3 Songs by Sting, Billy Joel, and Hoagy Carmichael That Paul McCartney Wishes He Wrote First

“Sometimes I come out with a puzzling set of words that I have no idea what I mean,” said Paul McCartney of songwriting. “And yet I’ve got to kind of make sense of it and follow the trail.” However his words come together, McCartney’s imprint on the greater songbook is immeasurable.

From The Beatles’ catalog, solo works, Wings, and works with Carl Perkins, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, Martin Glover (Youth) with The Fireman, all the way up to collaborations with Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Hollywood Vampires, Dominic Fiike, and more, McCartney’s catalog of lyrics remains one of the most diverse, commercially successful, and timeless.

During a peak writing era, 1962-1970, McCartney and John Lennon were also writing songs for other artists, including The Rolling Stones (“I Wanna Be Your Man”), along with hits for Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas and other British acts like Cilla Black, Peter and Gordon, The Fourmost, and more.

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McCartney also wrote the 1969 hit “Come and Get It,” first released by Badfinger, The Everly Brothers’ “On the Wings of a Nightingale,” his first collaboration with Ringo Starr since The Beatles split, “Six O’Clock,” Rod Stewart‘s “Mine for Me,” “Songbird In a Cage” by Charlotte Gainsbourg, and dozens more.

From one of his first songs ever written as a teen, “I Lost My Little Girl” to the first he recorded with pre-Beatles formation The Quarrymen (“In Spite of All the Danger”), and beyond, McCartney’s lyrical footprint seems infinite, but there are a few songs he wished he had gotten to first. Here are three songs McCartney said he wished he had written.

[RELATED: 6 Songs John Lennon and Paul McCartney Wrote for Other Artists]

1. “Stardust” (1927)

Composed by Hoagy Carmichael; Lyrics by Mitchell Parish

I don’t really want to have written anyone else’s songs, but as a fantasy question, I love ‘Stardust’ by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish. It’s a beautiful song. —Paul McCartney, The McCartney Project, 1994

Among the more than 700 songs composed by Hoagy Carmichael—”Georgia on My Mind” “Heart and Soul,” “The Nearness of You”—it was “Stardust” that left a twinkle in McCartney’s eyes. Carmichael originally wrote the song after leaving behind his career as a lawyer and later recorded it with his orchestra. The song, according to legend, was inspired by a moonlit walk one night, when Carmichael was thinking about an old girlfriend, or girlfriends, under the stars.

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we’re apart
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by.

Sometimes I wonder, how I spend
The lonely nights
Dreaming of a song
The melody
Haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
And now my consolation is in the stardust of a song

First recorded and released by Hoagy Carmichael & His Pals in 1927, the jazz number became a Big Band standard and later took on new life when Mitchell Parish added words to Carmichael’s music.

In 1931, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong released their renditions of “Stardust,” which was covered by Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and more during the Swing era. Since its release, “Stardust” has been covered more than 1200 times by everyone from former Beatle Ringo Starr, Ella FitzgeraldNat King Cole, and Willie Nelson, among many others.

2. “Just the Way You Are,” Billy Joel (1977)

Written by Billy Joel

I remember thinking that Billy Joel’s first hit ‘Just The Way You Are’ was a nice song, I’d like to have written that one too. ‘Stardust’ first, though. —Paul McCartney, The McCartney Project, 1994

Released in 1977 on Joel’s fifth album The Stranger, “Just The Way You Are” is a song about unconditional love. The song, which went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, was originally written by Joel for his first wife Elizabeth Weber. Initially, Joel didn’t want to include it in The Stranger but kept it on after Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow, who were recording near him, heard the song. 

“They [Ronstadt and Snow] said “You guys are crazy you’ve gotta keep that on the album'” said Joel in 2008. “We said ‘Yeah? Well ok, I guess girls like that song. It’s a chick song.'”

Don’t go changing to try and please me
You never let me down before, mmm
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore

I would not leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far, mmm
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are

Don’t go trying some new fashion
Don’t change the color of your hair, mmm
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard, mmm
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are

[RELATED: Billy Joel Sings “Uptown Girl” Christie Brinkley More than 40 Years After He Wrote It About Her]

3. “Fields of Gold,” Sting (1993)

Written by Sting

I liked Sting’s ‘Fields Of Gold’ and I thought, ‘Y’know what, I should have written that. How dare he? ‘I told him: ‘You stole my song.’ I thought that was a nice one, y’know? —Paul McCartney in an interview with Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker in 2018

At some point, all joy and love eventually come to an end. There is the courtship, love, and then inevitable death. This was the sentiment behind Sting‘s 1993 hit “Fields of Gold,” released on his fourth studio album, Ten Summoner’s Tales, in 1993. Sting wrote the song after purchasing a 16th-century manor house near a barley field in Wilshire, England. Inspired by the amber and golden-tinged sunsets and colors surrounding the fields, the song was also a tribute to Sting’s love, Trudie Styler, who he married in 1992.

‘In England, our house is surrounded by barley fields, and in the summer it’s fascinating to watch the wind moving over the shimmering surface, like waves on an ocean of gold,” said Sting of the song. “There’s something inherently sexy about this sight, something primal. Lovers have made promises here, I’m sure, their bonds strengthened by the comforting cycle of the seasons.”

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold

So she took her love
For to gaze a while
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me?
Will you be my love?
Upon the fields of barley
We’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gol”

Though “Fields of Gold” peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100, Ten Summoner’s Tales fared better, reaching No. 2 on the 200 chart.

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know Sting Wrote for Other Artists]

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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