Happy Birthday to Paul McCartney, who turns 79 today (June 18th). To date, McCartney is the most successful songwriter in history, having written or co-written 30 U.S. Number One hits. McCartney met his original songwriting partner John Lennon on July 6th, 1957 at a church social where Lennon was performing. After joining Lennon’s band, the Quarrymen, McCartney persuaded Lennon to add his friend George Harrison in 1958, and the seeds of the Beatles were born. Ringo Starr joined the group in 1962.
Paul McCartney’s recent album, McCartney III, scored the former-Beatle a Top Two hit on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The album earned him the distinction of being the first artist to have a new album in the top two chart positions in each of the last six decades.
McCartney III also went on to top both Billboard’s Top Album Sales and Top Rock Albums charts.
The collection hit Number One in England, marking his first chart-topping album in his homeland since 1989’s Flowers In The Dirt.
McCartney III also hit Number One on the German, Scottish, and Dutch charts. It stalled at Number Two on both the Swiss and Swedish album charts.
Last April saw the release of the McCartney III Reimagined album. The covers collection of his recent one-man-band McCartney III release was personally curated by McCartney, featuring “an A-List assortment of friends, fans and brand new acquaintances, each covering and/or reimagining their favorite McCartney III moments in their own signature styles.”
Artists on the set are: Beck, Damon Albarn, St. Vincent, Josh Homme from Queens Of Stone Age, Anderson .Paak, Blood Orange, Dominic Fike, Radiohead‘s Ed O’Brien, Idris Elba, Khruangbin, 3D RDN from Massive Attack, and Phoebe Bridgers.
Last July, McCartney released the archival collection version of his 1997 Flaming Pie album in a four-LP / five-CD / two-DVD “Collector’s Edition.” The “Collector’s Edition” includes the original album remastered at Abbey Road Studios, 32 bonus audio tracks — including unheard home recordings and demos — alternative studio recordings, rough mixes, and much more.
In September 2018, McCartney scored his first Number One album on the Billboard 200 albums chart since 1982 with his latest release, Egypt Station. Egypt Station, which is the former-Beatle’s eighth solo chart-topper, marked his first album to enter the Billboard 200 at the top spot. The album entered the UK charts at Number Three. The album’s success can be attributed in part to McCartney’s now iconic appearance with James Corden on “Carpool Karaoke.”
2018 saw the release of the long lost live Wings album Wings Over Europe. The set was issued as part of the sprawling Paul McCartney And Wings – 1971-73 Limited Edition Box Set, which features both the new Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway “Archival Series” collections combined, Wings Over Europe spotlights the earliest live incarnation of Wings, featuring Paul and Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, and Denny Seiwell. All but one of the disc’s 20 songs is from the band’s summer ’72 European trek, with the album’s opening number “Big Barn Bed” coming from July 10th, 1973 at the lineup’s final gig in Newcastle, England.
In May 2017, McCartney made a rare big screen appearance as the old pirate “Uncle Jack” in the latest installment of The Pirates Of The Caribbean saga, titled, Dead Men Tell No Tales.
In 2016, Paul McCartney released his latest solo compilation called, Pure McCartney. The album, featuring a vintage 1971 photo of the former-Beatle, has been issued in single, double, and four-disc editions. The four-disc version features a whopping 64 tracks spanning the past 46 years.
In May 2015, McCartney spoke about his recent pop chart success with Kanye West and Rihanna on the hits “Only One” and the Top Five smash, “FourFiveSeconds,” telling The Standard, “It’s good to connect with different artists. The secret is I keep myself very open to suggestions — I still feel like I’m about 30. I’m lucky that someone like Kanye would go, ‘Yes I would like to work with Paul McCartney.’ I was quite flattered — I thought, ‘Why does he want to work with me?’ It was a few months later when I was starting to think, ‘should I ring him and ask him did anything come of the stuff we did?’ But then I thought ‘I can’t do that — that’s too soppy!’ I’ll just leave it and try and act cool. And suddenly he sends me ‘Only One,’ and then Rihanna’s on the other record.”
