James Paul McCartney is one of the pre-eminent pop musicians of the second half of the 20th century. As one of the members of The Beatles, the leading creative influence of the group Wings, and a strong solo pop and classical artist on his own, McCartney has cemented himself as one of the all time great musicians of the modern era.
Paul was born on June 18, 1942, in Liverpool, England, to parents Jim and Mary McCartney. His childhood was quite ordinary, only noted by a strong interest in music from the boy. However, things began to change in 1957, when Paul met who was destined to become the musical yin to his yang: John Lennon. After a short time, John invited Paul, who was a burgeoning guitarist and drummer, to join his skiffle band The Quarry Men. By the end of 1957, the two were already writing songs, a pairing that would topple the world of music on its ear by the end of the 1960s.
By 1960, the group had slowly metamorphosed into The Beatles and went on their first tour of sorts in Hamburg, Germany. Paul, having just turned eighteen, was experiencing the world at a very young age. When they returned to Liverpool, they found that their local popularity had grown, and they agreed to become the regular band at a local club called The Cavern Club, playing there almost nightly. They also returned to Germany a few times, touring with musical star (at the time) Tony Sheridan, calling themselves The Silver Beetles. While touring with Sheridan, Paul was involved in the cutting of his first records, although his voice did not appear.
In late 1961, manager Brian Epstein visited The Cavern Club and loved what he saw; he immediately came to an agreement with the band and set off trying to get them a record deal. After some rejections (think about this: some record labels actually rejected The Beatles), they came to EMI/Parlophone, signing with the label mostly due to some strong urging by George Martin, Parlophone's already legendary producer. It turned out to be a match made in heaven.
By the end of 1962, at the tender age of 20, Paul had his first charting single, Love Me Do, which peaked at number 17 in Great Britain. This was enough to get them some time on British television and radio and paved the success for their breakout year, 1963, which opened with Paul's first number one single, Please Please Me. After that, Beatlemania officially took off in Britain, with three more number one singles that year (From Me To You, She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand). Every single the group would release until 1967 would top the British singles charts. Their first two albums, Please Please Me and With The Beatles reside atop the charts for most of 1963. With such huge success came a huge amount of exposure, and thus 1963 was Paul's first dunking into the tank of success.
1964 brought The Beatles to America, with a legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and a sold-out concert at Shea Stadium among the highlights. The group tours the world, giving Paul at age 22 a view of the entire planet that few will ever see. The group also made their first film, A Hard Day's Night, and released two more number one albums, A Hard Day's Night and Beatles For Sale. Singles, all of which went to number one, include Can't Buy Me Love, A Hard Day's Night, and I Feel Fine. All previous singles were released in the United States as well, achieving in April of 1964 something that will probably never again be matched: The Beatles alone held the top five singles in the country.
Throughout all of this, Paul and John Lennon wrote all of these hits almost exclusively. The vast majority of the catalogue of The Beatles was written by the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney; no matter how much respect the two deserve as performers, their songwriting abilities were also bar none.
1965 was the year that they all started to grow up. The group had three more number one hit singles (Help!, Ticket To Ride, and We Can Work It Out), two more number one albums (Help! and Rubber Soul), a second film (Help!). But most noteworthy is the release of their album Rubber Soul to close out the year; it contained a great deal of experimentation that somewhat surprised an audience that had grown accustomed to their She Loves You/I Want To Hold Your Hand-style catalogue. The group was growing musically and changing, and about to enter one of the greatest sustained periods of musical creativity ever accomplished. Paul was at the center of it.
Also of note in 1965 was the quiet release deep in the recesses of their Help! album of the song Yesterday. Never released as a single, this song is the most covered pop song of all time and is probably one of the best known songs of the 1960's. Paul recorded this entirely on his own, although the songwriting credit goes to McCartney/Lennon. Even then, it was clear that Paul was a masterful individual musician.
Paul also received the MBE in 1965 from the Queen.
1966 was the last year of touring for The Beatles, as they relegated themselves (except for one brief shining moment in 1969) to being a studio band only. They released what many consider to be the greatest pop/rock album ever recorded, Revolver, along with two more chart-topping singles, Paperback Writer and Eleanor Rigby, both of which are extremely clear departures from the past.
1967 brought an amazing musical onslaught. March saw the release of perhaps their greatest single, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever, with Paul writing the former. Both songs were reflections on childhood and showed as clearly as could be how great the two songwriters were. Two months later, the group released one of the landmark albums of all time, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Less than one month later, the group appears on the world's first entirely live broadcast unexpectedly playing a brand new song, All You Need Is Love, which came out as a single shortly thereafter.
