Written by Lennon as an anguished love song to Yoko Ono,Paul McCartney interpreted it as a "genuine plea", with Lennon saying to Ono, "I'm really stepping out of line on this one. I'm really just letting my vulnerability be seen, so you must not let me down." Lennon's vocals work their way into screams, presaging the primal scream stylings of the following year's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.
The song is in the key of E and is in 4/4 time during the verse, chorus and bridge, but changes to 5/4 in the pick-up to the verse. It grew (like "Sun King") from the F♯m7- E changes from Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" ("like she does" [F♯m7] "yes she does" [A, Am] "yes she does" [E]) with McCartney arranging instrumental and vocal parts and Harrison adding a descending two-part lead guitar accompaniment to the verse and a contermelody in the bridge. Pollack states that "the counterpoint melody played in octaves during the Alternate Verse by the bass and lead guitars is one of the more novel, unusual instrumental touches you'll find anywhere in the Beatles catalogue."
Recording and release
Multiple versions of "Don't Let Me Down" were recorded by the Beatles during the tumultuous Get Back (Let It Be) recording sessions. The version recorded on 28 January 1969 was released as a B-side to the single "Get Back", recorded the same day. "Get Back" reached number one and "Don't Let Me Down" reached number thirty five on the US Billboard Hot 100.
They performed "Don't Let Me Down" twice during their rooftop concert of 30 January 1969, one of which was included in the Let It Be film, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. When the "Get Back" project was revisited, Phil Spector dropped "Don't Let Me Down" from the Let It Be album.
The Aggrolites, a California ska-punk/reggae band have played a ska-punk version of the song at their live shows. It has proven to be a hit with their fans despite never being on one of their albums.
Diogo Mello a 1 year and 11 months Brazilian toddler and his father recorded a cover video of the song and posted on YouTube in 2013. The video reached millions for views from people from all over the world.