SCARILY, nearly half a century has passed since The Long and Winding Road became The Beatles’ last hit single.

Composed by Paul McCartney, it has gone on to make millions – but how many knew that a musical arranger and producer from the North-East was behind the transformation of the song – and was paid the princely sum of £40 for his efforts?

Richard Hewson, born in Norton, near Stockton, was the man who added the sweeping orchestral arrangements to the ballad without McCartney even being told about the interference.

And Richard confesses to not even knowing much about The Beatles when he made his mark on the history of arguably the most influential band the world has ever seen.

“I really didn’t know how big these people were,” he says. “I’d heard of The Beatles, obviously, but I didn’t realise when that record came out how huge it would be. I was just doing another gig.”

The Beatles were on the point of breaking up in 1970 when Richard was called in by EMI to work on a song on the Let it Be album. The Beatles’ new manager, Allen Klein, wasn’t happy with the album and hired Phil Spector to “clean it up”, with Richard tasked with adding “a massive orchestra” to The Long and Winding Road.

In its original state, the song consisted of Paul’s voice, a piano, and a “crap” bass, which was removed because Spector decided that a disaffected John Lennon had messed it up deliberately. Following Richard’s £40 orchestration, the song became The Beatles 20th – and last – number one in America before they broke up.

McCartney hated the changes and didn’t speak to Richard for a year but calmed down enough to ask him to do some further work on the Wings’ track, My Love.

“I think he’d simmered down because, after all, the song became a huge hit as a massive orchestral thing and he toured with an orchestra so, come on Paul, it wasn’t so bad after all, was it?” he says.

Richard went on to work with other music greats, including Diana Ross, James Taylor, Herbie Hancock, The Bee Gees, and fellow Teessider Chris Rea. He also had his own hit with a song called The Crunch, by The Rah Band, taken from the initials of his name, Richard Anthony Hewson.

Now 74, life’s long and winding road has taken him down to live in West Sussex, but Teesside has every right to be proud of the local lad who helped create a Beatles’ classic for the price of half a tank of petrol.

  • Richard Hewson’s story is part of a special hour-long programme about the art of song writing on BBC Tees (95fm) at 6pm tonight. Gary Philipson and Lee Johnson will also be talking to Tony Hatch, Dean Friedman, Cattle and Cane, Mike McGrother, and Eliza Carthy.
  • To see an interview with Richard Hewson, filmed by the BBC's Andy Bell, click here