Today is Paul McCartney’s birthday. Born on June 18, 1942, then going on to become part of one of the most successful songwriting duos in history, the heart of the Beatles and the head of Wings, and ultimately knighted for his many accomplishments, Sir Paul turns 70 today.
McCartney has packed a lot of achievement into his 70 years. His output is astonishing. Most musicians would be happy to write one song like Yesterday (which is generally regarded as the most “covered” song in history, having been recorded more than 3,000 times) but McCartney wrote dozens of classics, from I Saw Her Standing There, Hey Jude, and Let It Be with the Beatles, to Maybe I’m Amazed and Too Many People in his solo career, to Band on the Run and My Love with Wings — and this list barely begins to scratch the surface.
McCartney wasn’t just a songwriter, however. He was a fabulous band mate who arguably was the greatest rock ‘n roll bass player ever — listen to his stunning bass line on the Beatles’ Come Together if you don’t believe me — and his back-up singing helped to make the Beatles songs unique. George Harrison’s Something is a wonderful love song, but McCartney’s back-up singing helps to ensure that the Beatles’ recording of that song will never been matched. McCartney’s inventiveness and musical adventurousness also are remarkable. In an era when many bands found a successful formula and then stuck with it, over and over and over again, McCartney constantly probed new areas, new instruments, and new sounds. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the epic second side of Abbey Road would not exist but for Sir Paul McCartney. And the same goes, of course, for the Wings’ Band on the Run album, which was on the turntable, playing constantly, during my senior year in high school.
A few years ago, Richard and I went to watch Paul McCartney perform live in Cleveland. It was a birthday present for Richard, but it was a huge treat for me, too. McCartney’s performance was terrific, including an awesome version of Back in the U.S.S.R. and a heartfelt tribute to George Harrison played on the ukelele. It’s obvious that McCartney still has a lot of love for music and passion for performance. I’d go see him again in a heartbeat.
Each of us who has enjoyed listening to the Beatles, and whose spirits have been lifted by listening to a song like You Never Give Me Your Money or Michelle, owes a debt of gratitude to Paul McCartney. Happy birthday, Sir Paul!