Paul McCartney at 80: A Song for Every Decade

Paul McCartney
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They say it’s your birthday! With a career spanning eight decades, Paul McCartney has written, released and performed some of the world’s most-loved songs. Informed by love and loss alike, his music resonates with us all. In celebration of this milestone, we have delved into his catalogue and chosen a song we feel to be representative of each decade of his life. Happy 80th Birthday Sir Paul McCartney!

1950s – When I’m Sixty-Four

The melody to “When I’m Sixty-Four” was written at 20 Forthlin Road in 1956. Being around the age of 14, it was one of the first songs he wrote. John Lennon said: “Paul wrote it in the Cavern days. We just stuck a few more words on it like ‘grandchildren on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’… this was just one that was quite a hit with us.” The retro-rock love song was released on The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

1960s – Let It Be

“Let It Be” was written in 1968 and released on The Beatles’ album Let It Be in 1970. During a time of unrest in his life, McCartney had a dream in which his mother Mary, who had died of cancer when he was 14, reassured him with the words ‘Let It Be’. This hope-inducing song was the last single released before McCartney announced he was leaving the band.

1970s – Maybe I’m Amazed

In 1970, “Maybe I’m Amazed” was released on McCartney’s first solo album McCartney – written in tribute to his wife Linda who supported him through The Beatles’ break up. Linda sang backing vocals on the track. In 2009, McCartney said “Maybe I’m Amazed” is “the song he would like to be remembered for.” This reflective, sing-along hit is often lauded as his best solo work.

1980s – Here Today

“Here Today” was recorded in 1981 and released on McCartney’s 1982 album Tug of War. It recounted the love-hate relationship between himself and John, shortly after his song writing partners’ death. McCartney said he was ”kind of crying” whilst writing it. This personal, emotive song reached number 46 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts.

1990s – Little Willow

“Little Willow” was written in 1994 in response to the death of Maureen Cox, Ringo Starr’s first wife. McCartney said: “I wanted to convey how much I thought of her. For her and her kids. It certainly is heartfelt, and I hope it will help a bit.” This simple, direct affirmation was released on McCartney’s 1997 album Flaming Pie.

2000s – Something

Written in 1968 by George Harrison and released on The Beatles’ 1967 album Abbey Road, “Something” is often performed by McCartney in memory of his bandmate. After Harrison’s death in 2001, McCartney played a ukulele version of the song on his 2002-2003 world tour. A ukulele and rock arrangement of, according to Time magazine, the best track on Abbey Road is now a mainstay of his setlist.

2010s – FourFiveSeconds

“FourFiveSeconds” was recorded by Rihanna, Kanye West and McCartney and released in 2015. Forbes said “Musically “FourFiveSeconds” is a complete departure for both Rihanna and Kanye West, though it does fit McCartney’s style.” McCartney played acoustic guitar and sang backing vocals. His singing is masked by West’s vocals with the exception of the lines ‘we can run around’ and ‘how bout a mystery’. The trio’s performance of this hard-hitting folk-pop song at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards was highly praised by critics.

2020s – Slidin’

Started during the sessions for McCartney’s previous album Egypt Station, “Slidin’” was later finished and released on his 2020 album McCartney III. The album was recorded at his home studio in Sussex during the COVID lockdown. Of this fun, voluble rock song, McCartney said: I would listen to the Winter Olympics and hear the announcers saying ‘sliding’… when they meant Snowboarding or Skiing or Tobogganing. I just thought that’s a great, nice name for all of those… so I then started thinking of snowboarders and skiers and that became the song “Slidin’”.”

McCartney has played the last date of his Got Back tour in North America and will next week headline Glastonbury Festival – the oldest headliner in the festival’s history. We hope McCartney can continue to make music and perform for many years to come.