“I’m in awe of McCartney. He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. He can do it all. And he’s never let up… He’s just so… effortless.” –Bob Dylan
There are very few musicians that can claim a resume like Paul McCartney. From being one of the main songwriters and vocalists for The Beatles, to his work with Wings, his collaborations with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and countless other endeavors, McCartney has entertained and inspired fans across borders and generations. Even in his 70s, McCartney continues to release new music and perform live shows around the world, with his latest tour starting in the fall of 2018. Here are some facts on a true music icon.
How It All Started
The legend of Paul McCartney began on June 18, 1942 at Walton Hospital in Liverpool, England. His parents were James, a cotton salesman and one-time musician, and Mary Patricia, a nurse at Walton. McCartney’s full birth name is James Paul McCartney.
Tooting His Own Horn
McCartney must have inherited the musical gene from his father Jim. His dad performed in a jazz band during the 1920s, playing the trumpet and the piano. He gifted a young McCartney with a trumpet for his 14th birthday. However, McCartney would later exchange it for an acoustic guitar, so he could sing while playing an instrument.
His First Band
In 1957, a 15-year-old McCartney attended a social at St. James’ Church in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton. It was at this social where McCartney would encounter an upstart rock and roll band called The Quarrymen, whose members included a young John Lennon. The Quarrymen would later invite McCartney to join their act. They would soon be joined by George Harrison and eventually morphed into a little-known band called The Beatles.
The Fab Four
McCartney is best known for being one of the main vocalists and songwriters for The Beatles, one of, if not the most, influential rock and roll bands of all time. Throughout the 1960s the entire world succumbed to Beatlemania, as the group charted hit records and played raucous sold-out shows across the globe. Nearly 50 years after their initial break-up, The Beatles still have a major presence on playlists, airwaves, and karaoke rooms. The Beatles are the highest selling musical act of all time, selling over 800 million album units worldwide.
The Most Covered Song
One of The Beatles’ best-known songs is “Yesterday,” which was featured on their 1965 album Help! “Yesterday” was a departure from the typical collaborative efforts The Beatles were known for at the time, as it was a solo showcase for McCartney. “Yesterday” was written by McCartney and simply features his voice and his acoustic guitar accompanied by a string quartet. Although it wasn’t released as an official single in the United Kingdom, it did hit number one in the US and is now believed to be the most covered song of all time.
Making a Trip to Springfield
Along with his then-wife Linda, McCartney appeared as himself on The Simpsons seventh season episode “Lisa the Vegetarian.” In the episode, the McCartneys encourage Lisa Simpson to stick with her newfound vegetarianism. A longtime vegetarian himself, McCartney only agreed to appear on the show if Lisa continued to be a vegetarian throughout the show’s run. The request was granted and nearly twenty years later, Lisa still practices a meat-free diet.
McCartney returned to cartoon airwaves in 2015 when he appeared as himself in a first season episode of Bojack Horseman. McCartney once again voices his own likeness and is depicted as hiding in a large cake for Diane’s surprise 35th birthday party. Unfortunately, McCartney makes his grand entrance after all the guests have left the party.
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II knighted McCartney for his services to music. It wasn’t the first honor he received from the British monarch. In 1965, McCartney and his fellow Beatles bandmates received the MBE—a Member of the Order of the British Empire. In 2017, McCartney was further honored by receiving the Companion of Honour from the Queen, a designation that has also been bestowed on Stephen Hawking, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, and JK Rowling.
Liverpool vs. Everton
Being a native Liverpudlian, many people have pressed McCartney as to which of the city’s two major soccer teams he supports, Liverpool or Everton? In 2008, McCartney offered a rather diplomatic, but fair explanation about his sporting allegiances. He stated, “Here’s the deal: my father was born in Everton, my family are officially Evertonians, so if it comes down to a derby match or an FA Cup final between the two, I would have to support Everton. But after a concert at Wembley Arena I got a bit of a friendship with [Liverpool legend] Kenny Dalglish who had been to the gig and I thought ‘You know what? I am just going to support them both because it’s all Liverpool.’”
