Paul McCartney is inarguably one of the most famous musicians in the world. Best known for his work with the Beatles, McCartney is a skilled singer and musician and an extremely accomplished composer. His career has spanned an astonishing eight decades and taken many forms, from member of the Beatles to solo artist to frontman of Wings. It’s hard to choose the best moments of such a momentous career, but these five events were significant milestones in the life of perhaps the world’s most beloved musician.
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Paul McCartney and John Lennon met at a church garden party in July 1957. Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen, was set to perform two sets that day. Before their second set, the band’s bass player introduced Lennon to a former classmate, Paul McCartney. McCartney and Lennon, who were just 15 and 16 at the time, chatted for a while, with Lennon showing him how to tune his guitar. McCartney played a few songs backstage, impressing Lennon with his talent. Similarly, McCartney was impressed by Lennon’s performance, and particularly his ability to improvise lyrics. The members of The Quarrymen decided to invite McCartney to join the band.
2. The Beginning of Beatlemania, 1962
The Quarrymen eventually became the Beatles, and in 1962, they released their first hit, “Love Me Do.” Lennon and McCartney had written the song as early as 1958, only to have it sit unrecorded for four years. At the time, the Beatles mostly did covers of other songs, feeling unready to release original music. When the group finally recorded and found a way to release it, it took off: “Love Me Do” peaked at No. 17 on the UK charts, a modest success compared to their later hits. Nevertheless, it put the Beatles name out there and started them on their path to becoming the heartthrob superstars of the 1960s.
3. The End of the Beatles, 1970
The Beatles had been the biggest musical phenomenon of the 1960s, so the world was shocked when McCartney announced their breakup in 1970. However, for the band members themselves, tensions had been building since the mid-’60s. Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison were all going in different directions creatively, with all three vying for more control. The recording of their final album, Abbey Road, was fraught with less tension than the album recorded before it, Let It Be, since the Fab Four knew they were nearing their end. But their official breakup still led to years of legal disputes that weren’t resolved until the mid-1970s.
The Beatles broke up in 1970, and McCartney quickly released his first solo album. Unfortunately, it was not a success—at least enough of a success to live up to the massive expectations every now-former Beatle would experience. However, it gave him the launchpad to form another band, Wings, in 1971. Wings consisted of McCartney, his wife, Linda, guitarist Denny Laine, and drummer Denny Seiwell. Wings proved that McCartney was a talented and capable frontman, the very topic that had caused tension in the Beatles. Wings’ greatest hits included “Live and Let Die” and “Band on the Run.”
The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. But only two of the three remaining members—Ringo Starr and George Harrison—attended. Lennon had been murdered in 1980, and McCartney opted not to attend. He had his moment 11 years later, however, when he was inducted as a solo artist in 1999. He has since broken a Guinness World Record as the most successful songwriter in history, with 188 records on the UK charts between the Beatles, Wings, and himself.
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