Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney was a singer and multi-instrumentalist in The Beatles. Alongside John Lennon, he was half of one of the world’s most successful songwriting teams in history.

Paul McCartney and his family, 1940s

Paul was one of the most innovative bass players that ever played bass, and half the stuff that’s going on now is directly ripped off from his Beatles period. He was coy about his bass playing. He’s an egomaniac about everything else, but his bass playing he was always a bit coy about. He is a great musician who plays the bass like few other people could play it.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The early years

James Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool’s Walton Hospital on 18 June 1942. His father Jim worked in the cotton trade and played trumpet and piano in jazz and ragtime bands, and his mother Mary worked as a midwife.

Paul attended the Stockton Wood Road primary school, then went on to the Joseph Williams junior school before passing his 11 Plus in 1953 and gaining a place at the Liverpool Institute.

The following year, while travelling on a bus to the Institute, he met George Harrison, who was also a student there.

In 1955 the McCartneys moved to 20 Forthlin Road, a council house in the Allerton district of Liverpool. It cost them one pound and six shillings a week to live there. The house was bought by the National Trust in 1995, and today is a popular tourist destination. Back then, though, it was an unassuming terraced house built by the local authority in the 1920s.

On 31 October 1956, Mary McCartney died of an embolism following a mastectomy. She was a heavy smoker who had been suffering from breast cancer. The death shook the McCartney family, and later led to a bond between Paul and John Lennon, who lost his mother in 1958.

Jim McCartney was a keen musician who had been leader of Jim Mac’s Jazz Band in the 1920s. There was an upright piano in the front room at 20 Forthlin Road, which Jim bought from Harry Epstein’s NEMS store, which Beatles manager Brian Epstein would later take over.

Jim encouraged Paul and his brother Mike to be musical, and gave Paul a trumpet following the death of his mother. When skiffle became a national craze, however, Paul swapped the instrument for a £15 Framus Zenith acoustic guitar.

Being left-handed, Paul initially had trouble playing the instrument. He later learned to restring it, and wrote his first song, I Lost My Little Girl. He took music lessons for a while, but preferred instead to learn by ear. Paul also began playing piano, and wrote When I’m Sixty-Four while still living at Forthlin Road.

Paul McCartney met John Lennon at the Woolton fete on 6 July 1957, between performances by The Quarrymen. They became friends and began writing and performing songs together. McCartney later persuaded Lennon to allow George Harrison into the band as lead guitarist in 1958.

With The Beatles

Paul McCartney, 1963

The Beatles, as they became, gradually grew in popularity after performing many times in and around Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. After Stuart Sutcliffe left the band, McCartney reluctantly took over his role as bass guitarist. He later bought a left-handed 1962 Hofner bass, which became part of The Beatles’ iconography during the 1960s.

After The Beatles signed to Parlophone in 1962 and began releasing records, the songwriting partnership of Lennon-McCartney became celebrated. As well as penning the bulk of the band’s recorded output, they also wrote for artists including Cilla Black, Billy J Kramer and Peter and Gordon.

As they became a worldwide phenomenon The Beatles relocated from Liverpool to London, but Lennon, Harrison and Ringo Starr eventually moved away from the city. McCartney, however, remained in central London, enjoying the various artistic and cultural benefits of the capital. He lived for some years at 7 Cavendish Avenue in St John’s Wood, near to EMI’s Abbey Road Studios.

In the mid 1960s McCartney became interested in experimental music, and made tape loops and avant-garde recordings, both with The Beatles and alone. The first to take on a non-Beatles musical commitment, in 1966 McCartney wrote the score for the film The Family Way. It later won an Ivor Novello award for Best Instrumental Theme.

By this time The Beatles had long since tired of touring, having become unable to hear their own voices and instruments above the screams of the audience. McCartney reluctantly agreed to the other members’ wishes to stop touring, which they did in August 1966.

When Brian Epstein died in 1967, McCartney made efforts to keep the group together. He effectively led the making of the Magical Mystery Tour film and album, and in 1969 tried to persuade the group to take to the stage once more. Lennon’s response was: “I think you’re mad.”

However, they did play the celebrated rooftop gig on the top of Apple’s offices, filmed as part of the Let It Be project. McCartney led the group through their final recorded album, Abbey Road, released prior to Let It Be in 1969.

Paul and Linda McCartney, 1969He was unhappy with Phil Spector‘s production on the Let It Be album. He also favoured Lee Eastman, father of Paul’s wife Linda, when the group were looking for a new manager in 1969. Instead they appointed Allen Klein, a move bitterly contested by McCartney.

