Hand color tinted photo of Paul McCartney, The Beatles
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer-songwriter, poet, composer, multi-instrumentalist, entrepreneur, record and film producer, painter, and animal rights and peace activist. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings, McCartney is the most successful songwriter in the history of popular music. McCartney gained worldwide fame as a member of The Beatles, alongside John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. McCartney and Lennon formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships and wrote some of the most popular songs in the history of rock music. After leaving The Beatles, McCartney launched a successful solo career and formed the band Wings with his first wife, Linda Eastman, and singer-songwriter Denny Laine. He has worked on film scores and classical and electronic music, released a large catalogue of songs as a solo artist, and taken part in projects to help international charities.
McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the most successful musician and composer in popular music history, with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles. His song “Yesterday” (credited to Lennon/McCartney, as all songs written by either Lennon or McCartney during their partnership as Beatles were, but composed entirely by McCartney) is listed as the most covered song in history—by over 3,500 artists so far—and has been played more than 7,000,000 times on American television and radio. Wings’ 1977 single “Mull of Kintyre” became the first single to sell more than two million copies in the UK, and remains the UK’s top selling non-charity single. According to britishhitsongwriters.com he is the most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history, based on weeks that his compositions have spent on the chart. As a performer or songwriter, McCartney was responsible for 32 number one singles on the U.S. Hot 100 chart.
Following the death of his first wife Linda in 1998, McCartney married Heather Mills in 2002. They divorced in 2008. McCartney is now partners with Nancy Shevell. McCartney practices meditation, using the mantra that the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave him when The Beatles went to a TM seminar in 1967. McCartney is an advocate for animal rights, vegetarianism, and music education; he is active in campaigns against landmines, seal hunting, and Third World debt. He is a keen football fan, supporting both Everton and Liverpool football clubs. His company MPL Communications owns the copyrights to more than 3,000 songs, including all of the songs written by Buddy Holly, along with the publishing rights to such musicals as Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, and Grease. McCartney is one of Britain’s wealthiest men, with an estimated fortune of £750 million ($1.2 billion) in 2009.
McCartney was born in Walton Hospital in Liverpool, England, where his mother, Mary (née Mohan), had worked as a nurse in the maternity ward. He has one brother, Michael, born 7 January 1944. McCartney was baptised Roman Catholic but was raised non-denominationally: his mother was Roman Catholic, and his father, James “Jim” McCartney, was a Protestant turned agnostic.
In 1947, he began attending Stockton Wood Road Primary school. He then attended the Joseph Williams Junior School, and passed the 11-plus exam in 1953 with three others out of the 90 examinees and thus gained admission to the Liverpool Institute. In 1954, while riding on the bus, from the suburb of Speke, where he lived, to the Institute, he met George Harrison, who lived nearby. Passing the exam meant that McCartney and Harrison could go to a Grammar school rather than a secondary modern school, which the majority of pupils attended until they were eligible to work, but as Grammar school pupils they had to find new friends.
In 1955, the McCartney family moved to 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton. Mary McCartney rode a bicycle to houses where she was needed as a midwife, and an early McCartney memory is of her leaving when it was snowing heavily. On 31 October 1956, Mary McCartney, a heavy smoker, died of an embolism after a mastectomy operation to stop the spread of her breast cancer. The early loss of his mother later connected McCartney with John Lennon, whose mother, Julia, died after being struck by a car when Lennon was 17.
McCartney’s father was a trumpet player and pianist who had led Jim Mac’s Jazz Band in the 1920s and encouraged his two sons to be musical. Jim had an upright piano in the front room that he had bought from Brian Epstein’s store. McCartney’s grandfather, Joe McCartney, played an E-flat tuba. Jim McCartney used to point out the different instruments in songs on the radio, and often took McCartney to local brass band concerts. McCartney’s father gave him a nickel-plated trumpet, but when skiffle music became popular, McCartney swapped the trumpet for a £15 Framus Zenith (model 17) acoustic guitar. As he was left-handed, McCartney found the guitar difficult to play, but when he saw a poster advertising a Slim Whitman concert, he realised that Whitman played left-handed with his guitar strung the opposite way to a right-handed player. McCartney wrote his first song (“I Lost My Little Girl”) on the Zenith, and also played his father’s Framus Spanish guitar when writing early songs with Lennon. He later learned to play the piano and wrote his second song, “When I’m Sixty-Four”. On his father’s advice, he took music lessons, but since he preferred to learn ‘by ear’ he never paid much attention to them.
McCartney was heavily influenced by American Rhythm and Blues music. He has stated that Little Richard was his idol when he was in school and that the first song he ever sang in public was “Long Tall Sally,” at a Butlins holiday camp talent competition.
