‘How Many People’ is the eleventh song on Paul McCartney’s eighth solo album Flowers In The Dirt.

Me in Jamaica, on holiday. You can’t help going reggae, everybody is, the climate is. I’ve been a reggae fan since the early Tighten Up albums… this very simple song called ‘How Many People’ came out. I thought it was too simple.
Paul McCartney
Club Sandwich, Summer 1989

The song was dedicated to the memory of Brazilian trade union leader and environmentalist Chico Mendes, who was assassinated on 22 December 1988. It was, however, written prior to Mendes’s death.

That got the dedication after I’d written the song. There’s a line that says, ‘How many people have died? One too many right now for me.’ I’ve heard about Chico’s fight for the rainforest. He got shot… and I thought the least I can do is mention him somewhere. It seemed to fit.
Paul McCartney
Put It There Home Video

‘How Many People’ was produced by Trevor Horn and Steve Lipson, although neither had positive words to say about the song.

I can’t even remember the song really. I don’t remember very much about it. That chord [‘never get a chance to shine’] is so ‘McCartney’! Those chords [‘How Many People have died…’], that’s what we brought to the party. They’re from – remember ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’, Frankie [Goes To Hollywood]? – there’s a bit of that going on there.
Steve Lipson
SuperDeluxeEdition, March 2017

It was recorded at Hog Hill Mill studio on 8 September 1988, with McCartney playing the majority of instruments.

I remember ‘Figure Of Eight’, but after that it gets a bit blurry. ‘Rough Ride’ and ‘Figure Of Eight’ were just two sets of two days, that’s all that was and then I went back down because he took us out on his boat. I went back down and we spent like a week down there. ‘How Many People’ is not really one of the best tracks on the album. This is probably one of my least favourites, I have to say, as a song. It’s a bit generic, that’s the problem. Things had got a bit more long-winded as we went along, not necessarily for the better. I still thought ‘Rough Ride’ was the best thing we did and I played it to somebody the other week and I loved it to be honest.

On this, he started to play the flugelhorn. At the start of it he could barely get a note out of it and by the time we’d been going for two days, he could get a tune out of it and he was sort of running around and he was just very funny. He even made me and Steve laugh because he’d run in to the control room and would blast out three notes and run out and do that kind of stuff.

Trevor Horn
SuperDeluxeEdition, March 2017

Paul McCartney performed ‘How Many People’ live on just one occasion, at a brief appearance at the Countdown Cafe in Hilversum, the Netherlands, on 26 May 1989.

Previous song: ‘That Day Is Done’
Next song: ‘Motor Of Love’
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