Song of the Week: Dolly Parton Reimagines “Let It Be” with a Little Help from Her Friends

Song of the Week delves into the fresh songs we just can’t get out of our heads. Find these tracks and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist, and for our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Dolly Parton recruits a few familiar folks for her take on the classic “Let It Be.”

Dolly Parton is, to the surprise of absolutely no one, a woman of her word.

The beloved and ever-humble country icon made a promise when she was somewhat reluctantly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — “It was always my belief that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was for people in rock music,” she said at the time. In exchange for the honor, she committed to recording a true rock album.

Parton has started rolling out the killer track list and shared a few looks into the project, and the latest is a doozy. To take on one of the most well-known Beatles songs of all time is no small feat, so to be safe, she brought in Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to ensure the absolute right sound could be achieved. “Does it get any better than singing ‘Let It Be’ with Paul McCartney, who wrote the song?” she asked. Well, yes, Miss Dolly, it does — “Ringo Starr joined in on drums, Peter Frampton on guitar, and Mick Fleetwood playing percussion,” she acknowledged in a statement.

When “Let It Be” was first released in 1970, it was well-received, and has remained a critical part of the band’s legacy. Meanwhile, in Nashville in the early 1970s, Dolly Parton and longtime recording and business partner Porter Wagoner were really starting to crank out the hits; “Coat of Many Colors” offered her some major chart success, and the singer, while still tied to Wagoner, was starting to make a name for herself as an artist in her own right. Now, over 50 years later, these stories that were taking place worlds apart have become intertwined. (It’s not the first time Parton has covered The Beatles — take a look at her version of “Help!” — but it is the first time she’s been on a recording with them.)

While McCartney wrote “Let It Be” after dreaming of his late mother, the “Mother Mary” denoted in the lyrics of the song, the words feel different here delivered by the highly spiritual Parton, deep-rooted in all her Tennessee wisdom. The religious imagery woven into “Let It Be” is shared with her characteristic conviction. In taking on a song that’s existed in so many forms for decades, it doesn’t feel like Parton set out to redo the song as much as it seems like she distilled it through her warm, optimistic, and gracious worldview.

One of the most magical things about Dolly Parton is her ability to convince listeners that the world isn’t such a bad place, and that tomorrow just might be better than today. “Let It Be” isn’t necessarily an outwardly hopeful song — it feels more connected to the idea of making peace with our circumstances — but when sung by Dolly, it takes on a more joyful quality than ever before.

Mary Siroky
Associate Editor