This Saturday marks the 69th birthday of singer, songwriter, composer, musician, author, actor, artist, and humanitarian Paul McCartney. Already legendary for being one of the Beatles, he has continued on to the kind of success that today’s biggest stars can only dream about. The Guinness Book of World Records recently declared him as the most successful musician of all-time. So let’s look back at his incredible career with some great videos.
At the age of 14, Paul wrote his first song. He considered releasing “I Lost My Little Girl” with the Beatles years later, but didn’t like how he rhymed “girl” with “curl”. He still performs it solo on some occasions.
Paul impressed future bandmate, songwriting partner, and best friend John Lennon with his rendition of Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock”. As a result, he asked him to join the group that would eventually become the Beatles.
“Love Me Do” was “Another Lennon/McCartney Original” and the Beatles first single/hit. “P.S. I Love You” was the B-side, however, and it’s quite a showcase for Paul.
Already a superstar, he wrote what would become the most-covered song in recorded history (2,500 versions and counting): “Yesterday”. The melody came to him in a dream, but he struggled with the lyrics and arrangement, and had to be convinced by producer George Martin to record the song.
A scene starring Paul in A Hard Day’s Night was cut, but the Beatles’ next movie, Help!, gave him his own very interesting sequence.
As the Beatles were on the verge of breaking up, Paul dreamed that his mother came to him, “speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”
Paul’s first solo album, McCartney, announced to the whole world that the Beatles had broken up. The album topped the charts and is well loved, but oddly, no singles were released from it. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is arguably his best-known song, but it appears here as an unfinished studio take.
A year later, Paul teamed up with his wife, Linda, and got his first solo No. 1.
Paul and Linda teamed up with Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell, and Henry McCullough to form Wings, partially because Paul wanted to get back to touring. This early single from the group would be banned by the BBC for its “suggestive lyrics”.
Touring extensively, Paul McCartney & Wings released the awesome triple album Wings Over America and Rockshow; a concert film that is yet to be released on DVD in its entirety.
Thrillington, an instrumental cover album of Ram was recorded in 1971, but wasn’t released until 1977. Produced by Paul under the alias of Percy “Thrills” Thrillington, his involvement in the record wasn’t known until 1989.
Paul returned to a solo career in 1980 with McCartney II, an experimental album that would now be considered electronic music or techno.
Critics maligned his 1983 duet with Michael Jackson, “Say Say Say”, but it’s McCartney’s last No.1 hit single (to date).
He wrote the 1984 movie, Give My Regards to Broad Street, in which he starred as a rock star who tries to find the missing master tapes of his upcoming album. The soundtrack proved to be more successful than the film.
A fan of both animation and the British comic strip Rupert Bear, he wrote and produced Rupert and the Frog Song.
McCartney exclusively released Choba B CCCP (the Russian translation of “Back in the USSR”) to Russia in 1989, but the album of vintage rock ‘n’ roll covers proved to be popular enough for an eventual worldwide release.
Paul is also a classical music fan, with the Liverpool Oratorio, Standing Stone, Working Classical, and Ecce Cor Meum albums representing this in his discography.
Run Devil Run was the first album he released after Linda’s untimely death, putting his cover of the Vipers’ “No Other Baby” into a different perspective.
Freedom was written as his response to the 9/11 tragedy.
Chaos & Creation in the Backyard led to three Grammy nominations and rare critical praise.
On Memory Almost Full (one of my all-time favorite albums), Paul waxes nostalgic about his childhood and fame, and even ponders the afterlife in “The End of the End”. “You Tell Me” is a real highlight, the type of song that only someone with sage experience can sing.
It was rumored that he had been recording electronic albums with producer Youth under the alias of the Fireman for years, but he finally admitted it on 2008’s Electric Arguments.
Last summer, Paul received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize For Popular Song at a star-studded ceremony at the White House. It later aired as an edited PBS concert special.
McCartney is currently in the process of re-releasing all of his remastered previous work in multiple formats. Band on the Run, McCartney, and McCartney II are currently available, with Ram on the way.
Paul received a Kennedy Center Honor in December, but showed fans his silly side with appearances on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live. (I’m just speculating, but I’m guessing this sketch is why he wasn’t invited to the royal wedding!)
He recently announced a deal with HP’s Cloud service that will give fans exclusive access to various songs, photos, and videos spanning throughout his career. In the meantime, he is announcing summer tour dates and working on possibly two new albums.