Over 60 years since starting his musical career, and having written some of the most beloved music of the 20th century, McCartney is still unable to read or write a note of music: “I can think songs up, I can think arrangements, I can structure things, but I can’t physically write stuff down on a page. I always had a kind of dyslexia when I was a kid. I was taking piano lessons — I took them at a few points in me life. Whenever I did, it always seemed boring, it always seemed like homework — I don’t wanna put any students off who are learning properly. I always had great difficulties with it.”
McCartney admitted that his past figures in quite heavily when working up new material: “Y’know, you reference most things you do either to, ‘Would that work with the Beatles? Would this be a good Wings song? Would John (Lennon) like this?’ Y’know, ‘What would George play on this?’ — and stuff. I think you do that. I often think of John.”
Paul McCartney admitted that once an album hits the streets a bit of panic always seems to creep up on him: “You write the stuff and then you have a lot of fun recording it, and then you get ready to release it and I always forget, it’s like sitting an exam — and this is the oral. I always thing, ‘I’m just doing this for me, for a bit of fun, I’m doing it for my family and stuff.’ Then when you put it out, you realize, you’re putting it out. So it’s kind of, it’s a little bit mixed feelings releasing something. But I say, it’s like, you suddenly realize you’ve entered yourself for an exam, that you didn’t mean to enter yourself for.”
In January 2014, Paul McCartney won all four Grammy’s he was nominated for that year: Best Rock Song for his collaboration with Nirvana‘s Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear on the Sound City track “Cut Me Some Slack”; Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package for massive 1976 Wings Over America – Deluxe Edition, along with Best Music Film and Best Surround Sound Album for his Live Kisses DVD from his live standards performance at L.A.’s Capitol Studios.
McCartney married photographer Linda Eastman in 1969 and they had four children — Mary, Stella and James — with McCartney adopting Linda’s daughter Heather from her previous marriage.
After the Beatles’ breakup in 1971, the pair formed the solo group Wings in 1971, which scored a number of Top Ten hits, including the Number Ones “My Love,” “Band On The Run,” “Listen To What the Man Said,” “Silly Love Songs,” “With A Little Luck,” and “Coming Up.” McCartney disbanded the group in 1981.
After Linda McCartney’s death from cancer in 1998, McCartney married Heather Mills in 2002. A daughter, Beatrice Milly followed in 2003. The couple divorced in 2008 with Mills receiving a $48.6 payout from McCartney. On what would have been John Lennon’s 71st birthday — October 9th, 2011 — McCartney walked down the aisle for a third time with his girlfriend of four years, then 51-year-old New York socialite, Nancy Shevell.
In 2012, McCartney released the pop-jazz collection, Kisses On The Bottom, which peaked at Number Five. McCartney told us that it was nice to work outside the confines of the rock world, which can seem to be pretty cut and dried once you hit the studio: “So it was nice, it was a good way to work. There was no preconceived ideas and I think we all feel like we contributed. And then we’d throw John Pizzarelli or one of the guys the solo; ‘Hey John, you wanna take a solo?’ — and y’know, you can do that in the jazz world, ’cause they’re used to doing that — and they just go, ‘Yeah, OK’ and they take a solo.’ And so nobody’s ever heard that solo before. It was really, really nice. I think it comes over a bit on the album, the freshness. I hope it does, anyway.”
McCartney has often said that his main objective in life is to enjoy himself: “The other thing is, y’know, I do like what I do. It’s not really hard work for me. I love to paint. I love to write poetry. I love to make music. I mean, even talking to you is not a pressure (laughs).”
McCartney recalled how he went from a three-meat meal a-day carnivore to a hardcore vegetarian and vehement animal rights spokesman: “My original thing was actually just an animal lovers point of view. I actually was on a farm and watching the newborn lambs gamboling in the spring sunshine, and I was eating leg of lamb — and the two didn’t compute. So I just thought, ‘Y’know, I should try to stop this.’ And that was over 20 years ago, and ever since, I’ve not been interested in meat — or fish — for that matter.”
Both McCartney and the Beach Boys‘ Brian Wilson have shared a sort of “mutual admiration society” with each other over the years. Wilson says that he has always been awestruck by McCartney’s talent: “When I heard ‘The Long And Winding Road’ and ‘Let It Be,’ I said to myself ‘My God, I cannot believe that one man can create that kind of music.” Thank the good Lord for Paul McCartney’s music. He’s gonna be around for a while. He’s gonna be around.”
