James Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, England on June 18, 1942. He became famous as a member of the Beatles, and is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most successful songwriter in the history of popular music. In the UK alone he has written and/or performed on 60 hits that have been certified as gold, and has sold over 100 million single records. His song, Yesterday, is said to be the most covered and most often played popular song of the 20th century.
After the Beatles disbanded, McCartney continued his musical career with records and performances. Mull of Kintyre, his 1977 hit with his group, Wings, is the top-selling non-charity single in the history of the UK. McCartney is an entrepreneur, a producer of films and records, a writer of songs and poems, a painter, and an activist for peace and animal rights. He had a long-time committed relationship with Linda Eastman from 1969 to 1998 and a brief marriage to Heather Mills in 2002-2008. Counting his adopted daughter, Heather Eastman, McCartney has five children, the youngest of which, Beatrice, was born in 2003.
The rise to fame started in Liverpool in the mid-1950's. McCartney met George Harrison for the first time in 1954 and John Lennon in July of 1957. The three became colleagues in Lennon's band, The Quarrymen, later in that year. Paul played guitar (left-handed), when Stu Sutcliffe came on board to play bass. When Sutcliffe left the Beatles in 1961, Paul moved to bass for much of the early period of the Beatles' performing and recording history. He was also an accomplished keyboardist and occasionally played the drums as well.
Paul lost his mother, Mary Mahon McCartney, to breast cancer in 1956, when he was just 14. She died of an embolism during surgery. His father, Jim McCartney, was a trumpet and piano player, who encouraged Paul and his younger brother Michael to pursue interests in music, though he was not initially in favor of Paul's association with John Lennon, whom he perceived to be a troubled lad.
The upright piano at the McCartney home was bought at Brian Epstein's music store. There the Beatles rehearsed. Paul traded the trumpet his father had bought him for an acoustic guitar, on which he composed his first song, I Lost My Little Girl. He then learned piano, and composed song number two: When I'm Sixty-Four. As a young teen, Paul was a fan of R&B music, and considered Little Richard to be his idol. His first public performance was of Little Richard's version of Long Tall Sally.
The first big break for the Beatles came when they were booked for long stints at clubs in Hamburg, Germany. Through December, 1962 they made five trips of approximately six weeks each. Brian Epstein became the Beatles' manager in 1961, and in 1962 they landed their EMI record deal. From 1962 through 1966 the Beatles toured widely (making over 1400 appearances) and recorded several albums and singles, becoming quickly the most important pop music group of the century. In 1965, along with the other members of the Beatles, McCartney was dubbed a "Member of the Order of the British Empire" by her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Unlike Lennon, who later sent the symbols of his recognition back to the Queen, McCartney enjoyed this status. Later, when knighted in 1997, he started to be referred to as "Sir Paul."
During the second four years of the Beatles, McCartney spent most of his time in recording studios, writing, rehearsing and recording songs. During this time, Lennon started to disengage emotionally and musically from the group. Brian Epstein, their trusted manager, died. Paul stepped in to lead the Beatles, but ultimately was not able to hold things together. Harrison at one point quit the group because he felt belittled and ignored by both McCartney and Lennon, and because Paul had become imperious and bossy in the studio setting.
The Beatles disbanded in May of 1970. By then McCartney had already prepared a debut album with himself as soloist. In fact, a good many tracks on Beatles records were solo performances, beginning with Yesterday, a hit that had caused some resentment among other members of the group because only Paul appeared on it. Lennon in particular was embittered by McCartney's actions at the final unraveling of the Beatles, though he mellowed somewhat on the subject by the time he died. In the later years of the Beatles, Lennon's tastes and McCartney's tastes had diverged greatly, with Lennon commenting that most of what Paul was doing was "rubbish."
After McCartney came out in 1970, the record Ram was released in 1971, including work with his wife, Linda. Then, with Denny Laine on guitar and Denny Seiwell on drums, they formed "Wings," a group that recorded and performed concerts until 1981. Paul collaborated with other well-known musicians, like Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Pete Townsend. In the 1990's, McCartney composed orchestral music and even an oratorio, producing several albums. His service to music brought him a knighthood and the status of "fellow" in the Royal Academy of Music, conferred by the Prince of Wales. Yale made him an honorary Doctor of Music. ASCAP named him "songwriter of the year" in 2009. McCartney has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Beatle and as a solo artist. He holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for the songwriter with the most number one hits and most record sales ever.
