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Introduction to Paul McCartney and Wings

Of all the solo careers of the Beatles members, Sir Paul McCartney has had the most prolific one and is certainly rock royalty. During the 1960s he was the bassist of what would become the most influential and successful rock band of all time, as well the other half of the legendary Lennon-McCartney songwriting team. He was also the brains behind the Beatles’ immensely successful, influential and groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.

After the Beatles, McCartney marked his solo debut LP in 1970, McCartney, a Billboard Top Ten album. He also formed his own band Wings, together with then-wife Linda. Also known as Paul McCartney & Wings, they became one of the popular and commercially-successful bands of the 1970s.

Paul McCartney and Wings, the band formed by Paul McCartney after the breakup of The Beatles, enjoyed significant success throughout the 1970s. Some of their top hits include:

  1. “Band on the Run” (1973): The title track from the album of the same name, “Band on the Run” is one of Wings’ most celebrated songs, known for its multi-part structure and catchy melodies.
  2. “Live and Let Die” (1973): Written for the James Bond film of the same name, “Live and Let Die” is one of Wings’ most popular and enduring songs, notable for its dynamic orchestration and rock elements.
  3. “Mull of Kintyre” (1977): This song became a massive hit in the UK, known for its Scottish folk influence and bagpipe accompaniment. It was one of the best-selling singles of all time in the UK.
  4. “Silly Love Songs” (1976): A response to critics who said McCartney only wrote love songs, this track from “Wings at the Speed of Sound” became a major hit, showcasing McCartney’s knack for catchy, well-crafted pop music.
  5. “Jet” (1974): From the “Band on the Run” album, “Jet” is a high-energy rock song with a memorable chorus, and it became one of the band’s most popular songs.
  6. “My Love” (1973): A romantic ballad from the album “Red Rose Speedway,” “My Love” showcased McCartney’s sentimental songwriting and was a significant hit.
  7. “Let ‘Em In” (1976): Another hit from “Wings at the Speed of Sound,” this song is known for its distinctive brass section and catchy melody.
  8. “Maybe I’m Amazed” (1977): Though originally released by McCartney as a solo artist on his debut album “McCartney,” the live version by Wings on “Wings Over America” became a huge hit.
  9. “With a Little Luck” (1978): This song from the album “London Town” features a synthesized backdrop and was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
  10. “Goodnight Tonight” (1979): Known for its disco-style rhythm, this song was a departure from Wings’ usual rock sound and was a hit in several countries.

These hits reflect McCartney’s ability to craft memorable pop and rock songs post-Beatles, and they played a significant role in establishing Wings as a successful band in their own right.  One of the most popular and charismatic performers in modern music history, McCartney has led several top-grossing worldwide concert tours and special appearances on other several concerts, TV show guest performances, etc.

He has also received numerous awards, including several Grammys, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as member of the Beatles and as a solo artist) and is the member of the Order of the British Empire.

Early Life and Years as Member of the Beatles

Paul McCartney was born James Paul McCartney in Liverpool, England, on June 18, 1942. His family, especially his father, was musically-inclined, as his father had been a member of the jazz and ragtime bands in Liverpool.

During his youth he became more interested in music. He met would-be Beatle bandmates George Harrison in 1954 (while they were schoolmates at the Liverpool Institute) and John Lennon in 1957 (while Lennon was performing with his band The Quarrymen at St. Peter’s fete in Woolton). Like the other British kids those days, McCartney was also caught up by the rock and roll and skiffle craze. McCartney and Harrison soon joined the Quarrymen, as well as Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe. By 1960 they had changed their name into the Beatles and recruited drummer Pete Best.

Over the next two years, the band played in local clubs in Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany. Brian Epstein later managed the band, after hearing them on a record of “My Bonnie” where they backed Tony Sheridan. The band later sacked Pete Best and replaced him with Ringo Starr in 1962.

The lineup of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr aka The Beatles endured until their split in 1970. During the height of Beatlemania, McCartney was sometimes referred to as “the cute one.” Within the band, McCartney was the most musically-accomplished. He was one of the primary songwriters of the band along with Lennon, which formed the legendary “Lennon-McCartney” team. Although most of the Beatles’ songs were credited to “Lennon-McCartney,” many of them were written separately by one of the two.

McCartney wrote his own songs that became many of the Beatles’ classic hits. His most enduring and successful song contribution to the band was 1965’s “Yesterday,” which generated more than 2,000 cover versions around the world.

McCartney was also the brains behind Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, which was a total and radical departure from their simple rock and roll and pop sounds and lyrics. It was a breakthrough not only in terms of commercial success, but also created a revolutionary aesthetic and cultural impact. He also was behind the creation of Magical Mystery Tour made-for-TV film and album in 1968. While the film was roundly lambasted by critics, the album on the other hand was a #1 best-seller.