At the age of 15, McCartney met John Lennon and The Quarrymen at the St. Peter’s Church Hall fête in Woolton on 6 July 1957. He formed a close working relationship with Lennon and they collaborated on many songs. Harrison joined the group as lead guitarist, followed by Lennon’s art school friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, on bass, and Pete Best on the drums. By May 1960, they had tried several new names, including “The Silver Beetles”, playing a tour of Scotland under that name with Johnny Gentle. They finally changed the name of the group to The Beatles.
1960–1970: The Beatles
From May 1960, The Beatles were booked by Allan Williams, to perform at a club in Hamburg. For the next two years, The Beatles remained in Hamburg for much of the time, performing as a resident group in a number of Hamburg clubs. During their two-year Hamburg residency they returned to Liverpool from time to time, performing at the Cavern club. Prior to the end of the residency, Sutcliffe left the band, so McCartney, reluctantly, became The Beatles’ bass player. The Beatles recorded their first published musical material in Hamburg, performing as the backing group for Tony Sheridan on the single “My Bonnie”. This recording later brought The Beatles to the attention of a key figure in their subsequent development and commercial success, Brian Epstein, who became their next manager. Epstein eventually negotiated a record contract for the group with Parlophone in May 1962. After replacing Best with Ringo Starr on drums, The Beatles became popular in the UK in 1963 and in the US in 1964. In 1965, they were each appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). After performing concerts, plays, and tours almost non-stop for a period of nearly four years, and giving more than one thousand four hundred live performances internationally, The Beatles gave their last commercial concert at the end of their 1966 US tour. They continued to work in the recording studio from 1966 until their breakup in 1970. In the eight years from 1962 to 1970, the group had released twenty-four UK singles and twelve studio albums, along with further US releases (see discography).
After the breakup of The Beatles, McCartney continued his musical career, in solo work as well as in collaborations with other musicians. After releasing his solo album McCartney in 1970, he worked with Linda McCartney to record the album Ram in 1971. Later the same year, the pair were joined by guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell to form the group Wings, which was active between 1971 and 1981 and released numerous successful singles and albums (see discography). McCartney also collaborated with a number of other popular artists including Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Eric Stewart, and Elvis Costello. In 1985, McCartney played “Let It Be” at the Live Aid concert in London, backed by Bob Geldof, Pete Townshend, David Bowie, and Alison Moyet. The 1990s saw McCartney venture into orchestral music, and in 1991 the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society commissioned a musical piece by McCartney to celebrate its sesquicentennial. He collaborated with Carl Davis to release Liverpool Oratorio; involving the opera singers Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sally Burgess, Jerry Hadley and Willard White, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir of Liverpool Cathedral. The Prince of Wales later honoured McCartney as a Fellow of The Royal College of Music and Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music (2008). Other forays into classical music included Standing Stone (1997), Working Classical (1999), and Ecce Cor Meum (2006). It was announced in the 1997 New Year Honours that McCartney was to be knighted for services to music, becoming Sir Paul McCartney. In 1999, McCartney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist and in May 2000, he was awarded a Fellowship by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. The 1990s also saw McCartney, Harrison and Starr working together on Apple’s The Beatles Anthology documentary series.
Having witnessed the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks from the JFK airport tarmac, McCartney took a lead role in organising The Concert for New York City. In November 2002, on the first anniversary of George Harrison’s death, McCartney performed at the Concert for George. He has also participated in the National Football League’s Super Bowl, performing in the pre-game show for Super Bowl XXXVI and headlining the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXIX.
McCartney has continued to work in the realms of popular and classical music, touring the world and performing at a large number of concerts and events; on more than one occasion he has performed again with Ringo Starr. In 2008, he received a BRIT award for Outstanding Contribution to Music and an honorary degree, Doctor of Music, from Yale University. The same year, he performed at a concert in Liverpool to celebrate the city’s year as European Capital of Culture. In 2009, he received two nominations for the 51st annual Grammy awards, while in October of the same year he was named songwriter of the year at The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Awards.
On 15 July 2009, more than 45 years after The Beatles first appeared on American television on The Ed Sullivan Show, McCartney returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater and performed atop the marquee of Late Show with David Letterman.
In May 2009, it was announced McCartney and Bob Dylan will collaborate with Ringo Starr to record a few songs for release in 2010.
On the 13th December 2009, McCartney performed the final songs of the UK’s X Factor talent show. Following his rendition of Live and Let Die, Simon Cowell quipped “On behalf of all of us, you’re through to the next round.” Paul then played along and hugged Dermot O leary, pretending to cry.
