Paul McCartney Shares the Story Behind the Song He Wrote on a Dare from Actor Dustin Hoffman

In the latest episode of the McCartney: A Life in Lyrics podcast series, Paul McCartney shares the story behind a song he wrote on the spur of the moment as a dare given to him by legendary actor Dustin Hoffman. The song in question was “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me),” which appears on McCartney’s classic 1973 album with his band Wings, Band on the Run.

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McCartney and his first wife, Linda, had met Hoffman during a 1973 trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica, where the actor was filming the movie Papillon with Steve McQueen. Hoffman had invited the couple to dinner at his house in Jamaica, and after their meal he read McCartney an article about the final words the famous painter Pablo Picasso had said before he died at age 91 that year.

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Picasso had been hosting a dinner party at his home, and before leaving the gathering, he’d said, “Drink to me. Drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.” The painter died in the early morning hours of the next day. Hoffman wanted to see if McCartney could compose a tune about any topic given to him, and asked the rock legend if he could write a song about what Picasso had said. McCartney said he could.

“I did happen to have my guitar with me, so I hit a chord and started singing a melody to those words,” McCartney recalled in an audio interview segment featured in the podcast. “And he was flabbergasted.” Sir Paul remembered that Hoffman excitedly called out to his wife at the time to come listen to what McCartney had created out of thin air.

Hoffman Recalled Watching Paul McCartney Create the Song

The podcast also featured audio from an archival interview with Hoffman, in which he recounted how McCartney had come up with the song in front of his eyes.

“I swear by all that’s holy that he began singing this song of the story that I had just told him about Picasso,” Hoffman recalled. “It just came out of him. … It’s right under childbirth in terms of great events of my life. I mean, I was at the birth of something.”

The actor continued, “The fact is that he didn’t come back the next day. He didn’t even start fiddling around. It was literally immediate. I finished the story and he strummed his guitar.”

Paul McCartney Reflected on the Song’s Creation

In the interview with McCartney, the Beatles great reflected on the series of events that led to the song’s creation.

“I like that that it was probably just something ordinary that was said earnestly; you know, farewell to his friends,” McCartney noted. “Well, it becomes his last words. Then it becomes a quote in an article. Then Dustin reads it and makes it more than a quote, and suggests it’s a poem, it’s a lyric. Then he shows it to me, and I agree with his suggestion, and I put music to it. So it’s a nice little way for things to happen.”

More About “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)”

Musically, “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)” begins as an acoustic singalong, but the track changes to feature an odd montage of segments of other songs from the Band on the Run album. They include “Jet” and “Mrs. Vanderbilt.” Before the song ends, the “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)” lyrics and melody are reprised, but set to a more ornate backing track and a different beat.

McCartney recently reissued Band on the Run with a collection of stripped-down “underdubbed” bonus mixes of most of the songs, including “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me).”

About the McCartney: A Life in Lyrics Podcast

As previously reported, the McCartney: A Life in Lyrics podcasts incorporate segments of audio interviews that Irish poet Muldoon conducted with McCartney for the 2021 book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present.

The McCartney: A Life in Lyrics podcast is available at,, and on various popular streaming services, including Apple Music and Spotify. The series is co-produced by iHeartPodcasts and the Pushkin audio-production company.

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