When Paul McCartney Revealed What Inspired Let It Be, James Corden Was Overcome With Emotion

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James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke has turned into a pop culture phenomenon since it became a regular feature on his late-night talk show. Indeed, pretty much every major pop star worth their salt has appeared in the passenger seat to belt out their biggest hits alongside the affable host. And they don’t come much bigger than Paul McCartney.

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Yes, in 2018 the legendary Beatle joined in with the fun for a Carpool Karaoke special in which he toured his Liverpool hometown. And it was this far more personal angle which helped to inject some genuine emotion into a format that had previously been all about the entertainment. In fact, McCartney even ended up making Corden shed a tear.

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Indeed, the Brit couldn’t contain himself when the bona fide musical icon began discussing the inspiration for one of his most famous songs. For it turns out that the origins of “Let It Be” is far more moving that anyone first thought. So here’s a look at the pair’s Merseyside adventure and the story which barely left a dry eye in the car.

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The idea for Carpool Karaoke originated back in 2011 when James Corden was asked to film a sketch for charity telethon Red Nose Day. He assumed the role of Smithy, his character in much-loved British sitcom Gavin and Stacey. In the clip, the star drives the late, great George Michael around the streets of London. And halfway into their journey, the pair began joyfully singing Wham classic “I’m Your Man.”

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Corden first revisited the idea three years later for a BBC TV special dedicated to Take That’s chief songwriter Gary Barlow. Once again, the segment became a major hit with viewers. And it got both Corden and director Ben Winston thinking they could get even more mileage from the format.

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Meanwhile, in 2015 Corden elaborated on the thinking behind the concept to the New York Post. He said, “Ben Winston and I always thought there was something very joyful about someone very, very famous singing their songs in an ordinary situation. We just had this idea: Los Angeles, traffic, the carpool lane – maybe this is something we could pull off.” However, the pair initially struggled to convince any other musicians to take part.

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However, that all changed when Corden showed ultimate diva Mariah Carey a clip of his George Michael encounter. The multiple chart-topper was so enamored with the concept that she agreed to be the passenger for the first official Carpool Karaoke segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden in 2015. And where Carey led, others followed.

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Indeed, Justin Bieber, Iggy Azalea, Rod Stewart, Jennifer Hudson and One Direction were just a few of the names who got involved in 2015 alone. As a result, Carpool Karaoke became one of the biggest viral hits of the late-night talk show circuit. In fact, Adele’s appearance in 2016 amassed an astonishing 42 million views in the space of five days.

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That same year, a primetime compilation of Carpool Karaoke sessions picked up Outstanding Variety Special at the Emmy Awards. Over the next two years, the segment invited the likes of Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry to sit in the passenger seat alongside Corden. And then in June 2018, one of the world’s most famous living singer-songwriters decided to get in on the action.

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Yes, Carpool Karaoke had already become a genuine phenomenon by this point. But the appearance of musical icon Paul McCartney took things to another level. The man undeniably helped to shape the pop culture of the 1960s and beyond as the bassist, singer and co-songwriter in The Beatles.

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In fact, no other songwriting partnership has commercially bettered his one with fellow Beatle John Lennon. Overall, McCartney has contributed to no less than 32 different chart-toppers in the United States. Of course, there’s far more to his talents than his game-changing work as a member of The Fab Four.

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Indeed, McCartney went on to form another hugely successful band, Wings, in the 1970s alongside Denny Laine and wife Linda. In fact, their 1977 single “Mull Of Kintyre” remains one of the UK’s best-selling of all time. He’s also enjoyed a glittering solo career, selling more than 25 million albums in the United States alone.

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If that’s not enough, McCartney’s also a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, has no less than 18 Grammys and in 1997 was made a Sir. He’s also become almost as renowned for his charitable efforts thanks to his tireless campaigns involving animal rights, land mines and poverty. Elsewhere, his net worth is estimated at a whopping $1.2 billion.

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So it’s little wonder that McCartney was considered a major coup for Corden when he agreed to appear on Carpool Karaoke. Of course, the Beatle’s turn in the passenger seat would prove to be a little different from the norm. For one thing, his 23 minutes as Corden’s passenger was by far the longest amount of time in the segment’s history.

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In the extended bit, Corden drives McCartney around his Liverpool hometown. The musical legend shows the host several major landmarks from his childhood and from The Beatles’ story. This included many of the sites that were mentioned in the Fab Four’s classic hit “Penny Lane,” including the barbershop.

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McCartney also revisits the house he spent most of his teenage years in. And there, he plays just one of his many classics, “When I’m 64,” on the current owner’s piano. He then informs Corden about the rather unexpected way he achieved a fuller guitar sound. He simply took the instrument into the “bog,” aka the bathroom.

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And McCartney ensured that locals would never forget this particular hometown trip. Indeed, the music great wrapped the whole segment up with a live performance at the Philharmonic Pub alongside a full band. “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Love Me Do” and “Hey Jude” were just a few of the Beatles classics that McCartney treated the audience to.

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Unsurprisingly, McCartney’s heartwarming return to the place where it all began received a rapturous response from both the public and critics alike. More than 50,000 viewers left positive comments when it was uploaded to YouTube. One fan particularly touched by all the nostalgia described the clip as a “five-hanky special.”

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One of the most impressed publications was Vanity Fair. Writer Laura Bradley enthused, “Going forward, this Carpool Karaoke should serve as a template for the form. Even if not all singers can offer this kind of depth, they can certainly use a segment like this to go a little deeper than the typical canned anecdotes they reserve for late-night interviews.”

