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Music

Watch Paul McCartney play ‘Yesterday’ over a 50 year period

Some songs are bigger than us. They become so ingrained in the cultural fabric that they transcend the writer, the time period and often, their original purpose and become something completely different. They become a universal signifier of humanity’s ability to come together through song, and as soon as the artist releases them unto the world anymore, they relinquish control, and the music comes under our collective ownership. 

One of the most famous examples of these is ‘Yesterday’ by Liverpool’s favourite sons, The Beatles. They’re a band that wrote countless songs that have transcended their original form, but ‘Yesterday’ is perhaps the most important of these.

The track was written by McCartney but is credited to the Lennon–McCartney writing partnership, and was first released as part of the album Help!. According to legend, McCartney composed the entire melody in a dream at the home of his then-girlfriend Jane Asher. The song ranks among one of Macca’s best, and duly, it has drawn heavy praise from across the critical world. 

The song Paul McCartney wrote around a single chord

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But despite its popularity, it’s not his favourite. In a previous interview, when discussing another song, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, he revealed his thoughts on ‘Yesterday’.

“Well, it’s difficult to choose the favourite. It (‘Here, There and Everywhere’) is one of my favourites. You look at your songs and kinda look to see which of the ones you think are maybe the best constructed and stuff,” said McCartney. “I think ‘Yesterday’—if it wasn’t so successful—might be my favourite.”

McCartney explained: “But, you know, you get that thing when something is just so successful… people often don’t want to do ‘the big one’ that everyone wants them to do. They kind of shy away from it”.

This doesn’t matter, though, as everybody else loves it, and as I said before, ‘Yesterday’ isn’t really Sir Paul’s anymore; it’s humanity’s. It’s a go-to for the blue and the broken-hearted and always will be. He touched on something so universal with his words meaning that the song will always remain relevant, a testament to his work. The track is so important to us as a collective that it’s been covered by everyone from Willie Nelson to Boyz II Men.

Luckily for us, TikTok user musicman354 has strung together three clips of Paul McCartney playing the song across his career from the halcyon days when Beatlemania was in full swing, to more contemporary times where he is hailed as one of the finest songwriters of all time. Across the 59 second duration, you understand just how far Paul McCartney has come across his career, and just how remarkable ‘Yesterday’ is as a song.

Watch the video below.

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