It’s hard to believe, but today is Paul McCartney’s 75th birthday. How did this even happen? The man who once imagined in song what it would be like when he was 64 is now eleven years older than that — and rather than resting on his laurels, he’s still out there touring and making great music. So, in honour of the occasion, I wanted to celebrate his incredible longevity.
It’s a sad fact of life that we are now having to say goodbye to many of the greatest artists of the past few decades; 2016 alone was a terrible year for musical legends (and indeed others in the arts) passing away. With The Beatles, we lost both John and George some years ago. It’s a reminder of how truly blessed we are to still have Paul and Ringo.
We’re also lucky that both are in good enough shape at their respective ages to continue performing. Paul in particular doesn’t seem to have slowed down at all. Having just recently played in Japan, he’s now about to tour America for the next few months, with rumoured dates in Australia at the end of the year. It’s an unbelievable schedule for a 75-year-old to undertake, yet it doesn’t seem to faze him at all.
There are, of course, indications that he’s not getting any younger. His voice, for example, has changed quite a lot over the last few years. It sounds older and somewhat deeper, and he can no longer hit the high notes like he used to. But it doesn’t seem to matter. On his most recent studio album, 2013’s New, he used it to his advantage. And as far as his stage performances are concerned, he seems to have a limitless supply of energy.
As any McCartney fan will tell you, his live shows are an experience you will never forget. All tastes are catered for in the setlist, with Beatles classics sitting alongside Wings and solo hits as well as the occasional deep cut and any new material that happens to have been released. For longtime fans, a McCartney concert is like a musical journey through the various stages of their lives, while for younger fans it’s a chance to see their hero up close, performing the songs they’ve connected with so deeply.
And speaking of new material, there’s been plenty of it. Many older artists seem content to tour their greatest hits relentlessly, which is understandable in a way given that record sales aren’t what they used to be. But Paul is one of those artists who has carried on making new albums on a regular basis (the newest of which is due for release later this year), purely because songwriting is what he does. He’s known to be remarkably prolific, and how he doesn’t run out of ideas for melodies after five-plus decades is admirable. What’s more, he knows he probably won’t sell anything like the number of albums he used to (who does these days?) but is prepared to keep making them, both for his own satisfaction and for his loyal fanbase. After all, it’s not like he needs the money.
Whatever your opinions on Paul’s 21st century output (which I personally feel, for the most part, is very strong), you have to admire his constant desire to experiment. He’s always keen to collaborate with other artists (as he showed in earlier years with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Elvis Costello) and continues to do so, with people like Kanye West and Rihanna. He’s even crossed genres, composing and releasing various classical works and pairing with bassist and producer Youth for the experimental/ambient Fireman project, which has so far yielded three albums.
It’s no secret that Paul has received his fair share of condemnation over the years. During the ’70s, critics constantly compared his solo material to John Lennon’s (mostly unfavourably) and, after John’s death, he was often painted as the less important of the two. But while there will always be people who think like this, over the years many of his detractors have come to realise all he’s achieved throughout his amazing career.
In ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, he wondered if we would still need him many years from now. Of course, the answer was yes — and now that he’s 75, it still is.