Saturday, June 18, 2016
Today is James Paul McCartney's 74th birthday. He's spending it on the road, playing 2-hour+ outdoor arena shows in the summer heat. I am in awe. I've been at those shows and am exhausted when they're over. I don't know how he does it.
But I'm grateful he still can.
Before Muhammad Ali's death, I read that -- along with Barack Obama -- Ali and Sir Paul were the most recognized men on the planet. Looked at that way, he really has no peers.
But I found myself thinking of His Lordship a lot as I read the two wonderful, massive Sinatra biographies by James Kaplan. Frank Sinatra is certainly his peer. In addition to an astonishing and genuinely moving musical and film career, Frank Sinatra had a tempestuous personal life, littered with a staggering number of lovers and exploded friendships and brushes with the Feds over his mob connections.
Elvis is certainly his peer. And Paul's greatest single musical influence. The only King America has ever produced. Dead at 42, Elvis was also a genuine American tragedy.
There's John, of course. Paul's friend and partner. Yin to his yang. Murdered at 40. But even if John hadn't stopped to sign that autograph on that December night more than 35 years ago, do any of us believe he'd still be on the road, making new music and thrilling new generations of fans? I'm afraid I don't. Like Sinatra and Elvis, John was plagued by demons. Rages and addictions. An estranged son. A battered ex-wife. A weakness for women, for groupies, for flatterers. Like Sinatra, John Lennon had a sharp intellect, an insatiable curiosity, and perhaps too great a sensitivity to easily deal with this world.
And then there's Paul. Married 29 years to The Lovely Linda. At her funeral -- after a grueling battle with cancer, after decades together, after raising four children -- a tearful Paul said, "She was my girlfriend. I lost my girlfriend." I find that enormously touching. Now married five years to Nancy. Even during the tabloid circus nightmare of his marriage to Heather Mills, there were never rumors of infidelity. His four adult children are all out in the world, living artistic and productive lives. He is a grandfather.
He's avoided the addictions and promiscuity that bedeviled Sinatra and Elvis and John. In addition to the songs that have become anthems of love for generations, he has exhibited a strength of character that deserves attention and applause.
Happy Birthday, dear Paul. Happy Birthday to you. And, please, many more.