Although John Lennon left The Beatles in September 1969, McCartney persuaded him to keep it from the press. Instead, McCartney himself announced the band’s break-up on 10 April 1970, during promotion for his first solo album McCartney. The Beatles’ legal partnership was dissolved following a lawsuit filed by McCartney in December 1970.

The solo years

As with all the former members of The Beatles, McCartney’s solo output was varied, yet also variable in quality – for every Band On The Run it seemed like there was a Frog Chorus. In August 1971 he formed Wings, and in 1977 released Mull Of Kintyre, which remained the UK’s highest selling single until 1984. In the 1980s he collaborated with Elvis Costello, and in 1991 released his first classical work, the Liverpool Oratorio. Since then he has released a wide range of albums in a variety of styles, and has undertaken a number of world tours.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney, 1974John Lennon‘s death in December 1980 led to a media frenzy. Asked how he felt, McCartney was reported as describing it as “a drag”. He was pilloried for the comments, and later expressed regret, saying he had been at a loss for words. He later revealed that he had cried all evening in reaction to the news.

McCartney retired from live performances for a time following the death of John Lennon in 1980, although in subsequent years he returned to the stage for a series of world tours. Wings disbanded in 1981, the same year that he, Ringo Starr and George Harrison sang together on the latter’s All Those Years Ago, a tribute to Lennon.

From 1976 McCartney began playing Beatles songs again, after years of refusing to. In the 1990s he reunited with Harrison and Starr to work on the Anthology project, and added instrumentation and vocals to two Lennon demos, Free As A Bird and Real Love.

Today Paul McCartney holds the record of being the most successful musician and composer in pop music history.

38 responses on “Paul McCartney

    1. Jay

      Hmm, I wonder if this is true. Maybe as an overall musician, but he certainly isn’t the best at one particular instrument, I would say that title should be reserved for Art Tatum as God of the piano. But maybe Paul, with his incredible talent on bass, guitar, piano, drums and whatever else could take the claim of being the best musician of all time.

      1. DearMe

        It all very much depends on how you are defining ‘best’ 
        Do you mean technically? In terms of how many instruments they’ve mastered? Units sold? Or in terms of how much someone’s music has moved the world?

        Then there’s the question of taste and cultural veiwpoint. 

        It;s enough to make yer ears bleed! 

          1. Lafe P

            Beethoven was from the Romantic Period not the Classical. You can’t compare any composer from other Ages to McCartney or any other modern composer due to the changed social conditions which serve as the context of their music. About all you can say with any degree of confidence is that Paul McCartney – more than any other Beatle even – has enjoyed a success DURING HIS LIFETIME – that Mozart and Beethoven would’ve found incomprehensible. So much of what McCartney has written won’t be appreciated until after he’s as dead as these other musical geniuses.

            1. mr. Sun king coming together

              And if that were to be true, someone wouldn’t have taken the enormous amount of time to dedicate a website (and over a million words) to this man and his bandmates.

              1. curt Bourque

                If Mozart etc. lived in this time they would have websites, but they still would not be as celebrated as Paul McCartney as Classical music is just not on the same level of popularity in modern times as is pop/rock and roll. Listening to ‘here there and everywhere’, ‘yesterday’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ for example Mozart and his crew would probably consider Sir Paul an equal musically at the very least…

                (And if in our modern era, maybe Mozart and friends would have done a bit of rock and rolling themselves ;)

            2. Diana

              Beethoven was both Classical and Romantic, but I’ve been doing piano and music theory for ten years now and he’s always considered Classical, if you have to put him in a period.

    2. Drew

      An indisputable master of the bass, the Beatles main piano player, and arguably the best guitarist in the band (Blackbird, Yesterday, Helter Skelter, the lead all through Taxman, etc). That’s for starters. Watch old you tube videos of the Beatles in concert and Paul is the indisputable on stage leader and notable for how effortlessly he plays and sings in concert. The other Beatles must concentrate much more to play their parts. Let’s not forget one of the most versatile and incredible voices there ever was- your voice is an instrument, too.

      No doubt an incredibly accomplished musician. But what puts him in the running for best ever, in my view, is mostly the music he wrote and the influence he had on other musicians. The oohs and ahhs of their early period were his idea. Beatle harmonies are almost entirely John or George singing the melody with Paul improvising above. Pretty much anything currently termed Beatlesque is from Paul’s music. He was the force behind Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, the Get Back to basics of 1968, not only the Abbey Road suite, etc, etc, etc.

      And let’s not forget the songs he wrote on those instuments…

  1. robert

    It might be worth remembering that in their day Beethoven and Mozart were pop music artists – meaning they were “popular music” artists.

    It wasn’t considered “classical” in its day. Indeed Mozart especially was a pop star.

    One day hundreds of years from now the Beatles may be considered a form classical music.

