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Paul McCartney: How the ‘Cute Beatle’ Spread His Wings

Paul McCartney: How the ‘Cute Beatle’ Spread His Wings
English songwriter and pop star Paul McCartney on his farm near Rye, Sussex on January 28, 1980. David Harris/Keystone/Getty Images

The unyielding drive and ambition that Paul McCartney had brought to The Beatles, helping to launch them to the greatest heights, he now brought to bear on his solo career.

Paul had always been the most attuned to the commercial tastes of the public, and he continued to churn out hit after hit, many years after The Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road” had come to an end.

Throughout the 1970s, he was the unrivaled king of pop songwriting. It seemed that everything he touched turned to gold — and platinum.

In America alone, he had nine No. 1 singles and seven No. 1 albums during the first 12 years of his solo career!

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He recorded his very first solo album, McCartney, at his home in London and watched it soar to No. 1 on the eve of the Beatles’ Let It Be.

At the end of 1971, Paul formed his new group Wings, with his wife, Linda. Record sales were great, but the critics savaged the McCartneys, questioning Linda’s musical bona fides and endlessly comparing Paul’s solo work to that of former partner John Lennon’s. Paul’s work was dismissed as bland pap for the masses, while Lennon was generally praised for having a harder edge.

During his Beatle days, Paul had written optimistic tunes like “Getting Better” and “Good Day Sunshine,” but it wasn’t until 1973 that things really started getting better.

Paul McCartney: How the ‘Cute Beatle’ Spread His Wings

He scored a double win that year, first recording the theme song for the James Bond movie Live and Let Die and then releasing the superb Band on the Run album, which featured classics like the title track and “Jet” and a parody of John Lennon, “Let Me Roll It.” Finally, he’d won over the critics. From then on, McCartney could do little wrong. More hit albums — Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound followed in the mid-’70s, together with a string of hit singles, such as “Silly Love Songs” and “Let ’Em In.” Wings’ first international tour broke records, too, and was captured on a sprawling live triple album, Wings Over America.

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Paul wasn’t done breaking records. His 1977 single “Mull of Kintyre” — an ode to his Scottish home — became the biggest-selling British single of all time, selling more than two million copies. McCartney had literally outdone himself — the country’s previous highest-selling single had been “She Loves You” by The Beatles. But he wasn’t immune to great difficulty.

He was rocked by John’s murder and wrote “Here Today” in tribute to his lost partner and oldest friend.

That same year, he was busted for marijuana possession in a Japanese airport and faced 10 years in prison, but was happily released after only 10 days.

He found a new writing partner in Michael Jackson, but the alliance crumbled when Michael bought the rights to Paul and John’s Beatles songs behind his back.

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In 1998, he was devastated when he lost Linda — the love of his life — to cancer when she was only 56. Friends described him as “shipwrecked” after her death.

Just three years later, he was brought low again by George Harrison’s death, saying; “He’s a lovely man, I love him dearly and I like to remember all the great times we had. I’m very sad for all of us.”

He bounced back, playing a lead role in staging “The Concert for New York” to raise funds after the devastating 9/11 attacks, but a misguided marriage to much- younger model Heather Mills ended in a costly divorce.

Now 76, Paul has found happiness again in marriage to New Yorker Nancy Shevell and continues to be a monolith on the concert and pop music scene today.

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