Paul McCartney was born June 18, 1942, in Liverpool, England. His work with the Beatles in the 1960s helped lift popular music from its origins in the entertainment business and transform it into a creative, highly commercial art form. He is also one of the most popular solo performers of all time in terms of both sales of his recordings and attendance at his concerts.
Musician. Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, England to Mary and James McCartney on June 18, 1942. His mother was a maternity nurse and his father a cotton salesman and jazz pianist with a local band. The young McCartney was raised in a traditional working-class family, much the same as his future fellow Beatles Ringo Starr and George Harrison. Tragically, when McCartney was only 14 years old, his mother died of complications after a mastectomy. His future bandmate John Lennon also lost his mother at a young age, a connection that McCartney would later point to as the start of a close bond between the two musicians.
Encouraged by his father to try out multiple musical instruments, Paul McCartney began his lifelong love affair with music at an early age. Although he took formal music lessons as a boy, the future star preferred to learn by ear, teaching himself the Spanish guitar, trumpet and piano. In 1957, the teenaged musician met John Lennon at a church festival where both young men were performing. Sensing an early affinity, McCartney joined Lennon’s band The Quarrymen. The two quickly became the group’s songwriters, ushering it through many name changes and a few personnel changes as well. By 1960, they had settled on a new moniker, The Beatles, and George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best rounded out the group. The soon-to-be legendary mod squad started out the sixties in Hamburg, Germany, spending two years playing various nightclubs there. Soon Sutcliffe left the band, leaving McCartney to pick up the slack as the group’s bass player. While in Hamburg, The Beatles recorded their first tracks, garnering the attention of Brian Epstein, who would quickly sign on as the band’s manager. It wasn’t long before The Beatles headed back to their home country and began working their way into the popular consciousness there. With Best’s replacement by drummer Ringo Starr, the group seemed to gain steam.
The impact that The Beatles would ultimately have on the 1960s in music, film and popular culture is hard to overstate. “Beatlemania” soon gripped the world, and when the group made their debut in America the media would dub it the beginning of the “British Invasion,” a period of musical crossover between the two nations that would change rock n’ roll forever. During a decade full of political and social strife, The Beatles expressed the broader hopes of their contemporaries for peace, love, and rock n’ roll. McCartney in particular would write more hits for the band than any other member. Songs like “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude ,” “Let It Be,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “Hello, Goodbye” would provide the soundtrack for a generation. From 1962 to 1970, the group released 12 hit studio albums, touring almost constantly.
The Beatles disbanded in 1970, breaking fans’ hearts across the world, but McCartney had no intention of dropping out of the public eye. He was the first of The Beatles to release a solo album (McCartney, 1970), and although the reactions were mixed from a critical standpoint,
the album was a hit with the public. Encouraged, McCartney went on to form the band Wings, which would remain popular throughout the 1970s, winning two Grammy Awards and churning out multiple hit singles.
In 1969, McCartney married Linda Eastman, an American photographer, who would prove to be his muse for the next 30 years. The family had four children, Heather (Linda’s daughter from a previous marriage), Mary, Stella and James.
The 1980s proved a trying time for McCartney; an arrest for marijuana possession in Japan in 1980 was followed shortly by the devastating assassination of his longtime partner and friend, John Lennon. In the wake of Lennon’s death, McCartney stopped touring until 1989. However, McCartney continued to play and record new music, working in collaboration with artists like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. In the 1990s, he collaborated with former bandmates Harrison and Starr to work on The Beatles Anthology documentary series.
McCartney is undoubtedly pop music royalty. For his contributions to global rock n’ roll culture, he has been knighted, honored as a Fellow at the Royal College of Music, and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The former Beatle’s interests extend far beyond music, and he has made successful forays into film, writing, painting, meditation, and activism. Linda McCartney passed away from cancer in 1998. In 2002, Paul married his second wife, Heather Mills, a former model and anti-landmine activist. Their daughter Beatrice was born in 2003. Amid much press scrutiny and intense animosity, the couple split in 2006.
Despite his many business ventures and other interests, the most prolific Beatle continues touring, selling out massive arenas and showing no signs of stopping. When asked about slowing down, the 68-year-old said, in typical fashion, “Why would I retire? Sit at home and watch TV? No thanks. I’d rather be out playing.”