    I could be wrong

    1. Diana

      Obviously you have only heard his more popular songs. Here Today is beautiful, and Waterfalls is quite emotional as well. Also Eleanor Rigby, which is one of my personal favorites, couldn’t really be described as cotton candy, what with the string quartet. Paul McCartney had a terrific grasp of melodic shifts and such.

    2. amie

      Listen to “here today” or “wanderlust” (one of my favorites). Paul has a lot of nice happy love, but don’t you dare think that’s all he can do!!

  2. Bronx Boy Billy

    You ain’t kidding, Jammy Jim! Listening to McCartney makes me feel good when I’m down (probably because it’s easy listening, like Billy Joel, Elton John, or James Taylor) but, damn! most of his lyrics… ooh boy! Check out this doozie from his song “The Other Me:”

    I KNOW I WAS A CRAZY FOOL,
    FOR TREATING YOU THE WAY I DID.
    BUT SOMETHING GOT A HOLD OF ME
    AND I ACTED LIKE A DUSTBIN LID.

    1. DearMe

      It’s so funny you pull this lyric out: it’s made me cringe for years, and I ADORE McCartney, all of his work. 
      But that said, the thing I love is that because his lyrics are so obtuse, light or guarded, when some real emotion slips through and he actually lets himself through, it’s even more beautiful. I give you Here Today, You Never Give Me Your Money, Ram On (and WHY do people never pick up that he’s plainly addressing himself in this – having used the stage name Paul Ramon in the Silver Beatles years?), Maybe I’m Amazed or Little Willow as evidence.What a great website!

    2. Beatles's fan

      How about:
      TAKE THESE BROKEN WINGS, AND LEARNED TO FLY…TAKE THESE SUNKEN EYES AND LEARN TO SEE..

      These are from Blackbird. And then there is Hey Jude. And many others that I won’t mention. You Lennon freaks are too much.

  3. gimmeshark

    Beatles music has survived the death of two Beatles. I’m pretty sure it’ll survive Paul. Besides, they were saying 25 years ago they’d be forgotten. And here we are.

    The thing about the Beatles when comparing them to Mozart or Beethoven is that those guys were solo artists, really. The Beatles are such a singular feat because they are as if Bach and Mozart formed a band and collaborated for ten years. The Beatles had two tunesmithing geniuses. Nowhere else do have this happening. Two genius song writers in one band.

  4. Margie

    I love all things McCartney. I have read many unkind things that are said about him. I don’t understand why so many people under-appreciate him. So, I’ve just decided that it most be jealousy. How many people, living or dead, can say they’re so accomplished? I say ‘Rock on Sir Paul. Rock on.

  5. SatinRose2

    I’m with WhenI’m64, I am 66yrs. old, will be 67 next month. I loved the Beatles and McCartney when I was young, and I love them now that I’m not so young! They were/are the best. What other reason would they and their music be as popular today as it was 50yrs. ago? Rock on Beatles, Rock on Paul McCartney!!!

  6. Jonathan

    Never mind the “best musician ever” stuff; Paul was fabulous (especially a fantastic bass player) but we all know a lot of other musicians where more technically accomplished.

    What McCartney IS, on the other hand (and something oh so more important then technical virtuosity), is simply the greatest pop/rock composer there ever was. Period. What melodies could (can?) this man write. For god’s sake, no one even come close

  7. viewsfromtheseashore

    Recently, I have been re-discovering, The Beatles. It is truly amazing how their early work stands the test of time. The harmonies are simply beautiful.

    Comparing the solo work, to The Beatles work, it seems to me, that within the Lennon/McCartney Partnership, Lennon gave Paul a bit of finesse, certainly in terms of lyrics, whilst Paul gave John some lightness and some accessibility.

    Sometimes, people come together in a particular environment, for a space in time and the chemistry between them creates something unique, beautiful and memorable – For me, this was, The Beatles.

  8. Gabriela

    I love the four of them, each one had their especetial thing, Paul was always the pretty one and he obviously has a great voice, Ringo for me is the cute, is very kawaiii >u< and love how he move his head while he play the drums, about john i love his voice and how he used to make team with Paul, and George I just love his eyes and how he play the guitar, they were and are awesome. I love them as a group and I hope some day I could lisent to Ringo and Paul together in live, that´s my biggest dream ever

  9. randy donaldson

    this band is 2nd to none and paul has written so many different types of music including classical. plus nobody said a word about how much music was written and released by the Beatles in the short time it was, and even pauls newest release is fantastic. myself I discover things about these guys everytime I listen to them

  10. Johnny Bravo

    I’m on the search for a really close, accurate number amount for how many different instruments did John Lennon, and Paul McCartney learn, and use. So, if you can provide such information, I would be most appreciative. Thank you!

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