During the 1960s, McCartney was often seen at major cultural events, such as the launch party for The International Times and at The Roundhouse (28 January and 4 February 1967 respectively). He also delved into the visual arts, becoming a close friend of leading art dealers and gallery owners, explored experimental film, and regularly attended movie, theatrical and classical music performances. His first contact with the London avant-garde scene was through John Dunbar, who introduced him to the art dealer Robert Fraser, who in turn introduced McCartney to an array of writers and artists. McCartney later became involved in the renovation and publicising of the Indica Gallery in Mason’s Yard, London—John Lennon first met Yoko Ono at the Indica. The Indica Gallery brought McCartney into contact with Barry Miles, whose underground newspaper, The International Times, McCartney helped to start. Miles would become de facto manager of the Apple’s short-lived Zapple Records label, and wrote McCartney’s official biography, Many Years From Now (1997).
While living at the Asher house, McCartney took piano lessons at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which The Beatles’ producer Martin had previously attended. McCartney studied composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Luciano Berio. McCartney later wrote and released several pieces of modern classical music and ambient electronica, besides writing poetry and painting. McCartney is lead patron of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, an arts school in the building formerly occupied by the Liverpool Institute for Boys. The 1837 building, which McCartney attended during his schooldays, had become derelict by the mid-1980s. On 7 June 1996, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the redeveloped building.
After the recording of “Yesterday” in 1965, McCartney contacted the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in Maida Vale, London, to see if they could record an electronic version of the song, but never followed it up. When visiting John Dunbar’s flat in London, McCartney would take along tapes he had compiled at Jane Asher’s house. The tapes were mixes of various songs, musical pieces and comments made by McCartney that he had Dick James make into a demo record for him. Heavily influenced by John Cage, he made tape loops by recording voices, guitars and bongoes on a Brenell tape recorder, and splicing the various loops together. He reversed the tapes, sped them up, and slowed them down to create the effects he wanted, some of which were later used on Beatles’ recordings, such as “Tomorrow Never Knows”. McCartney referred to the tapes as “electronic symphonies”.
In the spring of 1966 McCartney rented a ground floor and basement flat from Ringo Starr at 34 Montagu Square, to be used as a small demo studio for spoken-word recordings by poets, writers (including William Burroughs) and avant-garde musicians. The Beatles’ Apple Records then launched a sub-label, Zapple with Miles as its manager, ostensibly to release recordings of a similar aesthetic, although few releases would ultimately result as Apple and The Beatles slid into business and personal difficulties.
In 1995, McCartney recorded a radio series called “Oobu Joobu” for the American network Westwood One, which he described as being “wide-screen radio”. During the 1990s, McCartney collaborated with Youth of Killing Joke under the name of the Fireman, and released two ambient electronic albums: Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest (1993) and Rushes (1998). In 2000, he released an album titled Liverpool Sound Collage with Super Furry Animals and Youth, utilizing the sound collage and musique concrete techniques that fascinated him in the mid-1960s. In 2005, he worked on a project with bootleg producer and remixer Freelance Hellraiser, consisting of remixed versions of songs from throughout his solo career which were released under the title Twin Freaks. The Fireman’s third album Electric Arguments was released on November 25, 2008.
In January 2009 interview with L.A. Weekly newspaper, McCartney explained what he saw as the most significant difference between the music he creates as The Fireman and the rest of his catalogue. “Fireman is improvisational theatre,” McCartney said. “When I sit down to write a song, it’s a kind of improvisation, but I formalise it a bit to get it into the studio, and when I step up to a microphone, I have a vague idea of what I’m about to do. I usually have a song, and I know the melody and lyrics, and my performance is the only unknown. In this case, I had neither lyrics nor melody to go on—and it felt great.”
McCartney was interested in animated films as a child, and later had the financial resources to ask Geoff Dunbar to direct a short animated film called Rupert and the Frog Song, in 1981. McCartney was the producer, he wrote the music and the script, and also added some of the characters voices. McCartney wrote and starred in the 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street. The film and soundtrack featured the popular hit “No More Lonely Nights”, and the album reached #1 in the UK, but the film did not do well commercially or critically. Roger Ebert awarded the film a single star and wrote, “You can safely skip the movie and proceed directly to the sound track”. Dunbar worked again with McCartney on an animated film about the work of French artist Honore Daumier, in 1992, which won both of them a Bafta award. They also worked on Tropic Island Hum, in 1997. In 1995, McCartney directed a short documentary about The Grateful Dead.
In May 2000, McCartney released Wingspan: An Intimate Portrait, a retrospective documentary that features behind-the-scenes films and photographs that Paul and Linda McCartney (who had died in 1998) took of their family and bands. Interspersed throughout the 88 minute film is an interview by Mary McCartney with her father. Mary was the baby photographed inside McCartney’s jacket on the back cover of his first solo album, McCartney, and was one of the producers of the documentary.
In 1966, McCartney met art gallery-owner Robert Fraser, whose flat was visited by many well-known artists. McCartney met Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Peter Blake, and Richard Hamilton there, and learned about art appreciation. McCartney later started buying paintings by Magritte, and used Magritte’s painting of an apple for the Apple Records logo. He now owns Magritte’s easel and spectacles.