As part of The Beatles, he wrote or co-wrote an impressive array of songs that have become iconic in the world of music. His contributions often blended seamlessly with John Lennon’s in their famous Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership. Here are ten of the most celebrated songs primarily attributed to Paul McCartney during his time with The Beatles:

  1. “Yesterday” (1965): One of The Beatles’ most famous songs, known for its melancholic melody and McCartney’s solo performance with a string quartet.
  2. “Hey Jude” (1968): A ballad written to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian during his parents’ divorce, it’s known for its extended fade-out with a sing-along chorus.
  3. “Let It Be” (1970): Inspired by a dream about his mother during a period of tension within the band, this song became a defining anthem of hope and comfort.
  4. “Eleanor Rigby” (1966): A song that stood out for its classical string arrangement and poignant lyrics about loneliness.
  5. “Blackbird” (1968): A solo McCartney performance on the “White Album,” featuring intricate guitar playing and lyrics that reflected the civil rights movement.
  6. “Penny Lane” (1967): A nostalgic song that paints a vivid picture of a street in Liverpool, characterized by its colorful imagery and innovative production.
  7. “Get Back” (1969): Originally conceived as part of the “Get Back” sessions that eventually became “Let It Be,” this song is known for its upbeat tempo and classic rock ‘n’ roll feel.
  8. “The Long and Winding Road” (1970): A poignant ballad featuring a lush orchestral arrangement, marking one of the band’s last hits.
  9. “Paperback Writer” (1966): A rock song that was a departure from The Beatles’ usual love-themed material, focusing instead on a novel writer.
  10. “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1964): An upbeat, rhythm-driven song that became one of their most popular early hits.

The Beatles broke up in 1970 due to their artistic, business and personal differences. Like the rest of his former bandmates, McCartney struck out on his own. He released his first solo album McCartney in 1970 and, along with wife Linda McCartney, Ram in 1971. That same year he formed his own band Wings.

Marriage to Linda McCartney

Linda married Paul McCartney in 1969, and they had three children together: Mary, Stella, and James. She also had a daughter, Heather, from her first marriage, whom Paul later adopted. The McCartneys’ marriage was known for its strength and closeness, with Paul famously crediting Linda for helping him overcome the depression he experienced after The Beatles’ breakup.

Linda McCartney was an accomplished photographer, known especially for her portraits of famous musicians. She was the first woman to have a photograph featured on the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine, achieving this with her portrait of Eric Clapton in 1968. Her photography was praised for its naturalistic style and intimate portrayal of her subjects.

Linda joined in the band Wings after The Beatles disbanded. Although initially criticized for her lack of professional music experience, she played keyboards and sang, contributing to the group’s sound and success. She co-wrote several songs and was a constant presence in Wings throughout its existence.

Linda McCartney passed away from breast cancer on April 17, 1998, at the age of 56. Her legacy endures through her photography, her contributions to music, her advocacy for animal rights and vegetarianism, and her role in one of rock music’s most enduring partnerships. After her death, Paul continued to advocate for the causes she believed in and established the Linda McCartney Centre in Liverpool, a breast cancer research facility.

Paul McCartney and His own Band, Wings

The first line-up of Wings consisted of the McCartneys – Paul on bass guitar and lead vocals, and Linda on backing vocals and keyboards – guitarist Denny Laine (formerly of Moody Blues), and drummer Denny Seiwell. The band’s first album Wild Life (1971) was poorly received and a relative flop. However, the follow-up Red Rose Speedway (1973) fared much better, thanks to their first #1 hit “My Love.” By now the band had a new member, Henry McCollough, on vocals and guitar. McCartney and Wings also supplied the soundtrack of the James Bond flick Live and Let Die with the title song, which became a #2 hit in 1973. After embarking on their first British tour, McCollough and Seiwell left the band.

Wings would achieve a bigger success with 1973’s Band On The Run, buoyed by hit singles “Helen Wheels” (#10 on the Billboard Hot 100), “Jet” (at #7), and the title track which went to #1. Following the album’s success, the band continued with new members Jimmy McCollouch and Geoff Briton. The newer version of Wings released 1975’s Venus And Mars (which featured the #1 hit single “Listen To What The Man Said”) and 1976’s Wings At The Speed Of Sound which became the band’s first album to feature songwriting contributions from the other members.

Wings At The Speed Of Sound spawned three hit singles: the disco-fied “Silly Love Songs” (at #1), “Let ‘Em In” (at #3), and “Maybe I’m Amazed (at #10), one of Paul’s greatest love ballads to his wife Linda. Wings supported the album with their first (and record-breaking) international tour.

After the massively successful tour, the band went on a hiatus, with some of the members working on their own projects. Late in 1977, Wings came back with a single “Mull Of Kintyre,” a paean on McCartney’s home in Scotland. On Christmas day, the single became a #1 UK hit. After the single’s release, McCollouch left the band to pursue a solo career.