A Stroll Through Liverpool
In June 2018, McCartney appeared on the popular “Carpool Karaoke” segment of James Corden’s The Late Late Show. In the segment, McCartney and Corden drive around Liverpool singing some classic Beatles tunes. Along their tour of the city, the duo make many stops at important landmarks, including one of McCartney’s childhood homes, St. Barnabas church, and the barbershop mentioned in “Penny Lane.” The segment concludes with McCartney performing a surprise live performance at a local Liverpool pub.
The Lefty from Liverpool
As a young novice guitarist, the naturally left-handed McCartney thought the only way to play to guitar was to do so using your right hand. After struggling to play with his less-dominant hand, McCartney came across a poster of American musician Slim Whitman and noticed that he played guitar with his left hand. Inspired by Whitman, McCartney restrung his guitar and was finally able to play in a more comfortable manner.
Rio Comes Out in Droves
On April 21, 1990, McCartney played in front of a crowd of 184,000 people at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At the time, the concert held the record for the highest attended concert by a paying audience. Italian singer Vasco Rossi broke the record in 2017, when he performed for a crowd of over 200,000 people in Modena, Italy.
A Super Show
Despite being a lad from Liverpool, McCartney has been a major force in American pop culture. His stature in American pop culture was further cemented in 2005, when he was the halftime entertainer for that year’s Super Bowl. During his Super Bowl XXXIX set, he performed “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” “Live and Let Die,” and “Hey Jude.”
Keeping It Classi-cal
McCartney went classical in 1991 when he collaborated with the Royal Philharmonic of Liverpool to create a piece that honored their 150th anniversary. The project featured the vocal talents of prominent opera singers Kiri Te Kanawa and Jerry Hadley and the Liverpool Cathedral Choir. While the resulting live album, entitled Liverpool Oratorio, was a commercial success, classical music critics largely panned McCartney’s foray into the world of orchestral music.
An Old and New Stomping Ground
In July 2009, McCartney performed the first concerts at the newly constructed Citi Field in the New York City borough of Queens. His three-date concert series was recorded for a live album and a concert film entitled Good Evening New York City. These concerts were a homecoming of sorts, as Citi Field was built on the site of the old Shea Stadium, where The Beatles played two legendary concerts during their North American tours of 1965 and 1966.
An Olympic Performance
The Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London were a celebration of many facets of British history and culture. The programme featured performances that celebrated Britain’s role in the Industrial Revolution, the development of the NHS, appearances by Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Daniel Craig, who appeared as James Bond in a skit with Queen Elizabeth II.
So it was only fitting that the ceremony ended with a performance by Britain’s greatest cultural export—Paul McCartney. McCartney performed a short set that included a portion of “The End” and “Hey Jude.”
It Pays to be a Music Icon
Being one of the most popular musicians of all-time means that you’ll have a pretty hefty bank account. McCartney is estimated to have a net worth of $1.2 billion, making him one of the richest musicians in the world. In addition to his revenue from his own music and tours, McCartney is the founder of a holding company called MPL Communications, which handles his other business interests. Through MPL, McCartney holds the rights to an extensive music publishing catalog, including the rights to the musicals A Chorus Line and Grease.
McCartney turned to vegetarianism in 1975 and since 2013, he has followed a vegan diet. McCartney decided to ditch meat from his diet after observing a herd of lamb as he and his then-wife Linda were dining on lamb. McCartney has been a vocal supporter of various animal rights causes. He has been involved in campaigns for organizations like People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Humane Society International, and World Animal Protection.
Dancing With Mary Jane
Fellow musician Bob Dylan first introduced McCartney to marijuana in 1964 in a New York City hotel room. That fateful encounter sparked a cannabis habit that would occasionally get McCartney into trouble. He has been arrested and fined for various marijuana-related charges in Sweden, the United States, his native Britain, and Japan. McCartney finally gave up using the drug in 2015, deciding it was time to set an example for his grandchildren.
Life with Linda
McCartney met his first wife Linda Eastman for the first time while she photographed The Beatles at their 1966 Shea Stadium concert. The two had a more intimate meet-cute at a Georgie Fame concert in London the following year. The two hit it off and were married in 1969. They would both later be members of Paul’s post-Beatles project Wings. Sadly, Linda passed away from breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 56.
McCartney’s Second Wife
After three years of dating, McCartney married his second wife, former model Heather Mills, in 2002. Their union did not last long, as they separated in 2006 and their bitter and acrimonious divorce proceedings started the following year. Mills had initially requested a settlement £125 million. The final settlement saw Mills awarded £24.3 million and annual payments of £35,000 for a nanny and tuition for their daughter.
