Behind the Bittersweet Meaning of The Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road”

“The Long And Winding Road” became the Beatles’ final No. 1 hit. As such, it holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Beatles fans the world over. The somber nature of the song makes it all the more powerful a listen.

The track is one of many born out of the John Lennon/Paul McCartney partnership and subsequently has a timeless quality about it. Nevertheless, the song was inspired by a particular time and place. Uncover the meaning below.

According to McCartney in his book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, he was inspired to write this ballad after buying a farm in 1966. The long and winding road he sings about was a very real pathway that could be seen from his window in Argyllshire, Scotland. After a few years of looking at the road, he decided to use it as a jumping-off point for this Let It Be cut.

Despite McCartney having a finite inspiration for the song, he also writes about the “double meaning” the track took on because of the time in which it was released.

“One of the most fascinating aspects of this song is that it seems to resonate in very powerful ways,” McCartney writes in The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. “For those who were there at the time, there seems to be a double association of terrific sadness and also a sense of hope.”

Though Abbey Road is the Beatles’ official swan song, Let It Be was the last album the foursome released. In the lyrics, McCartney created a bittersweet goodbye. While on the surface the goodbye seems to be to a lover, if you apply the same sentiment to his breakup with the band, an even more poignant meaning arises.

“The Long and Winding Road” is a unique offering in the Beatles’ catalog. According to McCartney, the song’s distinctive sound was a result of him trying to imitate other artists to “keep things fresh.”

“Often when I write a song, I do a bit of a disappearing act myself,” McCartney added. “For example, I imagine it having been recorded by somebody else – in this case Ray Charles.

“There’s always someone else you can invoke,” he continued. “You can put on a mask and a cloak as you’re writing something, and it takes away a lot of the anxiety. You discover as you get through it that it wasn’t a Ray Charles song anyway; it was yours. The road leads not to Campbeltown, but to somewhere you never expected.”

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