Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney at 80

18 Jun

Paul McCartney throws a fist into the air as he begins to perform.


Paul McCartney on tour at 80

The ex-Beatle turns 80 on June 18 and is still at the top of his game. On Thursday, he completed the "Got Back" North American tour, his first series of concerts since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. A week later, the living legend hits the stage again at the Glastonbury festival, becoming the oldest headliner. His set will include a "virtual duet" with his late bandmate, John Lennon.


A musical mind

Paul McCartney (shown here age 6 in front of his brother, Mike) was born in Liverpool in 1942. As a teenager, Paul was given a trumpet and encouraged to take music lessons by his father, who was a jazz musician. But the Beatle-to-be preferred to learn by ear and taught himself to play piano and guitar. Even though he became a songwriting legend, he never learned to read or transcribe sheet music.


Joining John Lennon

Paul McCartney and George Harrison knew each other as schoolmates. McCartney then met John Lennon at the second concert of the latter's band, the Quarrymen, in 1957. Shortly after, Lennon asked McCartney to join the group as a rhythm guitarist. He was 15 years old at the time. This photo is from around 1960, the year the Beatles officially formed.


Becoming the Beatles

The Beatles honed their performance skills on the stages of Hamburg clubs during a legendary residency in 1960. When bassist Stuart Sutcliffe decided to leave the Beatles to concentrate on his art a year later, McCartney reluctantly left his favored instrument, the guitar, to become the group's bass player. The Fab Four became complete after drummer Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962.


Both photogenic and talented

McCartney despised being labeled "the cute Beatle," since it implied he wasn't a serious musician — though his skills were well recognized. Photojournalist Harry Benson, who followed the band in 1964, described him as a photogenic "magnet": "You could take photos of the Beatles, but Paul McCartney had to be in them. A picture of the Beatles without Paul was not a picture of the Beatles."


A moment of introspection

Benson, who would also later follow McCartney with his band Wings, compiled his photos into the book "Paul," which was released by publisher Taschen in 2021 as a limited edition. "My favorite portraits of Paul from the Beatles period are the ones on the train from 'A Hard Day's Night,'" Benson said. "You see the self-contained Paul, private moments away from the insanity of 'Beatlemania.'"


Leading to the rooftop

Another recent release, Peter Jackson's documentary series "The Beatles: Get Back," gives fans incredible insight into McCartney's creative process as he attempts to fill the void created by their manager Brian Epstein's death in 1967. The series follows the band as they rehearse in January 1969 for an album, concert and film project, culminating in the legendary rooftop concert.


A prolific and eclectic songwriter

Paul McCartney and the Beatles were pioneers at combining a wide range of stylistic influences. After their early rock 'n' roll days, they incorporated, for instance, avant-garde, music hall and Indian classical music on their 1967 album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Many of McCartney's songs remain among the most covered in history, from "Blackbird" to "Yesterday."


Finding his own wings

The Beatles' breakup was a cumulative process due to different factors. McCartney announced in 1970 that he was leaving the iconic band. After overcoming depression, he started recording solo albums, also working with his wife, Linda, a keyboardist who would help form the core of McCartney's new band, Wings. The band released several albums over a decade, include "Band on the Run" (1973).


A prolific songwriter

Other hits followed as McCartney pursued his solo career, such as "Ebony and Ivory," a 1982 song recorded with Stevie Wonder and dealing with the theme of racial harmony. His 18th solo album, "McCartney III," released in December 2020, topped the UK albums charts. Sir Paul McCartney, or "Macca," as he is nicknamed, has released 26 studio albums and 111 singles as a solo artist and won 18 Grammys.


Author Elizabeth Grenier

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