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Paul McCartney

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The Beatle with the widest musical range, Paul McCartney seems to be the most driven, with the group and - even more - in his later solo career. As a Beatle, he'd written songs including the rocking I'm Down and Helter-Skelter, the melodic Yesterday and Let It Be, and the music hall-influenced Your Mother Should Know and When I'm Sixty-Four. He was the first Beatle to release an album (the soundtrack to the 1966 film The Family Way) outside the group. He played all the instruments on his first post-Beatles album, then tried his hand at electronic music, wrote a concerto, and masterminded a series of animated films.

His Mull of Kintyre was, for a time, the best-selling single in the history of the British pop chart (surpassing the Beatles' She Loves You, which he also wrote and sang).

He toured more frequently than Lennon or Harrison, and - thanks to a series of canny investments, as well as the money he earned as a songwriter and performer - he's probably the richest Beatle. John Lennon had returned his MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 1969, four years after all the Beatles were awarded the honor for their cultural contributions and the money they'd brought to the British economy; in 1997, McCartney happily accepted a knighthood. And yet, he's occasionally managed to seem defensive and sometimes petty about his work, especially his role in the Beatles - at one point, many years after Lennon's death, suggesting that the traditional Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit used on all songs written by either or both he and John be reversed on songs such as Yesterday, which he wrote himself. When ATV music, which owned a large portion of the Beatles' song publishing rights, was sold, McCartney carelessly allowed himself to be outbid by Michael Jackson.

McCartney married American photographer Linda Eastman, daughter of a prominent attorney, on March 12, 1969, just under two months following the Apple rooftop concert performance filmed for Let It Be. Though the film showed that the group was clearly disintegrating, it was McCartney who made the formal announcement - that he, at least, was leaving - in the press kit for his first solo album. McCartney's failure to make a joint statement with the group was an early sign of his priorities.

While Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr embarked on solo projects, McCartney soon formed a band, Wings, initially including wife Linda, former Moody Blues vocalist/guitarist Denny Laine, and drummer Denny Seiwell. He recorded and toured for ten years under the Wings banner, though there was no question of the band's being a democracy.

With a 13-month Wings tour beginning in September, 1975, McCartney indicated his eagerness to go on the road in a major way; something never attempted on such a scale by Harrison, Starr or - especially - Lennon. Several Wings and solo tours followed, as well as a number of live albums, starting with the 3-Lp Wings Over America in 1976. In 1982, he recorded duets with Stevie Wonder (Ebony and Ivory) and Michael Jackson (The Girl is Mine). (He recorded another duet with Jackson, Say, Say, Say.)

Lennon had recorded one album of rock and roll oldies; McCartney has (as of 2004) recorded two: CHOBA B CCCP in 1989, and 1999's Run, Devil Run. Both consisted of vintage rockabilly and rhythm and blues songs, backed by a small group that likely evoked the Cavern-era Beatles sound and repertoire.

In 1991, McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio was performed in Liverpool and New York City; his first symphonic work, Standing Stone, was released six years later. Somewhere along the line, he recorded and released a pair of rave-oriented electronic albums under the pseudonym The Fireman.

McCartney received his knighthood in March, 1997; Linda McCartney died on April 17, 1998, following a three-year struggle with breast cancer.

In June, 2002, McCartney married the former Heather Mills. Their daughter, Beatrice, was born in October, 2003. McCartney, then 61 (Mills was 35) had three adult children Stella, Mary and James, and a stepdaughter, Heather, from his marriage to Linda.

He received his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 1990, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nine years later.

© 2004