McCartney’s love of painting surfaced after watching artist Willem de Kooning paint, in Kooning’s Long Island studio. McCartney took up painting in 1983. In 1999, he exhibited his paintings (featuring McCartney’s portraits of John Lennon, Andy Warhol, and David Bowie) for the first time in Siegen, Germany, and included photographs by Linda. He chose the gallery because Wolfgang Suttner (local events organiser) was genuinely interested in his art, and the positive reaction led to McCartney showing his work in UK galleries. The first UK exhibition of McCartney’s work was opened in Bristol, England with more than 500 paintings on display. McCartney had previously believed that “only people that had been to art school were allowed to paint”—as Lennon had.
In October 2000, Yoko Ono and McCartney presented art exhibitions in New York and London. McCartney said, “I’ve been offered an exhibition of my paintings at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool where John and I used to spend many a pleasant afternoon. So I’m really excited about it. I didn’t tell anybody I painted for 15 years but now I’m out of the closet.” As an artist, Paul McCartney designed a series of six postage stamps issued by the Isle of Man Post on 1 July 2002. According to BBC News, McCartney seems to be the first major rock star in the world who is also known as a stamp designer.
Writing and poetry
When McCartney was young, his mother read him poems and encouraged him to read books. McCartney’s father was interested in crosswords and invited the two young McCartneys (Paul and his brother Michael) to solve them with him, so as to increase their “word power”. McCartney was later inspired—in his school years—by Alan Durband, who was McCartney’s English literature teacher at the Liverpool Institute. Durband was a co-founder and fund-raiser at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, where Willy Russell also worked, and introduced McCartney to Geoffrey Chaucer’s works. McCartney later took his A-level exams, but passed only one subject—Art.
In 2001 McCartney published ‘Blackbird Singing’, a volume of poems, some of which were lyrics to his songs, and gave readings in Liverpool and New York City. Some of them were serious: “Here Today” (about Lennon) and some humorous (“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”). In the foreword of the book, McCartney explained that when he was a teenager, he had “an overwhelming desire” to have a poem of his published in the school magazine. He wrote something “deep and meaningful”, but it was rejected, and he feels that he has been trying to get some kind of revenge ever since. His first “real poem” was about the death of his childhood friend, Ivan Vaughan.
In October 2005, McCartney released a children’s book called High In The Clouds: An Urban Furry Tail. In a press release publicizing the book, McCartney said, “I have loved reading for as long as I can remember,” singling out Treasure Island as a childhood favourite. McCartney collaborated with author Philip Ardagh and animator Geoff Dunbar to write the book.
Contact with fellow ex-Beatles
Although McCartney’s relationship with John Lennon was troubled, they became close again in 1974 and even played together for the only time since the Beatles split (see A Toot and a Snore in ’74). In later years, the two grew apart again. McCartney would often call Lennon, but was never sure of what sort of reception he would get, such as when McCartney once called Lennon and was told, “You’re all pizza and fairytales!” McCartney understood that he could not just phone Lennon and only talk about business, so they often talked about cats, baking bread, or babies. According to May Pang, during Lennon’s “Lost Weekend” with her they planned to visit McCartney in New Orleans, where McCartney was recording the Venus and Mars album, but Lennon went back to Ono the day before the planned visit after Ono said she had a new cure for Lennon’s smoking habit.
In a 1980 interview, Lennon said that the last time he had seen McCartney was when they had watched the episode of Saturday Night Live (May 1976) in which Lorne Michaels had made his $3,000 cash offer to get Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr to reunite on the show. McCartney and Lennon had seriously considered going to the studio, but were too tired. This event was fictionalised in the 2000 television film Two of Us.
Reaction to Lennon’s murder
Main article: Death of John Lennon
On the morning of 9 December 1980, McCartney awoke to the news that Lennon had been murdered outside his home in the Dakota building in New York. Lennon’s death created a media frenzy around the surviving members of The Beatles. On the evening of 9 December, as McCartney was leaving an Oxford Street recording studio, he was surrounded by reporters and asked for his reaction to Lennon’s death. He replied, “I was very shocked, you know—this is terrible news,” and said that he had spent the day in the studio listening to some material because he “just didn’t want to sit at home.” When asked why, he replied, “I didn’t feel like it.” He was then asked when he first heard the news, McCartney replied “This morning sometime,” and one of the reporters asked “Very early?” McCartney said “yeah” and then asked the reporters if they all knew, they added “yeah.” McCartney then said, “It’s a drag, isn’t it?” When published, his “drag” remark was criticised, and McCartney later regretted it. He furthermore stated that he had intended no disrespect but had just been at a loss for words, after the shock and sadness he felt over his friend’s murder. He was also to recall:
“ I talked to Yoko the day after he was killed and the first thing she said was, “John was really fond of you.” The last telephone conversation I had with him we were still the best of mates. He was always a very warm guy, John. His bluff was all on the surface. He used to take his glasses down, those granny glasses, and say, “It’s only me.” They were like a wall, you know? A shield. Those are the moments I treasure. ”
In 1983 McCartney said:
“ I would not have been as typically human and standoffish as I was if I knew John was going to die. I would have made more of an effort to try and get behind his “mask” and have a better relationship with him.’ ”
In a Playboy interview in 1984, McCartney said that he went home that night and watched the news on television—while sitting with all his children—and cried all evening. His last telephone call to Lennon, which was just before Lennon and Yoko released Double Fantasy, was friendly. During the call, Lennon said (laughing) to McCartney, “This housewife wants a career!” which referred to Lennon’s househusband years, while looking after Sean Lennon.
