Paul McCartney, as photographed by Richard Avedon for the 1968 LP The Beatles
(aka 'The White Album').
Sir James Paul McCartney, KBE, MBE (born June 18, 1942), better known as Paul McCartney, is a British musician, composer, and producer, who first came to prominence as a member of The Beatles. He is recognized as one of the musical icons of the century, and his songs (such as "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be") are frequently ranked among the best songs in popular music history.
He was born at Walton Hospital, located in northern Liverpool near his teenage home, where his mother had worked as a nurse. His father was a professional trumpet player and gave the young Paul a vital early grounding in music.
The early death of his mother Mary from breast cancer when he was fourteen was a formative influence on his life and created an additional bond between him and John Lennon, whose mother had also died young.
Role in the Beatles
McCartney first rose to fame as a bassist, pianist, guitarist, singer and songwriter for the Beatles. He was initially invited to join John Lennon's band The Quarrymen as a guitarist, but he eventually took over bass guitar duties in the early 1960s, after the group's formative stint at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, replacing original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe.
McCartney formed a close working relationship with Lennon and they collaborated on many songs, although they rarely wrote a complete song together. In fact out of all the Beatles songs written, only 27 were done by both of them. Typically, one of them would write most or part of a song and the other would finish it, incorporate it into another song or suggest useful changes. Due to an early agreement between the two, all Beatles songs written by either of them are credited to both.
One of McCartney's greatest songs, covered by a record number of artists, is "Yesterday". McCartney conceived the melody in a dream, (coupled with the working lyric "Scrambled Eggs / Have an omelette with some Muenster cheese") and was not sure for some time that it was original. Interestingly, a popular, but false rumor states that the second working lyric was "oh my darling you've got lovely legs."
During the early years of the Beatles' recording career, McCartney developed rapidly as a musician, singer and songwriter. He was heavily influenced by Buddy Holly and Little Richard and Little Richard's trademark high-pitched 'wooo', which he used prominently as a musical punctuation on early songs like "From Me To You".
The left-handed McCartney also became probably the most creative and influential rock bassist of his time, elevating the electric bass from back-row obscurity to prominence, inspiring countless players to take up the instrument. By 1965 McCartney was pressuring the engineers at EMI to get a better bass sound on Beatles recordings, frustrated by the relatively weak sound on their earlier records. His bass playing and writing during the Beatles' most creative phase in 1965-67 was heavily influenced by the work of American producer-composer Brian Wilson, leader of The Beach Boys, whose classic album Pet Sounds set new standards for recording and featured bass parts that were unprecedented in pop music. As a result of hearing Wilson's work, McCartney began to pay increasing attention to both the sound and arrangement of his bass lines, often taking advantage of Abbey Road's new multi-track tape decks to re-record more complex parts after the basic tracks had been laid down.
During the years of the Beatles' greatest popularity, Paul was generally regarded as the best-looking and aroused most interest in female audiences. Ironically, he was the last to marry and the only one never to divorce. Towards the end of his relationship with actress Jane Asher, McCartney met Linda Eastman, an American photographer. They first met at the June 1, 1967 launch party for Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the relationship blossomed over the next two years. He and Linda married at a small civil ceremony at Marylebone Registry Office in 1969, while he was still a member of the Beatles. He adopted Linda's daughter (from her first marriage), and they went on to have three other children together. They remained happily married and utterly devoted to each other until Linda's death from breast cancer in 1998. The couple reportedly spent less than a week apart during their entire marriage.
In the latter part of the Beatles' reign over pop-culture, Lennon's interest in the band waned whilst McCartney's pop ear was never more finely tuned, writing such pop classics as "Hey Jude", "Let It Be", and "The Long and Winding Road".
It is now generally accepted that McCartney was the main motivator for much of The Beatles' later work. After they retired from touring in mid-1966, Lennon and Harrison retreated to secure country estates in the so-called 'stockbroker belt', well outside London. But McCartney continued to live in the city, first in a house in the center of town, then at a larger property in St John's Wood, a short distance from Abbey Road Studios. He was often seen at major cultural events such as the International Times launch party at The Roundhouse (which he attended in disguise). He also avidly delved into the visual arts, becoming a close friend of leading art dealer and gallery owner; also explored experimental film and regularly attended movie, theatrical and classical music performances.
