June 18, 2019
The Infallible Wikipedia article about this artist, born June 18, 1942, is one of the longest I’ve ever seen. Which might explain why I’ve been reluctant to write about him until now. No words are capable of capturing his musical greatness or the impact of his compositions. That artist is Paul McCartney.
The numbers are staggering: He has written or co-written 32 songs which were number one on the Billboard Hot 100; more than 2200 artists have covered his iconic song “Yesterday”; has won 18 Grammy Awards; twice inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; is personally worth $1.2 BILLION; and was knighted by the Queen of England in 1997.
McCartney was, of course, one of the four members of the Beatles. But he truly was so much more than that. He wrote, or co-wrote with John Lennon, the majority of their songs. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“At the age of fifteen on 6 July 1957, McCartney met John Lennon and his band, the Quarrymen, at the St Peter’s Church Hall fête in Woolton. The Quarrymen played a mix of rock and roll and skiffle, a type of popular music with jazz, blues and folk influences. Soon afterwards, the members of the band invited McCartney to join as a rhythm guitarist, and he formed a close working relationship with Lennon.”
Three years later the group renamed themselves the Beatles. While the group rocketed to international fame, the relationships between the members were contentious. McCartney was seen as picky and also the one who forced the Beatles to go beyond the simple songs which defined their early work. The three other members all seemed to resent McCartney and how he took control. Finally, in April 1970, McCartney left the group and strode out as a solo artist.
It was the influence and support of his wife, Linda, which defined the next 25 years of his career. The solo career was short lived. He formed the band Wings along with his wife, ex-Moody Blue’s guitarist Denny Laine, and also drummer Denny Seiwell.
While the band never saw the same level of fan hysteria as the Beatles, Wings achieved enviable success. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“In March 1973, Wings achieved their first US number-one single, ‘My Love‘, included on their second LP, Red Rose Speedway, a US number one and UK top five. McCartney’s collaboration with Linda and former Beatles producer Martin resulted in the song ‘Live and Let Die‘, which was the theme song for the James Bond film of the same name. Nominated for an Academy Award, the song reached number two in the US and number nine in the UK. It also earned Martin a Grammy for his orchestral arrangement. Music professor and author Vincent Benitez described the track as ‘symphonic rock at its best’”
More number one hits followed such as “Band on The Run” and “With a Little Luck.”
But, as had happened with the Beatles, disagreements with band members led to the band’s breakup in April 1981.
McCartney has not achieved the same commercial success as with either the Beatles or Wings, but he continues to stretch and grow as an artist, exploring orchestral, classical, and electronica styles in the past quarter century. In September 2018 he released his album, Egypt Station, which became his first album to make it on to the Billboard Hot 200 chart in 36 years. It debuted as number one.
Having grown up in the 1960’s with an older brother who adored the Beatles and then ‘discovering’ music on my own in the 1970’s, McCartney was, of course, a household name. Girls of the era often referred to him as the ‘cute’ Beatle. Personally, I’ve never was a huge Beatles or Wings fan, but both group’s music were inescapable.
My favorite story about McCartney occurred during his tenure with Wings. My sister became a Junior High school teacher after she graduated college in 1979. One day she overheard a couple of students discussing the band Wings and one of them said “Did you know Paul McCartney was in another group before Wings?”
My sister had to stop herself from laughing out loud. ‘Another’ group? Like the Beatles? Ah, how quickly one’s fame can flee.
So happy 77th birthday to Paul McCartney.
A link to the exhaustive Wikipedia articles:
And a youtube link to the iconic ‘Yesterday.”