There’s a curious sensation to realizing that Paul McCartney — the lad of lads, the Beatles precocious imp, Fab Macca Wacky Thumbs Aloft — is turning 75 years old. Though it may be odder still to imagine a world without him. For more than 50 of those years he has not been simply Paul McCartney (or, since 1997, Sir Paul) but a Beatle, a known phenomenon in all hemispheres, a star of absurd magnitude, and, soon after, a man of absurd wealth. The Beatles last played before a paying audience in 1966. The band recorded together for the final time in ’69.
And for everything that McCartney has accomplished since — the 12 Grammy nominations; the six No. 1 hits with the Wings in the 1970s; the platinum chart-toppers with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder in the 1980s; the jaunt into classical composition; performing at Buckingham Palace; his 2015 recording (hey there, kids) with Kanye and Rihanna — a Beatle he will always be, defined by those prolific, god-given, glorious years of the Fab Four’s prime. Paul wrote “Yesterday” when he was 22.
That time period, and those imperishable songs, inevitably form the heart of any McCartney stock-taking, even as he continues to beat on, plucking those old melodies and writing new ones, finding new collaborators and embracing a life he has (pretty much) always embraced. He plays bass and guitar and piano (and drums sometimes) and he sings Let it Be like no one else on earth. You go see him perform and he plays 32 songs in a set. When McCartney touched down in Japan in April, 2017, ahead of playing three sold-out Tokyo Dome shows in four nights, a delirious mob of fans awaited, screaming and reaching out their hands. The airport police had to hold them off. It was a scene descended from the mid-1960s, and Paul was clearly pleased. The fans were still needing him, and, yes, still feeding him — even at 74.
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