Although he was not the first in the group to take LSD, McCartney was the first British pop star to openly admit to using it, and his frank revelation during a newspaper interview in early summer 1967 made headlines around the world. In a famous BBC TV interview broadcast nationally on 19 June 1967, McCartney was again asked about his LSD use and his answer was impressive for its clarity:
"I was asked a question by a newspaper, and the decision was whether to tell a lie or tell him the truth. I decided to tell him the truth ... but I really didn't want to say anything, you know, because if I had my way I wouldn't have told anyone. I'm not trying to spread the word about this. But the man from the newspaper is the man from the mass medium. I'll keep it a personal thing if he does too you know ... if he keeps it quiet. But he wanted to spread it so it's his responsibility, you know, for spreading it, not mine."
Interestingly, in spite of his statements then, and later admission that he also used cocaine regularly at that time, McCartney was fortunate to be one of the few leading British pop stars who did not fall foul of the Drug Squad, as did Lennon, Starr and many other friends including The Rolling Stones and Donovan.
On the musical side, Paul was the first Beatle to record an outside project, composing (with George Martin) a fine score for the 1966 feature film The Family Way, for which he won a prestigious award. He also wrote and produced several successful recordings for other artists and on some of these outside productions he worked under a pseudonym, reflecting his enduring fascination with disguises and aliases.
McCartney devised many of their most important late Sixties projects including the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band concept, the Magical Mystery Tour film and record, and the suite of songs that closes the Abbey Road LP.
In 1969, despite obvious signs that the band was falling apart, he attempted to convince The Beatles to return to the stage, suggesting the Get Back project, which evolved into their valedictory film and album Let It Be. Although McCartney hoped it might revive them, the film made it obvious that the band was done as a creative force and that bickering, jealousy and the pressures of being The Beatles had driven the four musicians apart irrevocably. Regardless of the internal strife, the band retained their popularity, and the public's interest in them was only intensified in late 1969 when an urban legend was started that McCartney died and was secretly replaced in 1966.
Although Ringo Starr had briefly quit in 1968 and George had done likewise in 1969 it was Lennon who was the first to leave and not return in Aug/Sep 69. However it was McCartney who finalized the end of the group by announcing it publically when he released his own solo album (and legally dissolved the band after filing a lawsuit to break up their partnership on 31 December 1970).
By this time, Lennon and McCartney's friendship had been eroded by years of friction and rivalry, and it was only a short time before Lennon's death that they were reconciled at least partly.
Early solo career
As the Beatles broke up in 1970, Paul immediately launched a solo career with his album McCartney, which featured him playing all the instruments and singing all vocals apart from some support from wife Linda McCartney. While many found this record underwhelming (including Lennon in an interview), it did contain the superlative "Maybe I'm Amazed", which has remained a centerpiece of McCartney's concerts ever since. Another successful track was "Every Night", which was later a hit for singer Phoebe Snow .
McCartney followed this in 1971 with the stand-alone single "Another Day", which to some recalled the observational style of his mid-period Beatles work. The album Ram, later in 1971, was credited to both Paul and Linda, and featured back-up from, for the most part, studio musicians. While both single and album were commercially popular, many detractors viewed them as largely insubstantial. The album also contained a couple of apparent insults towards Lennon; later that year Lennon responded with the famously scathing attack song "How Do You Sleep?".
McCartney famously insisted that his wife should be involved with his music — and later tour in his bands so they did not have to be apart while he travelled — in spite of her protests that she was not talented enough. After hearing Linda sing, many seconded her opinion, but Paul's move was clearly a deliberate act, intended to help dispel some of the lingering Beatles mystique and prove his assertion that "anyone can do it". Despite persistent attacks on her ability (including one notorious 1990s bootleg concert tape in which her out-of-tune vocals were deliberately mixed to the fore), Linda became a valuable member of McCartney's bands and an inspiring musician throughout the remainder of her life. (In many ways this paralleled the role that Yoko Ono played in Lennon's post-Beatles musical life, just as there would be organizational similarities between Wings and Lennon's Plastic Ono Band).
Main article: Wings
Briefly, after an uneven start and despite many personnel changes, Wings became one of the most successful 1970s rock bands, hitting its artistic apex in late 1973 with the Band on the Run album and its commercial apex in 1976 with a wildly popular world tour.
