Celebrating creative heroes is a theme that’s very much at the heart of this blog, and my lifelong admiration of one of those, Paul McCartney, was further enhanced by his appearance with Ringo Starr at Sunday’s Grammy Awards (where, incidentally, McCartney added another four statuettes to his collection, for a total of 20. Among the wins: his co-writing contributions on “Cut Me Some Slack,” which garnered Best Rock Song).
For the majority of the nearly 29 million Grammy viewers who were expecting to hear an umpteenth reprise of one of those old Beatles chestnuts in his reunion with Starr — especially with the timing related to the 50th anniversary of the band’s arrival in America — sorry. The two instead performed a new McCartney song, “Queenie Eye,” eschewing the past for the future. (It was also fun seeing an animated Yoko Ono, now 80, along for the ride.)
It’s exactly that sense of the forward that has kept the 71-year-old McCartney relevant, and no mere relic as one of the pioneers of modern music. His creative journey has been unceasing and multifaceted, expanding beyond his roots in rock to encompass the classical genre, as well as painting, poetry, even children’s literature. Three years ago, he immersed himself in the world of dance with the score for a production called Ocean’s Kingdom, staged by the New York City Ballet.
His authorship of what some consider the most perfect pop ballad in history — “Yesterday” — would have been enough to secure his legend as a songwriter. If anybody had told me as a kid that I would be downloading fresh McCartney songs in the 2000s, I would never have believed it. It’s a kind of virtuosity that, due to its longevity, can easily be taken for granted, despite all the accolades. (“Lord” McCartney is about the only thing still pending.)
The solo career, launched with the album McCartney in 1970 (and the memorable maraschino cherries that appeared on its cover, shown right) led to 23 more studio albums — not including classical and electronica offerings — by the end of last year. His latest is titled, in typical McCartney spirit, New.
In a point I similarly made about Barbra Streisand on the occasion of her 70th birthday a couple of years ago, one searches for parallels amongst the musical idols of today’s generation. Despite a few with obvious talent — the Adeles, Eminems, and now Lordes of this world — can anyone see them still making some serious noise come the mid-century?
So all hail, Sir Paul. Maybe I’m (still) amazed.