McCartney and His Brood
McCartney has five children. Upon his marriage to Linda, he legally adopted Heather, her daughter from a previous relationship. He and Linda had three children together—Mary, Stella, and James. At age 61, McCartney became a father once again, when his second wife Heather Mills delivered birth to their daughter Beatrice Milly.
McCartney’s daughter Stella is a very influential fashion designer. She lends her name to a fashion house label that has retail operations in trendy locales like West Hollywood, Mayfair in London, and New York’s Soho. Like her dad, Stella is also a vegetarian and animal rights activist and as a result, does not use fur or leather in any of her pieces.
Number One at Number Ones
McCartney holds the record for most number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with a total of 29 chart toppers. The bulk of these number ones came with The Beatles. He also holds the record for most number ones on the UK Singles Chart with 25.
Paul and Nancy
McCartney married his third and current wife Nancy Shevell in 2011. The couple first started dating in 2007. Shevell is a former member of the board of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame x2
McCartney is part of select group of people that have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice—once for his work with The Beatles and then again for his solo work. McCartney famously skipped the induction ceremony for The Beatles, denying fans a long-awaited reunion between him and the surviving members of the band Ringo and George.
A Diverse Grammy Resume
Over the course of his illustrious career in music, McCartney has notched 18 Grammy Award wins and 78 total nominations. He was first honored for his work with The Beatles in 1965, most notably winning the Best New Artist award. He received his most recent nominations in 2016, for, strangely enough, in the categories of Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for his featured appearance on the Kanye West track “All Day.”
McCartney and the Oscars
Although not commonly associated with cinema, McCartney does have three Oscar nominations to his name and one win. He and the other members of The Beatles won the Best Original or Adaptation Score award for their documentary film Let It Be. As the band had already broken up by the film’s release, they were not on hand at the ceremony to receive the award. McCartney would also be nominated in the Best Original Score category for his work on the title tracks of Live and Let Die and Vanilla Sky.
Flying With a New Endeavor
In 1971, following the break-up of The Beatles, McCartney formed a new band called Paul McCartney and Wings (or sometimes just referred to as Wings). The band was marked by many changes in personnel during its decade-long run, with the only constants being McCartney, his wife Linda on keyboard, and former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine. The band was definitely not as successful or as influential as the Fab Four, though their lone UK number one single, “Mull of Kintyre,” was for a time the UK’s best selling single.
Showing Love for New York City
Following the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, McCartney organized a benefit concert in support of the victims and their families. Dubbed “The Concert for New York City,” the event took place in Manhattan’s famed Madison Square Garden and included an all-star cast of performers including The Who, Elton John, David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Jay-Z, Billy Joel, and Destiny’s Child. The concert raised over $35 million. In 2002, the New York Police Department made McCartney an honorary detective, in recognition for his charitable efforts.
A Not-So “Little” Influence
One of the biggest influences on McCartney’s music was legendary American rock and roll pioneer Little Richard. McCartney was an admirer of Little Richard’s trademark wild and flamboyant vocal style and incorporated it into his own singing. In fact, the first time McCartney performed in public, he covered Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.”
Meeting “The King”
Before The Beatles came onto the scene, the most well known musical act in the world was Elvis Presley. During one of their US tours, the Fab Four paid a visit to “The King.” Their initial interactions were slightly awkward, but the ice was broken when they started an impromptu jam session. McCartney and Presley bonded over the fact that Presley was starting to learn the electric bass—McCartney’s main instrument for The Beatles.
Turning to Canvas
Not content with just being a musical maestro, McCartney has also dabbled in painting. He first became interested in painting after spending time with abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning in his New York studio. McCartney first exhibited his work in Siegen, Germany in 1999. The following year, he held an exhibition in Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, where in his youth he would spend a lot of time in with John Lennon.
A Man of Many Talents
McCartney is a largely self-taught musician. With The Beatles, he was mostly known for his vocals and playing the bass. However, he also played the acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard and piano for the band, even going behind the drum kit when Ringo Starr temporarily left the group.