Later solo career
In 1980, as Wings came to an end, McCartney made international headlines when he was arrested for possession of marijuana in Japan and he spent nine days in prison there before being deported. Since that time he has reportedly stopped using all drugs, although it is generally believed that he used marijuana consistently throughout the late Sixties and Seventies.
Despite the devastating blow of the murder of John Lennon later that year, McCartney enjoyed continued success in the early 80s. His 1982 album Tug Of War was a major success and in the same year he scored two huge hits with duet singles—"Ebony and Ivory ", recorded with soul legend Stevie Wonder, and "The Girl Is Mine ", recorded with emerging pop megastar Michael Jackson. Another successful McCartney-Jackson duet, "Say, Say, Say " was released in 1983.
McCartney's friendship with Jackson was shortlived, however. Not long afterwards, Jackson paid a huge sum to acquire the Northern Songs catalogue, which included the publishing rights to most of the Beatles' songs. Although McCartney subsequently approached Jackson hoping to negotiate an increase in his royalty rate, he was turned down.
McCartney and his wife became outspoken vegetarians and animal-rights activists after owning cattle and watching them outside the window as they cooked and ate meat. In 1991, Linda introduced her own line of vegetarian meals to the general market. After Linda's death in 1998, Paul pledged to continue her line of food and keep it free from genetically modified organisms.
In the late 1980s McCartney began a songwriting partnership with Elvis Costello, with the resulting songs appearing on several albums by both artists. The best known of these is McCartney's modest 1989 hit "My Brave Face", from his album Flowers in the Dirt .
During 1989-1990 McCartney staged a major, year-long world tour, in which for the first time he included a substantial number of Beatles songs in the set list. The tour was a big success, filling arenas and stadiums at each stop. A similarly-scaled tour took place in 1993.
In 1995, McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr reunited to release the first of the Beatles' Anthology albums, consisting of alternate takes and live recordings of Beatles songs; volumes two and three were released the next year. They also created two new Beatles songs by layering new music around unfinished tracks Lennon had made before his death fourteen years earlier.
In the 1990s McCartney was involved in a feud with John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. Their dispute centred around the writing credits for a number of Beatles songs. He had wanted to change the credits for some songs from the traditional 'Lennon-McCartney' to 'Paul McCartney and John Lennon'. Yoko Ono was personally offended by this move which she felt broke an agreement that the two had made while Lennon was still alive to credit songs as a team. The two other Beatles agreed that the credits should remain as they always had been and McCartney withdrew his request.
In the mid-1980s, while making a home movie reminiscing about his days as a schoolboy, McCartney discovered the 1825 building which had once been his old school was derelict. He purchased it, and pursued a dream he had always had of helping his home town of Liverpool in some way. January 1996 saw the dedication of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, of which Paul is the lead patron. On June 7th 1996 Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the building.
On March 11, 1997, McCartney was created a Knight by Queen Elizabeth II, and was subsequently known as Sir Paul McCartney. In 1999 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist (he was inducted with the rest of the Beatles in 1988).
In 1991 McCartney made his first complete foray into classical music, collaborating with Carl Davis to compose the quasi-autobiographical Liverpool Oratorio . This was received well in general, although many commented that the music lacked the complexity normally associated with the genre. Liverpool Oratorio had its North American premiere in Carnegie Hall in New York on 18 November 1991 with Davis conducting and both McCartneys in attendance.
In 1997 he made his second venture into classical music with Standing Stone , a work that received a mixed response. In 1999 he released Working Classical , a collection of his pop songs redone for string quartet or orchestra.
Mr. McCartney is also a very talented artist. For more than seventeen years Paul McCartney has been a committed painter, finding in his work on canvas both a respite from the world and another outlet for his drive to create. His painting, like much of his life, has been a very private endeavor. In April 1999 he exhibited his work for the first time in Siegen, Germany, where it met with critical acclaim, which led to his decision to share the work in galleries across the UK. He is also a big fan of animation, having released Tropic Island Hum , a CD compilation of various animation music that he has done over the years.
McCartney then decided to give another genre a try, and in 2001 he published Blackbird Singing, a volume of poetry. Some of these were lyrics to past songs, while some were strictly poems. He gave readings of these works in Liverpool and New York; the selections were both serious (Here Today, about John Lennon) and humourous (Maxwell's Silver Hammer).
