The album project was initially titled Get Back and the direction the album would take, and the song "The Long and Winding Road" in particular was a major bone of contention for Paul McCartney, who wrote the song (though, like all Beatles songs, it would be credited to Lennon/McCartney). McCartney, on piano, and John Lennon, on bass guitar, recorded the song as a demo, and McCartney claims that he did not plan on including the rough version of the song on Get Back; Lennon, who was not a skilled bass player, had made many mistakes on the demo that McCartney did not bother to fix himself. Lennon and producer Phil Spector later edited the demo tape, adding a string section and choral accompaniment without McCartney's knowledge. McCartney felt Lennon had purposely sabotaged his song, and he resented the strings that Phil Spector added to it.
McCartney claims that his longstanding dissatisfaction with the released version of the song (and the entire Let It Be album) was the catalyst for his decision to release a stripped-down version of the album, titled Let It Be . . . Naked in 2003. The original demo without the strings was also released on The Beatles Anthology in 1996.
In all incarnations, the song takes the form of a piano-based ballad, with an unconventional structure and some of the most inventive and sophisticated chord changes heard in the Beatles' catalog. Lyrically, the song is a somewhat ambiguous evocation of an as-yet unrequited, though apparently inevitable, love.