There are some figures from within popular culture whose presence looms larger than most. Paul McCartney, a lyrical genius from his youth who joined his first band at the age of 15, has been an ever-present pioneer from the moment he was named the rhythm guitarist of The Quarrymen by John Lennon in 1957. Fast forward 60 years and McCartney has founded The Beatles, the most influential band of all time, changed the course of music forever, and cemented his legacy as arguably the most important rock and roller in history.
While somewhat indebted to the intense environment created by John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, McCartney will always look back on his time with The Beatles safe in the knowledge that his brilliance spearheaded some of their finest moments as a group. His songwriting partnership with Lennon, of course, will never be matched.
When the Fab Four rose to fame and subsequently burst into flames all within a blistering ten years of fearless creativity, the ensuing fallout was a messy one. Very public insults, songs written in retaliation and years of silence followed between each member of the band. However, even after it all, artistic respect remained their bonding factor. While Lennon and McCartney’s personal differences dominated headlines, John was always quick to take it back to the music. “Paul is one of the most innovative bass players,” Lennon commented in his 1980 interview with Playboy. “Half the stuff that’s going on now is directly ripped off from his Beatles period,” he added. And of course, that sentiment still rings true today.
While the seismic wave of McCartney influence still continues to ripple through contemporary music today, the landscape of releases is very different to the one that The Beatles helped forge in the 1960s. With more musical genres than you can shake a stick at, pop-infused rock and roll is no longer the leader of the market. Despite that, McCartney hasn’t slowed down in his age. In 2020, he released McCartney III, completing his trilogy of iconic solo records and securing him a number one album and a Grammy Award to boot.
It was on McCartney III that the former Beatle once again proved to his fans that he was what it takes to move with the times. While the album was a mishmash of classic Macca through the decades, it also contained samples of a new groove, one that had clearly been influenced by the modern landscape, proving that he still kept his finger firmly on the pulse.
While taking part in a Reddit AMA, and responding to a fan who asked: “Are there any newer artists that you listen to?”, McCartney proved his worth. He wrote: “I’m lucky, I have a friend who sends me new music which helps me keep in touch with the modern scene. So I listen to people like Dominic Fike, Beck, St Vincent, and Khruangbin. I also listen to a lot of classic oldies coming through, from rock n’ roll to ’60s to soul to R&B, with a sprinkling of classical music now and then.”
In a story that has now gone full circle, St. Vincent, one of the artists that caught McCartney’s attention, has recently revealed that she received a surprise phone call from Paul McCartney after remixing one of his songs. The musician went on to describe the one-time Beatles member as “the loveliest man on the planet”.
St. Vincent – real name Annie Clarke – explained how she received a call from McCartney after submitting her contribution to 2021’s McCartney III Imagined album after she remixed his song ‘Women and Wives’. “I submitted the song, and I was all nervous to hear what would Paul think,” Clarke told Corden.
Adding: “Then I was driving across town, and I see this random +44 number [come up on her phone] from England. So I pick it up, and it’s Paul McCartney… he called me, and he was the loveliest man on the planet.”
McCartney told Clarke that he loved her work on his material, as she explained: “He was saying how he liked the background vocals [of the remix] – I said: ‘I did that, Paul’ – and the guitar solo: ‘That was me, Paul! I did it all, Paul!’ That was a real treat.”
Clarke concluded: “[It’s] hard to say anything complimentary that he hasn’t heard before, she began. But I said what I said, as heartfelt and as sincerely as I meant it. He just very graciously turned it around and said: ‘It’s great, this music thing we get to do. It’s great.’ And I was like: ‘Yes Paul, yes it is.’”
Paul McCartney’s favourite contemporary artists:
- Dominic Fike
- St Vincent