Paul McCartney, full name Sir James Paul McCartney, born on June 18, 1942 in Liverpool, England is a British vocalist, songwriter, composer, bass player, poet, and painter. His work with the Beatles in the 1960s helped elevate popular music from its roots in the entertainment industry and transform it into a creative, highly commercial art form. He is also one of the most prolific solo singers of all time, both in terms of album sales and concert attendance.
McCartney’s father, James, worked at the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, and his mother, Mary, was a midwife who helped deliver babies and rode on her bicycle at all hours. Her death from breast cancer in October 1956, at the age of 14, had a great impact on McCartney’s life and served as the inspiration for his ballad “Let It Be” (1970). Michael, his younger brother, eventually changed his name to Mike McGear and had several hits with the satirical rock band Scaffold.
McCartney, like other Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), grew up in a fairly typical north of England working-class culture, with an extended family frequenting the house at 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool’s Allerton neighbourhood on a regular basis (the house is now owned by the National Trust). His father had been the frontman of Jim Mac’s Jazz Band, and the family often assembled around the piano in the evenings, an experience McCartney drew on for sing-along songs like “When I’m 64.” (1967).
On July 6, 1957, he met John Lennon at the Woolton Village Fete and entered his skiffle group, the Quarrymen, which later became the Beatles after multiple name changes. When John Lennon’s mother was killed by a speeding police car in 1958, McCartney was able to empathise with the grieving 17-year-old, forming a link that became the foundation of their iconic relationship. McCartney and Lennon quite quickly set up themselves as the group’s songwriters, and by the time the Beatles signed with EMI-Parlophone in 1962, they had written the majority of their own works.
By their third album, the band had ceased producing covers. Even in 1969, when they were allegedly split over economic concerns and not interacting, Lennon brought McCartney his song “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and they collaborated on the “middle eight” (the stand-alone section that often comes midway in a song). Their music surpassed their own delineations.
Though mainly concerned with ballads and love songs, McCartney was also liable for many of the Beatles’ harder rock songs, including “Lady Madonna,” “Back in the USSR,” and “Helter Skelter” (all 1968), but moreover, he has an invaluable resource for melodies and occasionally tags an altogether fresh one on to the end of a song, as he did with “Hey Jude” (1968). This ability stretches to his bass playing, which is known for being melodious but generally disregarded. McCartney was a multi-instrumentalist who played drums on several Beatles tracks and all the arrangements on some of his solo albums, as well as lead guitar at performances.
Career after The Beatles
The Beatles stopped performing live gigs in 1966. Following their split in 1970, McCartney released two solo albums, McCartney (1970) and Ram (1971), before joining Wings with his wife Linda (previously Linda Eastman), an American photographer and musician whom he married in 1969. He had her with him at all times, and having her on stage eased many of the challenges that couples face in the popular music industry. Wings toured the world and was the best-selling pop act of the 1970s, with 27 U.S. Top 40 songs (two more than Elton John) and five straight number one albums, including the critically lauded Band on the Run (1973) and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1974). (1976).
Security issues resulting from John Lennon’s assassination in 1980 kept McCartney from performing for a decade, and he instead focused on studio recording and writing and appearing in the poorly panned 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street. Nonetheless, critics adored Flowers in the Dirt (1989), which corresponded with his return to live performance, and Flaming Pie (1997) was even more lauded. Queen Elizabeth II knighted McCartney in 1997 “for services to music.” Linda died of cancer the next year. McCartney married and divorced actress and activist Heather Mills in the 2000s. He married Nancy Shevell in 2011.
In 1999, McCartney released Run Devil Run, a well-received collection of largely early rock-and-roll tunes that he recorded with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Driving Rain (2001), Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005), Memory Almost Full (2007), New (2013), and Egypt Station, which premiered number one on the Billboard 200 list in September 2018, were among his pop albums released in the early twenty-first century.
McCartney’s interests extended beyond mainstream music. He began painting in the late 1970s, inspired by a visit with Willem de Kooning, and by the late 1980s, he was dedicating much of his time to it. His work was first displayed publicly in May 1999, at a retrospective in Siegen, Germany. McCartney’s semiautobiographical classical instrumentation Liverpool Oratorio, written in collaborative efforts with American composer Carl Davis, was first performed in 1991 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, where McCartney had once failed his audition as a choirboy. He later oversaw the recording of his other classical compositions, such as Standing Stone (1997), Working Classical (1999), and Ecce Cor Meum (2006).
Blackbird Singing, a collection of his poetry that also included some song lyrics, was published in 2001. He also wrote the score for Peter Martins’ ballet Ocean’s Kingdom (2011). McCartney wrote a number of children’s books, including Hey Grandude! (2019).
McCartney is perhaps the most financially successful performer and composer in popular music, having amassed 60 gold records and sold over 100 million singles during his career. The Beatles‘ 1965 single “Yesterday” (written entirely by McCartney and performed solo with a string quartet) has been played six million times on US radio and television, considerably outnumbering its nearest competition. Furthermore, with over 3,000 cover versions, it is the most-recorded song of all time. McCartney earned the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the United States Library of Congress in 2010, and he was awarded a Kennedy Center honoree later that year. In 2018, he was appointed a Companion of Honour.
McCartney is a staunch supporter of vegetarianism and animal rights, and she is actively involved in projects to reduce debt in developing countries, eliminate land mines, and oppose seal culling. McCartney is now seen as a British institution, alongside warm beer and cricket.