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In fact, the segment became such a roaring success that The Late Late Show’s home network CBS decided to air an extended primetime repeat just two months later. This hour-long version featured several more classic McCartney stories and more footage of his set at the Philharmonic Pub. And in 2019 this showing received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special.

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Carpool Karaoke’s executive producer Ben Winston revealed in an official statement that he was overwhelmed by the reaction to the McCartney episode. He said, “We loved making it and knew we had something special, but it was so wonderful for us to see how many people watched and enjoyed it. I think it resonated with people, as Paul’s music speaks to every generation, young and old, especially today.”

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Speaking to Deadline, Corden revealed that securing McCartney’s name for the segment took approximately five months. He said, “At its core it probably ultimately came down to a fun conversation between myself and [McCartney], where I just explained to him what I thought we could do. And I sort of just prodded him that it would be fun and it would be worthwhile and that he absolutely wouldn’t ever regret doing it.”

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The Late Late Show host Corden claimed he was aware that they’d recorded something unique on the day itself. But he wasn’t prepared for the near-universal positive response once it aired. And Corden was particularly surprised that so many people put aside 23 minutes of their day to watch it.

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“It kind of breaks quite a lot of rules of the internet,” Corden told Deadline. “People have watched it on their phones or their laptops or whatever for 23 minutes. And yet it’s testament to him really. It’s testament to what he means to people; it’s testament to what that music means to people.”

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Corden continued, “The thing I’m most proud of in those Carpool Karaoke segments that we do – of course the music is fundamental in it, it’s really the glue that holds the whole thing together. But I think the thing I’m always most proud of is the interview in it. It’s showing someone in a light that you haven’t seen them in before.”

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According to Corden, the Carpool Karaoke format allows stars to open up in a way they perhaps wouldn’t in a TV studio. He said, “The kind of nakedness of just chatting in that car, you know, for him to tell stories that he’d never told before, for him to go back into his house, which is something he hasn’t done in I think over 50 years. I felt very, very privileged just to be part of it really.”

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Of course, the highlight for many Beatles fans were the moments where McCartney discussed the background of several Fab Four hits. In one particularly amusing anecdote, he reflected on the moment he first played “She Loves You” for his musician father with John Lennon. And it’s fair to say that McCartney Snr. wasn’t bowled over. Apparently, he commented, “Son, it’s very nice, but there’s enough of these American-isms around. Couldn’t you sing, ‘She loves you, yes, yes, yes’?”

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McCartney also discussed penning his first song at the age of 14. “I Lost My Little Girl” was recorded by the Fab Four when they were making 1970’s Let It Be. But it didn’t actually make it onto an album until 1991 when it appeared on McCartney’s live set, Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).

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But it was a track that did make it onto Let It Be that provided the most emotional moment of McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke session. Indeed, while sitting in the passenger seat McCartney recalled how the anthemic title track came about. And by the time he finished, his chauffeur was in tears.

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McCartney began the story by revealing that he wasn’t actually awake when the inspiration hit. He told Corden he “had a dream in the ‘60s where my mum, who died, came to me in the dream and was reassuring me, saying, ‘It’s going to be okay. Just let it be.’”

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Tragically, McCartney lost his mother Mary aged just 14, the same age he wrote his first song. The midwife had passed away in 1956 when she suffered a fatal embolism. This devastating loss ultimately helped McCartney to bond with John Lennon, who was 17 when his own mother Julia died.

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McCartney continued the story about his inspirational dream. He said, “She gave me the positive word. So I woke up and I went, ‘What was that? What [did] she say? Let it be? I’ve never heard that. That’s kind of good.’” Of course, this proved to be something of an understatement.

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Indeed, released as a single in 1970, The Beatles’ “Let It Be” entered the US Hot 100 at a career high of number six. It then made it all the way to the top spot where it enjoyed a two-week stint. It also proved to be a fitting swansong for the Fab Four, who split up shortly after.

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And Corden couldn’t contain his emotions after hearing how the song came about. After describing the story as the most beautiful he’d ever heard, he belted out “Let It Be” while struggling to hold back the tears. He later admitted, “Oh man, it got me emotional there. I didn’t feel it coming.”

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For it turns out that Corden has a very personal connection to the song. He told McCartney, “I can remember my [grandfather], who was a musician, and my dad, sitting me down and saying, ‘We’re going to play you the best song you’ve ever heard.’ And I remember them playing me that.”

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A visibly moved Corden then wrapped up his heartfelt family story by saying, “If my [grandfather] was here right now, he’d get an absolute kick out of this.” And with just two words, his world-famous passenger made the whole emotional outpouring even more affecting. For McCartney simply responded with, “He is.”

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Corden also made sure throughout their journey that McCartney realized just how much his music had touched him. While driving around the streets of Liverpool, the Late Late Show host told the Beatle, “Your music is so full of positivity and joy and a message of love and togetherness. I feel like it’s more relevant now today maybe than it’s ever been.”

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It was a sentiment echoed by McCartney himself. The music icon responded, “We expected it to last ten years, but it keeps going on, and on, and on. And it keeps being relevant.” And just a few months later, McCartney proved that he was very much still relevant as a solo artist, too.

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Indeed, in September 2018 McCartney’s 17th studio effort, Egypt Station, entered the Billboard 200 at pole position. This was the first time that the Beatle had achieved such a feat in his entire solo career. It was also his first LP to reach the number one spot since Tug of War way back in 1982.

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In an interview with IndieWire, Corden said he hopes that clips such as his McCartney Carpool Karaoke session can have a profound effect. He said, “As the world becomes a much more isolated and insular place, we will search for things that will bring everyone together. Whether that’s live events or events on the television. And we should celebrate those things that still do that. In the words of a great person, we can ‘come together, right now, over me!’”

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