Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are more than just friends. Over the last 60 years, they have formed a connection that is more akin to brotherhood. The two surviving members of The Beatles have enjoyed impeccable highs, endured dreadful lows, and shared collective grief.
McCartney and Starr have grown old side by side. In their youth, the pair broke countless records together, entered fatherhood, and became men. Contrarily, they also suffered the sorrow of burying their bandmates, John Lennon and George Harrison. Only they remain to tell the first-hand story of The Beatles. However, their time in the Fab Four just scratches the surface of their relationship.
During the 1990s, the remaining members of The Beatles reunited for the retrospective project, the Anthology. It was an experience that made McCartney reconnect with his younger self and his former bandmates. The project even played a major part in shaping his next album, Flaming Pie.
“I came off the back of The Beatles Anthology with an urge to do some new music,” McCartney explained in 1997. “The Anthology was very good for me because it reminded me of the Beatles standards and the standards that we reached with the songs. So in a way it was a refresher course that set the framework for this album”.
He added, “Watching the Anthology also reminded me of the time that we didn’t take to make an album and of the fun we had when we did one. The Beatles were not a serious group”.
The song, ‘Little Willow’, which appeared on the album, had an extra poignant meaning and was written for Ringo Starr’s children following the death of the drummer’s first wife, Maureen. Together with the drummer, she shared two sons, Zac and Jason, and their daughter, Lee.
The news of her death rocked McCartney to his core, and the former Beatle used songwriting as the vehicle to deal with his emotions. “I was on holiday and got a phone call from a friend telling us that a very close friend of our family who we’d known for a very long time, had died,” he revealed. “It was a real shock to me, Lin, and the kids. Obviously, that day we were very saddened by the news.
“That afternoon, I was going to write a song, and I couldn’t think of anything else, really. I thought it would be nice to do a song with this mood, convey this mood, but, also for the kids, so I could convey how much I thought of you. That was it, and I came up with ‘Little Willow'”.
Despite the song arising in the wake of McCartney discovering Maureen had passed, ‘Little Willow’ is warm and soothing. He filled the track with an uplifting sentiment which offered Ringo and his family comfort in their darkest moment when they needed it most.