McCartney carried on recording after the death of Lennon but did not play any live concerts for some time. He explained that this was because he was nervous that he would be “the next” to be murdered. This led to a disagreement with Denny Laine, who wanted to continue touring and subsequently left Wings, which McCartney disbanded in 1981. Also in June 1981, six months after Lennon’s death, McCartney sang backup on George Harrison’s tribute to Lennon, “All Those Years Ago,” which also featured Ringo Starr on drums. McCartney would go on to record “Here Today”, a tribute song to Lennon.
In late 2001, McCartney learned that his former classmate, neighbour and bandmate, and friend of over 45 years, George Harrison, was losing his battle with cancer. Upon Harrison’s death on 29 November, McCartney told Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra, Good Morning America, The Early Show, MTV, VH-1 and Today that George was like his “baby brother”. Harrison spent his last days in a Hollywood Hills mansion that was once leased by McCartney. McCartney said in many interviews after Harrison’s passing that George was, “still laughing and joking” to the very end. While talking on Larry king Live alongside Ringo Starr, McCartney said, “We just sat there stroking hands. And you know, you don’t stroke hands with guys. But it was just beautiful. It’s just a favourite memory of mine.” On 29 November 2002, the first anniversary of George Harrison’s death, McCartney played Harrison’s “Something” on a ukulele at the Concert for George.
Relationships and marriages
One of McCartney’s first girlfriends, in 1959, was called Layla, a name he remembers being unusual in Liverpool at the time. Layla was slightly older than McCartney and used to ask him to baby-sit with her. Julie Arthur, another girlfriend, was Ted Ray’s niece. McCartney’s first serious girlfriend in Liverpool was Dot Rhone, whom he met at the Casbah club in 1959. McCartney chose clothes and make-up for Rhone, and he paid for her to have her hair styled like Brigitte Bardot’s. When McCartney first went to Hamburg with The Beatles, he wrote regularly, and she accompanied Cynthia Lennon to Hamburg when The Beatles played there again in 1962. The couple had a three-year relationship, and were due to marry until Rhone lost the baby she was expecting.
McCartney first met the British actress Jane Asher on 18 April 1963, when a photographer asked them to pose together at a Beatles’ performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The two began a relationship, and McCartney took up residence with Asher at her parents’ house at 57 Wimpole Street, London, where he lived for nearly three years before the couple moved to McCartney’s own house in St. John’s Wood. McCartney wrote several songs while at the Ashers’, including “Yesterday” and several inspired by Asher, among them “And I Love Her”, “You Won’t See Me”, and “I’m Looking Through You”. McCartney and Asher had a five-year relationship, and they planned to marry, but Asher broke off the engagement when she discovered McCartney had become involved with another woman, Francie Schwartz.
In 1969, McCartney married American photographer Linda Eastman, whom he described as the woman who gave him “the strength and courage to work again” after the breakup of The Beatles. The pair had met previously at a 1967 Georgie Fame concert at The Bag O’Nails club, during her UK assignment to take photographs of “Swinging Sixties” musicians in London. Paul and Linda were both vegetarian and supported the animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They had four children (Linda’s daughter Heather who was adopted by Paul, followed by three more children, Mary, Stella and James) and remained married until Linda’s death from breast cancer in 1998.
In 2002, McCartney married Heather Mills, a former model and anti-landmines campaigner. The couple had a child, Beatrice, in 2003. They separated in May 2006 and were divorced in May 2008. Widespread animosity towards McCartney’s wives was reported in 2004. “They, the British public didn’t like me giving up on Jane Asher,” McCartney said. “I married a New York divorcee with a child, and at the time they didn’t like that.”
McCartney has been dating Nancy Shevell since November, 2007. She is a member of the board of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority as well as vice president of a family-owned transportation conglomerate which includes New England Motor Freight.
Recreational drug use
McCartney’s introduction to drugs started in Hamburg, Germany. The Beatles had to play for hours, and they were often given “Prellies” (Preludin) by German customers or by Astrid Kirchherr (whose mother bought them). McCartney would usually take one, but Lennon would often take four or five.
