Happy Birthday

paul mccartney
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Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney, Legendary Musician and Songwriter

June 18, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Paul, the “cute” Beatle, attained international fame as one of the Fab Four at the age of 21. He launched a second and a third music career, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and, beating the prediction in his own song’s lyric, premiered his classical magnum opus, “Ecce Cor Meum,” when he was 64.

Paul McCartney’s Early Days

Born in Liverpool, England in 1942, James Paul McCartney was the son of Jim, a cotton salesman and part-time musician, and Mary, a nurse and midwife, McCartney. Michael, Paul’s younger brother, became known as the poet Mike McGear.

The family lived happily until Mary’s abrupt death from breast cancer when Paul was 14 years old. “Soon after she passed away, Sir Paul asked his father to buy him a guitar,” writes the BBC, “and the young musician learnt to play by imitating American R&B hits he heard on the radio.”

McCartney’s Music Career

At age 15, McCartney met John Lennon at a church music event, and was admitted into Lennon’s band, the Quarrymen, which would later include McCartney’s friend George Harrison. McCartney, Lennon and Harrison formed their own band, which would become the Beatles, in 1960, and developed a following playing concerts in Liverpool and Hamburg.

The Beatles received a record deal in 1962 and soon replaced their drummer with Ringo Starr. Over the next two years, the Beatles grew into the world’s most popular band, greeted by screaming fans everywhere they went. Playing bass and singing lead vocals along with Lennon, McCartney was the heartthrob of the group.

Though the band achieved unprecedented levels of success, the relationship between McCartney and Lennon deteriorated to the point where they were no longer writing songs together by 1965. The group parted ways in 1970.

McCartney embarked on a solo career with the help of his wife Linda, whom he had married in 1969. He released his first solo album, “McCartney,” in 1970, and formed a new band, Wings, the following year. He went on to have the most commercially successful of the the Beatles, scoring hits like “My Love,” “Live and Let Die” and “Band on the Run.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame writes: “During the Seventies—a decade of ego-tripping superstars, flamboyant glam-rockers and defiant punk-rockers—McCartney modestly presented himself to the world as a family man who happened to be a working musician. … McCartney has rarely been a favorite of rock critics. However, his body of work—some of it admittedly lightweight, much of it unjustly dismissed—has given boundless pleasure to the music-loving public.”

Overcoming criticism, whether related to Linda's involvement or his songs being overly cheerful, has been essential to McCartney’s longevity. “I went through a difficult period where I started to listen to what the newspapers have to say … And I thought, ‘Well, blimey, that's only one guy. I'm not going to take it as gospel,’” he told Rolling Stone in 1974.

McCartney also composed music in a classical vein, beginning in the early 1990s. His magnum opus, “Ecce Cor Meum” (Behold My Heart), premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in London in November 2006.

The Rest of the Story

In 1995, Linda McCartney was diagnosed with breast cancer—like Paul’s mother—and passed away three years later. The couple had been married for nearly 30 years.

McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1997. According to CNN, in the 1960s, he had joked about smoking marijuana in the bathroom at Buckingham Palace. McCartney dedicated his knighthood to his former Beatles bandmates George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.

In 2002, he married former model Heather Mills, but the couple split just four years later. After two years of bitter divorce proceedings, which became a popular subject for the British tabloids, Mills was awarded a $48.6 million settlement.

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