Disputes, disagreements and disharmony among band members had been gradually increasing, become especially apparent during the White Album recording sessions. The band's last performance together outside the studio (a promotional event on the roof of Apple Studios) came in January 1969. Their last recording session (for Abbey Road) followed in August.
In September 1969, Lennon told the band that he was leaving. The others persuaded him not to go public until they made one more effort to get an acceptable version of their final album, Let It Be, which had been recorded several months before Abbey Road but shelved after two attempts by producer George Martin to put it in final form.
Phil Spector, who had produced Lennon's "Instant Karma" single was enlisted to make a last ditch effort at producing Let It Be (originally titled Get Back.) McCartney, unhappy with the way several of the songs were produced, tried without success to stop the album's release.
The band's breakup was announced in April 1970, a month before Let It Be was released. Documents filed on December 31, 1970 officially ended the legal entity known as The Beatles.
Life After The Beatles
All four of The Beatles carried on with successful solo careers after the breakup of The Beatles.
John Lennon released seven albums between 1970 and 1980, the last one just three weeks before he was murdered, at age 40, outside his New York City apartment in December 1980. An additional album, Milk and Honey, was released (in 1984) after Lennon's death.
George Harrison released a dozen solo albums (and two with the Traveling Wilburys) and produced films through his company, Handmade Films. Harrison died of cancer at the age of 58 in November 2001.
Ringo Starr has released nearly two dozen albums and appeared in about the same number of films since the breakup of The Beatles. He continues to tour every few years with his All Starr Band.
Paul McCartney has been the most prolific ex-Beatle as a solo artist, with his late wife, Linda and with his band Wings. He continues to tour and record, and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful musician and contemporary songwriter in history.
Stu Sutcliffe died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 22, shortly after he left the band. Pete Best continues to perform with The Pete Best Band, and does frequent personal appearances and interviews about the history of The Beatles.
In addition to the 23 albums (counting soundtracks and separate US and UK releases) released during the band's life (1960-1970) there have been more than 150 compilations, recorded interviews and videos issued. Hundreds of books have been written about their personal lives, their music, and their influence on pop culture and rock music.
Their original record label, EMI and the Guinness Book of World Records estimate that more than 1-billion Beatles albums, singles and CDs have been sold worldwide. Authentic Beatles memorabilia continues to command huge sums. Recently an audio tape of a 1974 interview with Lennon sold at auction for more than $38,000. At the same auction, McCartney's handwritten lyrics for "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" brought $192,000.