McCartney remembered getting “very high” and giggling when The Beatles were introduced to cannabis by Bob Dylan in New York, in 1964. McCartney’s use of cannabis became regular, and he was quoted as saying that any future Beatles’ lyrics containing the words “high”, or “grass” were written specifically as a reference to cannabis, as was the phrase “another kind of mind” in “Got to Get You into My Life”. John Dunbar’s flat at 29 Lennox Gardens, in London, became a regular hang-out for McCartney, where he talked to musicians, writers and artists, and smoked cannabis. In 1965, Miles introduced McCartney to hash brownies by using a recipe for hash fudge he found in the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. During the filming of Help!, he and the other Beatles occasionally smoked a spliff in the car on the way to the studio during filming, which often made them forget their lines. Help! director Dick Lester said that he overheard “two beautiful women” trying to cajole McCartney into taking heroin, but he refused.
McCartney’s attitude about cannabis was made public in the 1960s, when he added his name to an advertisement in The Times, on 24 July 1967, which asked for the legalisation of cannabis, the release of all prisoners imprisoned because of possession, and research into marijuana’s medical uses. The advertisement was sponsored by a group called Soma and was signed by 65 people, including The Beatles, Epstein, RD Laing, 15 doctors, and two MPs.
McCartney was introduced to cocaine by Robert Fraser, and it was available during the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He admitted that he used the drug multiple times for about a year but stopped because of the unpleasant comedown.
In 1967, on a sailing trip to Greece (with the idea of buying an island for the whole group) McCartney said everybody sat around and took LSD, although McCartney had first taken it with Tara Browne, in 1966. He took his second “acid trip” with Lennon on 21 March 1967 after a studio session. McCartney was the first British pop star to openly admit using LSD, in an interview in the now-defunct “Queen” magazine. His admission was followed by a TV interview in the UK on Independent Television News on 19 June 1967, when McCartney was asked about his admission of LSD use, he said:
“ I was asked a question by a newspaper, and the decision was whether to tell a lie or tell him the truth. I decided to tell him the truth … but I really didn’t want to say anything, you know, because if I had my way I wouldn’t have told anyone. I’m not trying to spread the word about this. But the man from the newspaper is the man from the mass medium. I’ll keep it a personal thing if he does too, you know … if he keeps it quiet. But he wanted to spread it so it’s his responsibility, you know, for spreading it, not mine. ”
In spite of his statements then, and his admission (in 2004) that he had used cocaine, McCartney was not arrested by Norman Pilcher’s Drug Squad, as had been Lennon, Harrison, Donovan, and several members of the Rolling Stones. In 1972, however, police found cannabis plants growing on his Scottish farm.
On 16 January 1980, Wings went to Tokyo for 11 concerts in Japan. As McCartney was going through customs, officials found 7.7 ounces (218.3 g) of cannabis in his luggage. He was arrested and taken to a Tokyo prison while the Japanese government decided what to do. McCartney had been previously denied a visa to Japan (in 1975) because he had been convicted twice in Europe for possession of cannabis. Public figures called for McCartney to be put on trial for drug-smuggling. Had he been convicted, he would have faced up to seven years in prison. The members of Wings cancelled the tour and left Japan. After ten days in jail, McCartney was released and deported. He was told that he would not be welcome in Japan again, although a decade later he played a concert in Tokyo. In 1984, Paul and Linda McCartney were both arrested for possession of cannabis.
On 24 August 1967, McCartney met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the London Hilton, and later went to Bangor, in North Wales, to attend a weekend ‘initiation’ conference. McCartney said that although he does not meditate daily, he still uses the mantra that the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave him in Bangor. The time McCartney later spent in India at the Maharishi’s ashram was highly productive, as practically all of the songs that would later be recorded for The White Album and Abbey Road were composed there by McCartney, Lennon, or both together. Although McCartney was told that he was never to repeat the mantra to anyone else, he did tell Linda McCartney, and said he meditated a lot while he was in jail in Japan. In 2009, McCartney, along with Ringo Starr, headlined a benefit concert at Radio City Music Hall, raising three million dollars for the David Lynch Foundation to fund instruction in Transcendental Meditation for at-risk youth.
Paul and Linda McCartney became outspoken vegetarians and animal-rights activists. They said that their vegetarianism was realised when they happened to see lambs in a field as they ate a meal of lamb. McCartney has also credited the 1942 Disney film Bambi—in which the young deer’s mother is shot by a hunter—as the original inspiration for him to take an interest in animal rights. In his first interview after Linda’s death, he promised to continue working for animal rights.
In 1999, McCartney spent £3,000,000 to make sure Linda McCartney’s food range remained free of GM ingredients. In 2002, McCartney gave his support to a campaign against a proposed ban on the sale of certain vitamins, herbs and mineral products in the European Union. Following his marriage to Heather Mills, McCartney joined with her to campaign against landmines; both McCartney and Mills are patrons of Adopt-A-Minefield. In 2003, he played a personal concert for the wife of a wealthy banker and donated his one million dollars to the charity. He also wore an anti-landmines t-shirt on the Back in the World tour.