McCartney will always be known as rock’s most inventive and influential bass players. The Beatles’ legendary late-engineer Geoff Emerick, who helped develop the bass sound on the group’s latter day records, shed light on how he recorded McCartney on bass: “Paul didn’t like reverb. And it was that one thing when I used to with his bass, y’know, as you know I used to try everything. And I thought, well, I’ve got to try to place his bass. . . and I used to put a little bit of the echo chamber on it, and very slightly — but he always heard it and it was only one track I ended putting reverb on his bass. Now, Paul was very conscious of reverb and I don’t know why.”
Wings co-founder Denny Laine told us that despite the accolades, most people don’t realize how important McCartney’s bass playing truly is to his music: “He was a very tuneful bass player and that’s an art in itself. Y’know, it’s even harder to play bass and sing than it is, than playing chords on a guitar and singing, y’know?”
Not long before his 2016 death, producer George Martin, who was behind the boards for all the Beatles albums and a handful of solo McCartney discs, told us that McCartney’s 1968 “White Album” classic “Blackbird” as one of his all-time favorites: “I always liked the finger-picking style of guitar playing, from both John and Paul. And when Paul did ‘Blackbird’ it was such a simple way of performing a song — all by himself, nothing else — just tapping away with his foot.”
Since John Lennon’s 1980 death, McCartney’s career has faced undue criticism against Lennon’s work. During his last major TV interview in April 1975, John Lennon told Tomorrow Show host Tom Snyder that it was a given that McCartney was destined to become a solo superstar: “The same popularity — meaning Paul was more always more popular than the rest of us — was going down in the dance halls in Liverpool, so it didn’t come as any big surprise, y’know? I mean, the kids saw him and the girls would go, ‘oo-oo,’ y’know, right away, so we knew where the score was there. It was the music that was interesting, that was important. Y’know, as long as we were going forward, and going somewhere, it didn’t matter.”
Denny Seiwell, who began drumming for McCartney in late-1970 during the Ram sessions, went on to co-found Wings with him in the summer of 1971. He says that he knew at once that he was performing on music for the ages: “I was so fascinated with these songs though, when Paul started singing them. Playing the drum parts that matched and filling in all the blanks when we got the basic track down and we were putting some overdubs together, y’know? Everything that I did from Ram, right straight through, even through Wild Life, I knew it was timeless music; that this was going to be heard for a long period of time. It wasn’t just another record that I was making.”
Seiwell added that although McCartney’s songwriting, arranging and instrumental talents have been lauded for years, at his peak, he was absolutely the greatest vocalist in popular music: “Every vocal that this guy (laughs) sang was so passionate — any of those vocals could’ve been used on the final recording. That if you tuned into it at all, you couldn’t go wrong. He was so amazing (in) that period of time.”
Despite short-lived and ill-fated plans earlier to reunite Wings with co-founders Denny Laine and Denny Seiwell with former-Styx member Glen Burtnik handling bass and lead vocals, Wings’ final lead guitarist Lawrence Juber — who has recently released a deluxe photo book chronicling his time playing with McCartney, called Guitar With Wings — has given up any hope of McCartney calling on Wings to ever back him again: “The reality is that, a) Paul will never do Wings without Linda, ’cause, I mean, whatever criticisms Linda came in for in terms of her musicianship, she was an essential part of the band. And if you go and you listen, and you listen to the texture of the backing vocals on the Wings stuff; and you go to Paul’s concerts now when he’s doing Wings tunes, there’s something missing — and that something missing is Linda.”
Lead guitarist Rusty Anderson, who’s been part of McCartney’s backing band since 2001, says that he’s given up trying to define what sets his boss apart from the rest: “Paul McCartney is a funny phenomenon in the respect that he’s like one of the greatest songwriters of all time, one of the greatest singers of all time (and) one of the greatest musicians. . . He’s recorded a jillion records and he’s got the whole Beatles history, and I really don’t have a box that I put him in — I put him in a whole bunch of different boxes.”