On 20 October 2001 McCartney took a lead role in organising the Concert for New York City, a celebration of the strength, resilience, and pride of New York and America in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The concert was held at Madison Square Garden and featured performances by The Who, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Destiny's Child, Eric Clapton, Adam Sandler, Bon Jovi, Elton John, James Taylor and many more. McCartney was the final performer and debuted his song "Freedom", which advocates taking forceful measures against terrorism.
In June 2002 McCartney married Heather Mills, a former model and anti-landmines campaigner, in a highly elaborate ceremony at Castle Leslie in Glaslough, County Monaghan, Ireland. Under her influence, he has campaigned against landmines himself, and donated substantial sums to the cause. In early 2003, for example, he held a personal concert for the wife of banker Ralph Whitworth and donated one million dollars to Adopt-a-Landmine . Mills and McCartney had their first child, Beatrice Millie, on October 28, 2003.
McCartney continues to release pop albums (Run Devil Run, Wingspan, Flaming Pie, Driving Rain), as well as campaign for the groups Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, among others. Paul and Linda had three children: Mary, Stella, and James. He also adopted Heather, Linda's daughter from her previous marriage. James (born 1977) can be heard playing guitar in McCartney's latest albums. Mary is the baby inside McCartney's jacket in the back cover photograph of his first solo album. Heather is a designer, and can be seen as a young girl in the Let it be film. Stella McCartney is an award-winning fashion designer and animal rights activist.
In 2002 McCartney launched another major American tour, garnering strong notices for an energetic and tight supporting band and an evocative and varied show that appealed to fans of all generations. This leg became the top-grossing U.S. tour of the year, taking in over $126 million. The tour has subsequently continued around the rest of the world in 2003 and 2004.
McCartney performed during the pre-game ceremonies at the NFL's Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 and was the halftime performer at Super Bowl XXXIX on 6 February 2005. Unlike in many previous years, he was the only performer in the entire halftime show. His set consisted of "Drive My Car", "Get Back", "Live and Let Die " and "Hey Jude", and featured interesting stage design, fireworks, and fan-held placards.
McCartney, currently 62, says he hopes to keep playing even after he is 64, a reference to the Beatles song, "When I'm Sixty-Four".
Achievements and world records
- Appears in the Guinness Book of Records several times.
- "Yesterday" listed as the most covered song in history with over 3000 existing versions
- The most successful popular-music composer and recording artist ever with sales of 100 million singles and 60 gold discs
- The largest stadium audience in history when 184,000 paid to see him perform at Maracană Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in April 1990
- The fastest ticket sales in history, which took place in 1993 when 20,000 tickets for 2 shows in Sydney, Australia sold out in eight minutes
- The only artist to have UK number one singles as a soloist ("Pipes of Peace"), and part of a duo ("Ebony and Ivory" with Stevie Wonder), trio ("Mull of Kintyre" with Wings), quartet ("She Loves You", among many others, with The Beatles), quintet ("Get Back" The Beatles with Billy Preston) and sextet ("Let It Be" Ferry Aid). He was also a member of charity ensemble Band Aid which had a UK number one with Do They Know It's Christmas?
- "Yesterday" was confirmed as world's most popular song with over 6,000,000 airplays in the USA alone.
- Received an honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Sussex.
- The first rock musician ever to receive Chile's Order of Merit for "services to music, peace, and human understanding".
- First recipient of the Swedish Polar Music Prize ("Nobel prize for music").
- 1998 Winner of Lifetime Achievement Award. From PETA, according to another website.
- Between his work with the Beatles and as a solo artist and leader of Wings, McCartney has written or co-written more than 50 Top Ten singles. When combined with the Beatles' 49 Top 40 U.S. singles, it is a matter of statistical fact that Paul McCartney is the most successful pop-music composer ever and the second greatest hitmaker, behind Elvis Presley.
- Is the richest rockstar in the world, with a personal fortune of £762 million in 2004.
- Was actually the only Beatle to graduate from Britain's equivalent of high-school; he majored in Art.
- Made an honorary detective by NY Police.
- The only Beatle to ever have been nominated for an Academy Award in his own right.
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 (as a solo artist).