In 2006, the McCartneys travelled to Prince Edward Island to bring international attention to the seal hunt (their final public appearance together). Their arrival sparked attention in Newfoundland and Labrador where the hunt is of economic significance. The couple also debated with Newfoundland’s Premier Danny Williams on the CNN show Larry King Live. They further stated that the fishermen should quit hunting seals and begin a seal watching business. McCartney has also criticised China’s fur trade, and supports the Make Poverty History campaign.
McCartney has been involved with a number of charity recordings and performances. In 2004, he donated a song to an album to aid the “US Campaign for Burma”, in support of Burmese Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and he had previously been involved in the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, Ferry Aid, Band Aid, Live Aid, and the recording of “Ferry Cross the Mersey” (released 8 May 1989) following the Hillsborough disaster.
In a December 2008 interview with Prospect Magazine, McCartney mentioned that he tried to convince the Dalai Lama to become a vegetarian. In a letter to the Dalai Lama, McCartney took issue with Buddhism and meat-eating being considered compatible, saying, “Forgive me for pointing this out, but if you eat animals then there is some suffering somewhere along the line.” The Dalai Lama replied to McCartney by saying his doctors advised him to eat meat for health reasons. In the interview McCartney said, “I wrote back saying they were wrong.”
The Beatles were advised by Epstein to make no comments about the football clubs they supported, in case they alienated fans of the group, although McCartney was known as a supporter of Everton Football Club, because his father and relatives used to take him to matches. His allegiance later encompassed Liverpool F.C., as on 28 July 1968, The Beatles were photographed in a photographer’s studio at 192-212 Gray’s Inn Road, with McCartney wearing a Liverpool F.C. rosette. Linda McCartney later said: “We spent last night listening to Liverpool football team on the radio, wanting them to win so badly. Paul supports Everton..” Lennon and McCartney were present to watch the 1966 FA Cup Final at Wembley, between Everton and Sheffield Wednesday, and McCartney attended the 1968 FA Cup Final (18 May 1968) which was played by West Bromwich Albion against Everton. After the end of the match, McCartney shared cigarettes and whisky with other football fans. The ex-Liverpool player, Albert Stubbins, was the only footballer shown on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover.
McCartney tried to listen (on a radio) to the Liverpool v Manchester United 1977 FA Cup Final, while sailing in the Caribbean, and the video for McCartney’s Pipes of Peace (in 1983) recreated the 1915 football game played between German and British troops during World War I, at Christmas. At the end of the live version of Coming Up recorded in Glasgow in 1979 (later to become a US number one single) the crowd begins to sing “Paul McCartney!” until McCartney takes over and changes the chant to “Kenny Dalglish!”, referring to the current Liverpool and Scotland striker. At the same concert, Gordon Smith, former football player who played for Rangers and Brighton & Hove Albion, met the McCartneys, and later accepted an invitation to visit their home in East Sussex, in 1980. Smith later said that McCartney was “thrilled I knew Kenny Dalglish”, to which Linda added: “I like Gordon McQueen of Man United”, and Smith replied, “I know him too.”
McCartney was seen at the 1986 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Everton, and in 1989, McCartney contributed to the “Ferry Cross the Mersey” charity single that was recorded to aid victims of the Hillsborough Disaster, which happened during a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. McCartney performed at the Liverpool F.C. Anfield stadium on 1 June 2008, as a part of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year. Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters sang with McCartney on Band on the Run, and played drums on Back in the USSR. Ono and Olivia Harrison attended the concert, along with Ken Dodd, and the Liverpool F.C. football manager Rafael Benítez.
McCartney is today one of Britain’s wealthiest musicians, with an estimated fortune of £750 million ($1.2 billion) in 2009, although Justice Bennett, in his judgment on McCartney’s divorce case found no evidence that McCartney was worth more than £400 million. In addition to his interest in Apple Corps, McCartney’s MPL Communications owns a significant music publishing catalogue, with access to over 25,000 copyrights. McCartney earned £40 million in 2003, making him Britain’s highest media earner. This rose to £48.5 million by 2005. In the same year he joined the top American talent agency Grabow Associates, who arrange private performances for their richest clients. Northern Songs was established in 1963, by Dick James, to publish the songs of Lennon/McCartney. The Beatles’ partnership was replaced in 1968 by a jointly held company, Apple Corps, which continues to control Apple’s commercial interests. Northern Songs was purchased by Associated TeleVision (ATV) in 1969, and was sold in 1985 to Michael Jackson. For many years McCartney was unhappy about Jackson’s purchase and handling of Northern Songs.