A Complex Debate
McCartney has attracted some controversy regarding his stance against the annual Canadian seal hunt. As an outspoken animal rights activist, McCartney has felt that the centuries-long practice is inhumane and should be banned. On the other side of the debate, people have argued that the seal hunt is an important cultural and economic tradition for many of the participants, especially the Inuit, whose remote location means that the hunt is one of their few sources of income and food.
Aye, Aye McCartney!
After scheduling conflicts prevented Keith Richards from reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow’s father in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Jack Sparrow himself Johnny Depp enlisted the services of another musical icon. McCartney was recruited to play Jack Sparrow’s paternal uncle, also named Jack. McCartney had, of course, appeared in The Beatles movies of the 1960s, but his role in Pirates was only the second time he appeared in a fictional film playing a character and not himself. The first was in the 1987 dark comedy Eat the Rich.
When a Meme Comes Full Circle
McCartney couldn’t resist jumping on the hottest viral trend of the fall of 2016. The video challenge sees people record themselves standing still as if they were mannequins, all while Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” plays in the background. Considering the song choice, which includes the lyric “Me and Paul McCartney related,” it was only natural for McCartney to take on the challenge.
Third Times the Charm
It took McCartney three tries to successfully audition for his church’s choir. He bombed his first two auditions, though he claims that one of those times was a deliberate attempt at failing, as he simply didn’t want to be a choir boy at that point.
Playing With Fire
The Beatles’ first international gigs were in Hamburg, Germany in 1960, where they were given residency positions at local clubs. After their initial contract was terminated, the band were in the process of packing up their belongings when McCartney and then-drummer Pete Best lit a condom to help them see in their dark room.
It resulted in a small fire, but authorities arrested McCartney and Best as they felt that they were trying to burn down the whole building. After spending a short time in jail, they were deported back to England. The band did return for a few more residency engagements in Hamburg, thankfully with fewer fires and jail time.
Rarities on Radio
In 1995, McCartney hosted Oobu Joobu, a show for American radio network Westwood One. The show featured many unreleased tracks, outtakes, and demo recordings of The Beatles and McCartney’s solo work. The rarity of the featured tracks led to the show being bootlegged and becoming a prized part of the collections of Beatles and McCartney fans around the world.
The End of a Beautiful Friendship
McCartney had a pretty rocky relationship with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. They initially seemed to be kindred spirits and collaborated on many tracks, most notably “The Girl is Mine” and “Say Say Say.” However, things soured once Jackson acquired the publishing rights to the vast majority of The Beatles catalog, before selling a portion of it to Sony Music. McCartney was completely blindsided by the move and the two would never work together again.
Rumors of His Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
McCartney has been at the center of a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that he actually died in 1966 and was replaced by a look-alike. This unsubstantiated rumor continued to grow when college students in the US started publishing articles about supposedly finding subtle hints to McCartney’s untimely death in the lyrics of Beatles songs. McCartney himself has made some amusing references to the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory, even titling a 1993 live album Paul is Live.
Lennon and McCartney
When The Beatles broke up, the already-rocky relationship between McCartney and Lennon became more fraught. Throughout the 70s, the pair rarely spoke, occasionally reuniting for brief periods. Although they’d left things in a good place during their final phone call, this was something the public didn’t know, and so, when Lennon was murdered, reporters swarmed McCartney for a quote. Distraught, he was only able to say “It’s a drag.”
He was criticized for being flippant about his friend’s death, but he later revealed his true feelings about the loss, saying: “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.” He said on the night that Lennon died, he went home to his family and watched the news coverage, spending the whole night crying.
McCartney’s first serious girlfriend was a young woman from Liverpool named Dot Rhone, who he met when he was 17. They were serious and planned to get married, but their relationship had a disturbing dark side. He would pick out clothing for her and he dictated how she should style her hair and makeup. He also discouraged her from seeing her friends.
Despite their problems, she was deeply committed to him, but their union was doomed to a heartbreaking end. Rhone was pregnant with McCartney’s child, but suffered a miscarriage. A few weeks later, he broke up with her.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
As The Beatles became more and more famous, Paul McCartney became involved with model and actress Jane Asher. They two were inseparable and became engaged in December 1967—but McCartney was hiding a dark secret. The year before, he’d begun an affair with a woman who worked as a nanny for some of his friends. While that relationship was ongoing, Asher broke off the engagement to McCartney upon catching him in bed with yet another woman. While they later tried to reconcile, they ultimately broke up in July 1968.