Paul meets up with John Lennon and the other guys (Johns mother also died when he was a teenager), they become bigger than Jesus and change music forever.
Towards the end of the Beatles’ career, Paul reports that he received a “visitation” from his dead mother in the middle of the night. His mother Mary appears to him and gives her now famous words of advice, and well, if you look at the lyrics, most likely gave him the music too. It would be the last record the Beatles make together, with Mary’s words boldly printed on the front.
The story fascinates me. I love that this wise woman was still attending to her child well after her physical passing. The experience seems to have had a great impact on Paul, resulting in “Let it Be” being one of the most played songs throughout the world.
The meaning behind the words seems at first obvious but I’ve started to wonder if there was more to them. It’s almost become an obsession for me. What did Mary McCartney mean by those words? I decided to ask my daughter Nala who is now 10 what she thought. She knows the song too – I made all the kids memorize it during a 3 week rainstorm at our jungle place in Costa Rica. What did she think the words “Let it Be” meant? “I think it’s like a command – you know like ‘let there be light’ – and when you say it, it makes the thing happen”. Nice. I like that Nala.
We’ll never know for sure what Mary meant, but it’s fun to think of the possibilities - as Nala said - the phrase could be a sort of cosmic “command”.
I’ve also asked Mary to visit me sometime. She hasn’t yet - when and if she does though, I’ll definitely let you know.
Just for fun - here are the lyrics…sing them with me, won’t you?…
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. Let it be, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be. And when the broken hearted people Living in the world agree, There will be an answer, let it be. For though they may be parted there is Still a chance that they will see There will be an answer, let it be. Let it be, let it be. Yeah There will be an answer, let it be. And when the night is cloudy, There is still a light that shines on me, Shine on until tomorrow, let it be. I wake up to the sound of music Mother Mary comes to me Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. Let it be, let it be. There will be an answer, let it be. Let it be, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be