MPL Communications is an umbrella company for McCartney’s business interests, which owns a wide range of copyrights, as well as the publishing rights to musicals. In 2006, the Trademarks Registry reported that MPL had started a process to secure the protections associated with registering the name “Paul McCartney” as a trademark. The 2005 films, Brokeback Mountain and Good Night and Good Luck, feature MPL copyrights.
In April 2009, it was revealed that McCartney, in common with other wealthy musicians, had seen a significant decline in his net worth over the preceding year. It was estimated that his fortune had fallen by some £60m, from £238m to £175m. The losses were attributed to the ongoing global recession, and the resultant decline in value of property and stock market holdings.
Critique, recognition and achievements
McCartney is listed in The Guinness Book Of Records as the most successful musician and composer in popular music history with sales of 100 million singles and 60 gold discs, “Sir Paul McCartney became the Most Successful Songwriter who has written/co written 188 charted records, of which 91 reached the Top 10 and 33 made it to No.1 totalling 1,662 weeks on the chart (up to the beginning of 2008).”
In the US, McCartney has achieved thirty-two number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including twenty-one with The Beatles, one as a co-writer on Elton John’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, nine solo, with Wings or other collaborators, and one as the composer of “A World Without Love”, a number one single for Peter and Gordon. In the UK, McCartney has been involved in more number-one singles than any other artist under a variety of credits, although Elvis Presley has achieved more as a solo artist. McCartney has twenty four number-one singles in the UK, including seventeen with The Beatles, one solo, and one each with Wings, Stevie Wonder, Ferry Aid, Band Aid, Band Aid 20 and one with “The Christians et all”. McCartney is the only artist to reach the UK number one as a soloist (“Pipes of Peace”), duo (“Ebony and Ivory” with Stevie Wonder), trio (“Mull of Kintyre”, Wings), quartet (“She Loves You”, The Beatles), quintet (“Get Back”, The Beatles with Billy Preston), and as part of a musical ensemble for charity (Ferry Aid).
McCartney was voted the “greatest composer of the millennium” by BBC News Online readers and McCartney’s song “Yesterday” is thought to be the most covered song in history with more than 2,200 recorded versions and according to the BBC, “The track is the only one by a UK writer to have been aired more than seven million times on American TV and radio and is third in the all-time list. Sir Paul McCartney’s Yesterday is the most played song by a British writer this century in the US.” After its 1977 release, the Wings single “Mull of Kintyre” became the highest-selling record in British chart history, and remained so until 1984. (Three charity singles have since surpassed it in sales; the first to do so, in 1984, was Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in which McCartney was a participant.)
On 2 July 2005, he was involved with the fastest-released single in history. His performance of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with U2 at Live 8 was released only 45 minutes after it was performed, before the end of the concert. The single reached number six on the Billboard charts, just hours after the single’s release, and hit number one on numerous online download charts across the world. McCartney played for the largest stadium audience in history when 184,000 people paid to see him perform at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 21 April 1990.
McCartney’s scheduled concert in St Petersburg, Russia was his 3,000th concert and took place in front of 60,000 fans in Russia, on 20 June 2004. Over his career, McCartney has played 2,523 gigs with The Beatles, 140 with Wings, and 325 as a solo artist. Only his second concert in Russia, with the first just the year before on Moscow’s Red Square as the former Communist U.S.S.R. had previously banned music from the Beatles as a “corrupting influence”, McCartney hired 3 jets, at a reported cost of $36,000 (€29,800) (£28,000), to spray dry ice in the clouds above Saint Petersburg’s Winter Palace Square in a successful attempt to prevent rain.
The day McCartney flew into the former Soviet country, he celebrated his 62nd birthday, and after the concert, according to RIA Novosti news agency, he received a phone call from a fan; then-President Vladimir Putin, who telephoned him after the concert to wish him a happy birthday.
In the concert programme for his 1989 world tour, McCartney wrote that Lennon received all the credit for being the avant-garde Beatle, and McCartney was known as “baby-faced”, which he disagreed with. People also assumed that Lennon was the “hard-edged one”, and McCartney was the “soft-edged” Beatle, although McCartney admitted to “bossing Lennon around.” Linda McCartney said that McCartney had a “hard-edge” — and not just on the surface — which she knew about after all the years she had spent living with him. McCartney seemed to confirm this edge when he commented that he sometimes meditates, which he said is better than “sleeping, eating, or shouting at someone”.
The minor planet 4148, discovered in 1983, was named “McCartney” in his honour.
On 18 June 2006, McCartney celebrated his 64th birthday, a milestone that was the subject of one of the first songs he ever wrote, at the age of sixteen, the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four”. Paul Vallely noted in The Independent:
“Paul McCartney’s 64th birthday is not merely a personal event. It is a cultural milestone for a generation. Such is the nature of celebrity, McCartney is one of those people who has represented the hopes and aspirations of those born in the baby-boom era, which had its awakening in the Sixties.”