Band Members in Wings

Wings, also known as Paul McCartney and Wings, was formed in 1971 by former Beatles bassist and singer Paul McCartney. The band underwent several lineup changes throughout its existence. Here’s an overview of the key members who were part of Wings at various points:

  1. Paul McCartney (Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Guitars): After the breakup of The Beatles, McCartney formed Wings as his primary musical pursuit. He was the leader, primary songwriter, and vocalist, and played multiple instruments.
  2. Linda McCartney (Keyboards, Vocals): Linda, Paul’s wife, was a constant member of the band from its inception until its dissolution. Despite initial criticism for her limited musical experience, she became an integral part of the band’s identity and contributed to vocals and keyboards.
  3. Denny Laine (Guitar, Vocals): A former member of the Moody Blues, Laine was with Wings for its entire duration. He played guitar and contributed significantly to vocals, and occasionally other instruments. Laine co-wrote some of the band’s songs and was a key member.
  4. Denny Seiwell (Drums): An American drummer, Seiwell was part of the original lineup of Wings, playing on the albums “Wild Life” and “Red Rose Speedway.” He left the band in 1973.
  5. Henry McCullough (Guitar): An Irish guitarist, McCullough joined Wings in 1971 and played on “Red Rose Speedway.” His tenure with the band was brief, and he left in 1973.
  6. Jimmy McCulloch (Guitar): McCulloch joined Wings in 1974 and played on albums such as “Band on the Run” and “Venus and Mars.” A talented guitarist, he contributed significantly until his departure in 1977.
  7. Joe English (Drums): An American drummer, English joined Wings in 1975 and played on albums like “Venus and Mars” and “Wings at the Speed of Sound.” He left the band in 1977 to return to the United States.
  8. Laurence Juber (Guitar): Juber joined Wings in 1978 and was part of the final lineup of the band, playing on the album “Back to the Egg.”
  9. Steve Holley (Drums): Holley was also part of the final lineup, joining in 1978 and contributing to “Back to the Egg.”

 

Linda McCartney at the Los Angeles Forum Club during the 1976 Wings Over America tour

 

McCartney’s Arrest and the Disbandment of Wings

In 1978, the band released the albums, London Town (1978) and Back To The Egg (1979), both of which went to platinum, although it failed to spawn big hits. Later members included Laurence Juber (lead guitar), and Steve Holley (drums).

In January 1980, the McCartneys and Wings flew to Tokyo to do a tour there, but it was halted when customs officials found the couple with cannabis on their luggage. Paul was arrested and jailed for days and was later deported from the country without charges.

McCartney went out on his own again, releasing his album McCartney II (1980) which produced the hit “Coming Up.” After John Lennon had been murdered, McCartney refused to tour and that prompted Laine – the other band member to have stayed the longest since their inception, aside from the McCartneys – to leave the band for good. And, in 1981, Wings was no more.

McCartney as a Pop Music Legend

Post-Wings, McCartney continued his career as a solo artist, having churned out best-selling records and top-grossing tours. He has also collaborated with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Eric Stewart, David Gilmour and many others. McCartney starred in a film that he wrote and produced, Give My Regards To Broadstreet, whose cast also included Starr. While the movie was panned by critics, the soundtrack album became a hit.

During the 1990s, he joined forces with Harrison, Starr and Beatles producer George Martin to record and release the three Anthology albums, all of which became successes. In 1997, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II; but the following year tragedy struck when wife Linda succumbed to breast cancer.

McCartney has received lots of accolades and honors, including two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (one for being a member of the Beatles in 1987 and another as a solo artist), and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, aside from knighthood honors from the Queen. Still, he refused to rest down on his laurels and has remained very much active in the music industry and it seems that there are no signs of slowing down. In 2012, he performed at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in London and issued another album Kisses On The Bottom which netted him a Grammy trophy in 2013 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

Oon October 14, 2013, McCartney released his sixteenth studio album New which received generally positive reviews. In December 2020, he released “McCartney III,” a solo album where he played all the instruments, part of a trilogy that started with his debut solo album.

McCartney has remained an active live performer, embarking on extensive world tours. His concerts are known for their length, energy, and setlists that span his entire career, from The Beatles’ hits to his solo work.  He has collaborated with various contemporary artists, reflecting his ability to bridge generational gaps in music. This includes work with artists like Kanye West, Rihanna, and younger bands and musicians.  He has also ventured into writing, including children’s books and poetry, showcasing his versatility as an artist.

Now in his 70s, Paul McCartney is rock royalty and a living legend, and no one can deny that. But retiring from the industry he much loves seem to be very far from his mind; instead, it looks like that he has only just begun.

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