Things began to slowly sour among the group members about this time, though, as their manager Brian Epstein, the glue which somewhat held the group together and kept Paul and John on the same page, passed on in August of 1967. Paul and John both took the death hard, and the resulting pain planted the seeds which would drive the group apart. Luckily for us as music fans, McCartney and Lennon still had some magic left in them yet.
Also of vital importance to the life of Paul McCartney that year was that on the fifteenth of May, Paul met Linda Eastman for the first time. She was to become the love of his life and his bandmate in the later group Wings.
1967 closed with the release of their ninth album, Magical Mystery Tour and an accompanying television special, along with the single Hello Goodbye.
1968 brought the birth of Apple Records and the other related Apple corporations. The Beatles immediately signed to the label following their first single of the year, Lady Madonna, and released one of their biggest hit singles, Hey Jude, the first single to appear on the Apple label. At this time, Paul and his bandmates became interested in transcendental meditation through the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and proceeded to spend a few months in India studying there. The group came back reinvigorated and ready to record, but their subsequent album was filled with studio infighting, the first death knell for the group. The album that came out of it is still amazing to this day. The Beatles (The White Album) was their only double album, but it is a shot of musical creativity is still amazing. At about the same time, their third film appearance was released (Yellow Submarine, which also had a soundtrack album that contained some unreleased tracks from their recordings of the past few years).
The group was fighting heavily going into 1969, with their longtime producer George Martin throwing up his hands and leaving their Get Back project as it was just getting started. Get Back was intended to be an album and a film chronicling their return to touring, but it was eventually shelved because the group was literally imploding. The one high point of the Get Back sessions was their last live concert as a group from the top of Apple Studios in London.
Paul and Linda were married on March 12, 1969. Their marriage lasted until Linda's death in 1998.
Later in the year, the group released a few singles (Get Back and The Ballad of John and Yoko) and eventually geared up to record their swan song, Abbey Road, by convincing George Martin that they would be on their best behavior. The album was released along with the double a-side single Come Together and Something.
1970 signalled the end of The Beatles and the birth of Paul's solo career. By age 28, he was an ex-member of the most legendary pop band of all time.
Paul dissolved The Beatles in April of 1970 and formed his own company, MPL Communications to handle his recording and songwriting. The final Beatles album and film, Let It Be was released, a pillaging of the archives of the "Get Back" project. The Beatles had two more number one singles that year, Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road. Every single released by the group went to number one in either the UK or the US, an impressive feat, indeed.
By the end of 1970, Paul released his solo debut, McCartney.
1971 brought Paul's second album, Ram and his first solo number one single, Another Day. By the end of the year, he, Linda, and Denny Laine form the band Wings and release the album Wild Life. Wings opens 1972 by touring in support of the album.
1972 brought Wings several hit singles Give Ireland Back To The Irish, Mary Had A Little Lamb, and Hi, Hi, Hi, but their biggest success was just around the corner.
Early 1973 saw the release of their album Red Rose Speedway and singles Helen Wheels and the theme for the James Bond film Live and Let Die, but Wings hit their peak late in the year with their massively successful album Band on the Run, which won two Grammys and is largely considered to be one of the great albums of the 1970s. Also released was a four record compilation of the greatest hits of The Beatles.
Singles from Band on the Run appeared in early 1974. The hugely successful singles Jet, Band On The Run, and Junior's Farm all mark what has to be considered the high point in the life of the band Wings.
1975 saw the release of the Wings album Venus and Mars and the accompanying hit single Listen To What The Man Said. Wings then goes on a major world tour. Quietly, at the end of the year, an interesting side project is released in which Paul assumes the alter ego of Percy "Thrills" Thrillington, releasing an album called Thrills, a number of instrumental reworkings of songs from Paul's 1971 album Ram.
1976 sees the band tour North America during the 200th anniversary of the United States, finishing off the year with the release of a double live album, Wings Over America. A filming of the Seattle concert during this tour is eventually released as a major motion picture, Rockshow, in 1981.
Also in 1976, Wings releases the album Wings At The Speed Of Sound and singles Silly Love Songs and Let 'Em In are released.
1977 saw Paul release the best selling UK single of all time (at the time, of course; it was later surpassed by Goodbye England's Rose) Mull of Kintyre, without any related album.
Wings finally released another album in 1978, London Town, with the singles With A Little Luck, London Town, and I've Had Enough. The group also released a compilation album, Wings Greatest. The Paul McCartney musical freight train just kept on rolling.
