Paul McCartney’s first Grammy-eligible recording came out in October of 1961. It was ‘My Bonnie’, a single by English singer Tony Sheridan and originally released only in Germany. The Beatles were his backing band, but they were credited as ‘The Beat Brothers’ on the single. In the 60 years of recorded sound history that has passed since that single’s first release, no artist has had a greater impact on the turning tides of popular music than McCartney.
Ostensibly, the Grammy Awards are supposed to honour the best music of any given year. Paul McCartney has 18 Grammys in total, including nine with The Beatles, six solo, two with Wings, and one as a part of the Nirvana-reunion single ‘Cut Me Some Slack’. Despite that being quite the feat, it’s nowhere near the number of Grammys that Bruce Springsteen (20), Kanye West (22), Jay-Z (23), or Beyonce (28) have (composer Georg Solti is the most decorated Grammy winner with 31).
The Beatles were actually fairly well represented during their contemporary heyday at the Grammys. Confounding the alleged curse that comes with the title, the band won Best New Artist at the 1965 Grammys along with Best Performance by a Vocal Group for ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. The band also won the coveted Album of the Year award for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1968, which would be their final Grammy as an active unit. Although their grand total is nine, The Beatles only won five awards as an active group. Just for reference, Billie Eilish won that many awards in 2020 alone.
Although he remained one of the most popular artists in the world, most of McCartney’s most celebrated works as a solo artist came without Grammy gold. ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ won Best Arrangement in 1972, an award monopolised by Jacob Collier in the modern-day, while ‘Band on the Run’ took home Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus in 1975. From there, it was one more win for Wings with Back to the Egg‘s ‘Rockestra Theme’ winning Best Rock Instrumental Performance before McCartney comfortably coasted into elder statesman wins.
That’s not to say some of those late-period awards aren’t well deserved, like ‘Cut Me Some Slack’ winning Best Rock Song or Kisses on the Bottom winning Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, but other times they’re clear cop-outs. McCartney winning Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for a live version of ‘Helter Skelter’ in 2011 is a clear indication that they should have just given the original an award (that award wasn’t established until 1988, in case you were wondering how behind the times The Grammys have historically been).
This year, McCartney has nabbed two nominations from McCartney III: Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song from the first single ‘Find My Way’. Neither are major resurgences from McCartney, and neither are ranking near the top of McCartney’s insanely impressive list of Best Albums or Best Songs. Maybe voters will get a kick out of McCartney firing up his “I’m literally the only person on this album” gimmick and give it an award based on that. ‘Find My Way’ will have to beat out Grammy favourites Foo Fighters and their just-ok single ‘Waiting on a War’, so I’ll give it a 50-50 chance.
However, the point is that Paul McCartney doesn’t need the Grammys. He never needed them in the first place. He just recorded his third album where he literally didn’t use a single other musician. There’s no artist more acclaimed, more successful, or more notable than Sir Paul, and a few Grammy awards at this stage in his life isn’t going to change that. Does he deserve a few more Grammys? Sure, but it’ll only serve the idea that most awards are Lifetime Achievement awards.
It’s awfully nice that they are willing to acknowledge McCartney, as it would be somewhat insulting if they hadn’t, but no one should be too fussed or too surprised when the institution hands the awards over to the Foo Fighters instead.