Her version of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” was the first recording of the song to be commercially issued (The Beatles did not release “Let It Be” as a single until March 1970)
“Let It Be” is one of the most famous songs the Beatles ever released. The song’s combination of soul, gospel, and pop music helps it to connect with many different types of music fans.
Surprisingly, the Beatles were not the first artists to release their version of the song. Aretha Franklin’s version was released shortly before the Fab Four’s. Franklin is largely responsible for her version of the track languishing in obscurity.
“Let it Be” was written for the Beatles’ album of the same name.The track was written in 1969, near the end of the sessions for its parent album.
Paul sent a copy of it to Jerry Wexler, a producer for Atlantic Records. He wanted Franklin to record a version of the song. Wexler said it’s highly possible Paul wrote the song specifically for Franklin.
Franklin did record a cover of the track. It was included as one of several covers on her album This Girl’s in Love with You. The record also features a cover of the Fab Four’s hit “Eleanor Rigby.” Franklin’s version of “Let It Be” is notable because it was released to the public in January 1970, two full months before the public heard the Beatles’ rendition of the song.
Franklin’s “Let It Be” was well-received by critics, her fans, and Beatles fans.
Wexler says Franklin did not want her version of “Let It Be” to become a single. Wexler felt Franklin’s take on the song was beautiful and would have been a smash hit.
For months, Franklin’s recording remained obscure. Then the Beatles decided to put out their own version of the song. The Fab Four sent Wexler and Franklin a legal notice barring them from releasing Franklin’s track as a single.
Franklin would later release covers of two more Beatles classics: “The Long and Winding Road” and “The Fool on the Hill.” When Franklin died, Paul said “Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for the beautiful life of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of our souls, who inspired us all for many many years.”