From the middle years of the Beatles to the present, Paul McCartney has been willing to try his hand at many different forms of artistic expression, and as a wealthy man, has generously supported the arts in the United Kingdom. He has experimented with avant-garde music, painting drawing, and even design. Influenced by John Cage, Paul was one of the first to make tape loops of different sounds, splicing them, playing them backwards, changing their speed, and so forth, to create divers sounds as yet unheard by humans. These "electronic symphonies" made their way onto Tomorrow Never Knows and in later recordings. He even created an avant-garde division of Apple Records, called "Zapple," with Barry Miles as manager. Miles also edited the underground newspaper, The International Times, which McCartney helped to get started. He enjoyed working with electronic music, and released three albums of this genre under the group name "the Firemen." He called this sound, "improvisational theater."
Sir Paul also wrote and produced films. The first was Rupert and the Frog Song, an animation in which he also added some of the voices. He wrote and starred in Give My Regards to Broad Street in 1984. He also produced a film on Daumier and a documentary about the Grateful Dead.
Like his long-time collaborator and colleague, John Lennon, McCartney had a turbulent time with the women in his life -- both while he was a Beatle and thereafter. He met Dot Rhone in Liverpool in 1959, and when she became pregnant, they planned to marry. She went with the Beatles to Hamburg in 1962. But after losing the baby, the engagement and the relationship terminated. McCartney's next serious girlfriend was Jane Asher, an actress whom he met in 1963. Paul and Jane spent five years together. She was a favorite of the fans. Asher was the inspiration for songs like I'm Looking Through You and And I Lover Her.
The Beatles' fatiguing recording and concert schedule often made it difficult for them to work at their relationship, and it often showed stress fractures. Paul and Jane seemed to be constantly working out issues in the later years of their time together.
In 1968, when Jane discovered that Paul had been seeing a woman named Francie Schwartz, the relationship came to a halt. In 1969, Paul met Linda Eastman, an America photographer. When the Beatles disbanded, Paul credited Linda with giving him "the strength and courage to work again." Paul adopted Linda's daughter, Heather, and together they had three children: Mary, Stella and James. Though they worked together in Wings and stayed together for nearly 30 years, they never married. In 1998, Linda died of breast cancer. Four years after Linda McCartney died, Paul met and married Heather Mills. In 2003, their daughter, Beatrice, was born. The couple divorced in 2008.
Also like his songwriting partner, Lennon, Paul was known to have experimented with drugs during the years the Beatles were together. It is said that the group used speed in the Hamburg days because of the incredibly long sets they played. Later, in 1964, Bob Dylan introduced them to pot. McCartney enjoyed smoking it as a recreational thing and sometimes as an aid to writing. All the Beatles were into cannabis during the filming of Help! By the time Sgt. Pepper was being recorded, cocaine had appeared on the Beatles' radar. Paul later said that he took recourse to the drug for about a year, but quit because the "comedown" was just too harsh.
McCartney has never admitted experimenting with heroin, and no evidence supports such a proposition. LSD was a different matter: He had "dropped acid" with Tara Browne in 1966, and then with Lennon in March of 1967 at the studio. By 1975, Paul had run into trouble over cannabis in Japan and twice in Europe. He and Linda were arrested again in 1984. He was not, however, so strongly associated with drug use as Lennon, Harrison, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Donovan and others who had been previously pilloried in the press and arrested by a special drug squad headed by Norman Pilcher.
Most musicians are grateful to have had one successful musical career. Paul McCartney has had at least four (counting the Beatles, Wings, orchestral and electronic music). He is also one of Britain's richest businessmen, with a net worth of well over $1 billion. He maintains his interests in Apple Corps as well as thousands of copyrights for songs through MPL Communications. He owns the Buddy Holly catalogue, among several others. MPL also is the owner of Brokeback Mountain and several other well-known films.
Among the superlatives credited to him (such as the author of the most often played and covered song in history and the writer of more hit records than anyone else), he also holds the record for the largest live performance – 184,000 in Rio's "Maracanã" stadium on April 21, 1990. He has presented over 3,000 live concerts.