In 1979, Paul is noted by The Guinness Book of Records as the most successful pop composer of all time. Wings also release a single, Goodnight Tonight, and an album, Back To The Egg. The group embarks on a world tour, visiting Japan in early 1980. During the visit to Japan, Paul is arrested for marijuana possession, and the band basically implodes as the tour falls apart. Wings is functionally dead at this point, with Paul publicly dissolving the band in 1981.
1980 later saw the release of Paul's third solo album McCartney II along with hit singles Coming Up and Waterfalls.
The year ended on an extremely tragic note, however. December of 1980 brought the death of John Lennon, Paul's lifelong friend and partner in his early songwriting successes. It hit Paul quite hard, and he essentially took 1981 off. By the end of the year, however, Paul's creative juices were flowing again and he called his old friend George Martin to help him produce a new album. The next three years were to be a huge creative surge.
Paul released his Album of the Year-winning album Tug of War in 1982, and complements and follows it with a cavalcade of singles. Besides his solo singles Take It Away and Tug of War, he also released a duet with Stevie Wonder called Ebony & Ivory and the single The Girl Is Mine with Michael Jackson, which kicked off the best selling single of all time, Thriller. To say that 1982 was a success for Paul is definitely an understatement.
1983 saw the release of the album and single Pipes of Peace (both massively successful, particularly in England). The first single from Pipes of Peace, though, was a second and perhaps more popular duet with Michael Jackson, Say Say Say.
1984 saw the culmination of Paul's early 1980s success with the release of the motion picture and accompanying soundtrack Give My Regards To Broad Street. The film itself wasn't largely successful, but the soundtrack spawned the wildly successful singles No More Lonely Nights and We All Stand Together.
Paul took 1985 largely off, only making an impressive appearance at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium. That year, however, Paul saw a lot of mainstream press coverage due to his loss at auction of the rights to the McCartney/Lennon catalog to Michael Jackson, for which Paul has never forgiven Michael. In 1986, however, McCartney rebounded with the release of the album Press to Play, a much more moderate success than the previous albums.
All The Best, a greatest hits collection, was released in 1987, garnering platinum status in three days and marking the success of Paul's career to that point. Paul also released a single Once Upon A Long Ago in many countries, but not in the US.
1988 saw the unusual move of the release of the album CHOBA B CCCP only in the USSR. It would not see light in the West until 1991.
Flowers In The Dirt, the last McCartney album with significantly successful mainstream singles, was released in 1989, with the singles My Brave Face, This One, and Put It There. He also launches a two year world tour, culminating with the release of the double live album Tripping The Live Fantastic with the singles Birthday and All My Trials. He caps off the year by announcing that he is founding the Liverpool Institute For The Performing Arts.
1991 saw the release of the album Unplugged: The Official Bootleg, from Paul's MTV Unplugged session. He also releases a classical album that is well received, The Liverpool Oratorio.
Off the Ground, a largely lackluster effort, was released in 1993 and was supported by a world tour. Also released are a live album, Paul is Live, and an ambient techno side project under the pseudonym of The Fireman, strawberries oceans ships forest.
1994 through 1996 revolved around the Beatles Anthology project, including a television series, three double albums, a book, and two new Beatles singles after a twenty five year hiatus. Free As A Bird and Real Love were both runaway hits, with Free As A Bird reaching 24 million in sales..
1997 saw Paul release a very successful pop album, Flaming Pie, with two minor contemporary adult radio hits The World Tonight and Young Boy, and his classical album Standing Stone.
1998 saw the death of the love of Paul's life, Linda McCartney, from breast cancer. In his grief, he returns to the studio and delicately prepares her unreleased studio recordings into an album released that year, Wide Prairie, and returning to the pseudonym of The Fireman, issues another ambient techno album, Rushes.
Paul's most recent pop release came in 1999 with the classic-rock style album Run Devil Run. He also releases his third classical disc, Working Classical, that year.
In 2000, Paul released the book Paul McCartney - Paintings, a collection of his paintings, and in 2001, released the poetry collection Blackbird Singing. Also of note are the wildly successful greatest hits releases The Beatles 1 in 2000 and Wingspan in 2001, chronicling the hits of, respectively, The Beatles and Wings.
Paul's most recent studio album is 2001's Driving Rain; he also released two live albums in 2002: Back in the US and Back in the World.
In 2002, Paul was remarried to model Heather Mills.
Paul is also well known for being an open and vocal advocate throughout his career for the legalization of cannibis possession and production, a stance that has often gotten him in trouble with authorities in Britain. Nevertheless, in 1997, he was awarded the title of Sir and granted knighthood in Britain.
Paul McCartney, simply put, is probably the most successful and influential musician of our time. His success with two different world renowned groups, as well as his solo career, should cement his place in musical history.