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To anyone living at the time, June 18, 1942 was likely a rather uneventful day. Little did they know that a little baby, a baby that would become one of the most influential musicians in the history of Earth, was born in Liverpool, England. His name was Paul McCartney. Perhaps some in the present time remain unfamiliar with this name, but there is no doubt that they are not unfamiliar with McCartney’s greatest affiliation: the Beatles.
The Beatles was an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960, and its members were John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and McCartney himself. Since the Beatles’ peak in the 1960s up to the present day, its music has been loved by millions of fans and played countless of times in countless countries – there is no denying the influence the Beatles had and still has in today’s society. Although it is true that his other bandmates played key roles in the popularity of the band, McCartney was arguably the most prominent member. Paul McCartney greatly influenced the Beatles band by applying his musical genius to create memorable songs, tarnishing their reputation by admitting drug use, and contributing to their disbandment.
As one of the main songwriters for the Beatles (the other one being John Lennon), McCartney had a direct hand in the musical success of the group and the popularity the band garnered over their unique music. He was involved in the writing of approximately 74 songs (out of a total of 209 songs recorded by the Beatles from 1960 to 1970). Additionally, 43 of the 74 songs were written by McCartney without any contribution from anyone else. Such statistics suggest a great devotion to the band and a passion (along with natural talent) for writing music. McCartney not only worked tirelessly onstage with his fellow bandmates concert after concert, but also behind the scenes to create songs that fans raved over. McCartney’s participation in the band’s songwriting was remarkable, but the style of his songwriting was even more so. McCartney was considered by many to be a natural talent, “producing technically ‘finished’ works almost entirely by instinct, his harmonic judgment based mainly on perfect pitch and an acute pair of ears.” His musical genius can be attributed to not only a creative mind but also McCartney’s proficiency in numerous musical instruments; he “played bass guitar, acoustic and electric guitars, piano and keyboards, and forty other musical instruments.” Such an ability to play a great variety of instruments was an important advantage to the Beatles. By being able to experiment with a diverse range of sounds, McCartney could supplement the Beatles with unique combinations of these sounds to back up their lyrics (and create songs that resonated with fans). Overall, McCartney’s contributions to the Beatles’ long list of top hits serve as testimony to his great influence on the group.
However, not all of McCartney’s influence on the Beatles can be considered as positive to the band. He was the first out of the Beatles members to admit to using drugs despite initially being hesitant to use them, thinking “that they alter your life and you never think the same again.” His confession of course tainted the Beatles’ previously clean reputation. Fans were shocked, and the media went in a craze over this confession. Paul McCartney attempted to mitigate this by saying, “I’m only telling the truth, I don’t know what everyone is so angry about.” He also explained that he was not trying to convince fans to use drugs simply because he did. Nevertheless, the damage had already been done. Since McCartney’s public remark on using LSD (a psychedelic drug) in 1967, the Beatles have been associated in pop culture with illegal drugs. Additionally, McCartney commented in an interview that he “saw God, this amazing towering thing, and was humbled” while taking DMT with Robert Fraser. Such a statement likely did not sit well with at least some of the Christian community at the time; after all, McCartney linked a religious, sacred figure to something with a dirty, negative connotation (an illegal drug). Even if McCartney’s words did not offend anyone in a religious context, they likely cheapened the Beatles’ image with the idea that the Beatles’ members were foolish and suscpetible to hallucinating. Although all the Beatles used drugs at some point and contributed to the band’s drug-laced reputation, McCartney had the most influence because he took charge in revealing their use of drugs and their reliance on them.
Despite being one of the most involved in the band and greatly influencing the Beatles’ image, McCartney was ironically the one to play the largest role in its disbandment. He himself admitted this without hesitation, stating that “when the Beatles broke up…the residue was that I was to blame. I was the one who broke the Beatles up.” Of course, it is possible that McCartney exaggerated his involvement in the disbandment of the Beatles to make himself appear more significant, but there is no denying that he took initiative in breaking the band up. He was the first to voice dissatisfaction with their collaboration; McCartney explained that he “was not interested in spending his…days farting around…while everyone made up their mind whether they want to do it or not.” As a passionate musician eager to continue producing creative content, McCartney was frankly disappointed at his fellow bandmates’ supposed loss of enthusiasm for the band. In other words, McCartney felt frustrated because he put a significant amount of effort into the band without seeing an equal amount of support from the other members. Furthermore, McCartney was responsible committing “the last straw” by filing a lawsuit against Lennon, Harrison, Starr and Apple Corps. (Lennon, Harrison and Star appointed Allen Klein as the Beatles’ new manager; McCartney wanted John and Lee Eastman instead since he did not trust Klein.) This lawsuit, along with a public statement that “his writing partnership with Lennon was over and his time in the Beatles (was) done,” effectively ended the Beatles era. Had McCartney not voiced discontent over his bandmates’ apathetic attitude or failed to file a lawsuit, it is possible that the Beatles would have continued on and produce subpar music reflecting Lennon, Harrison and Starr’s loss in enthusiasm for the band. Thus, there was a silver lining to McCartney causing the disbandment of the Beatles. By breaking up the Beatles before tensions could further increase, McCartney prevented the degrading of their song quality and cemented the Beatles’ reputation for producing superb music.
Paul McCartney contributed greatly to the Beatles’ downfall, but one must not forget the lasting legacy he had on the band. A renowned song that reflected McCartney’s importance in the band was a song he wrote himself: “Yesterday.” This song, which has been covered over 3000 times, described a breakup and the feelings of regret that came with it. His prodigious ability to spontaneously write touching lyrics was clearly evidenced by this song; it “fell out of bed” and was “so fully formed upon waking that he was sure he must have unconsciously plagiarized a melody he’d heard somewhere else.” To say the least, this song was extremely original and certainly not copied from elsewhere. Critics praised its creativity, commenting that it “captured the Beatles’ inventive spirit” and “opened the door to a willingness to experiment with new sounds.” Overall, “Yesterday” was a masterpiece in the sense that it evoked strong emotions in listeners and incorporated McCartney’s proficiency with musical instruments. It was (and still is) a timeless classic and will continue to reflect McCartney’s musical influence on the Beatles.
McCartney was arguably the most influential member of the Beatles because he was responsible for writing (and singing) many of their top hits, popularizing their reputation for drug use and causing their breakup. His influence was not limited to just the Beatles however; he influenced European society as a whole. During the Beatles’ peak in the 1960s, the Cold War was rampant and many Europeans felt anxiety over the possibility of nuclear war. McCartney’s skillful songwriting helped to bring cheerfulness to millions worldwide (especially in Britain and the US) during a time in which society was in a depressed, bleak state; this was what made the Beatles so appealing. Paul McCartney changed European pop culture drastically this way, and he will be remembered as a remarkable musician for many generations to come.
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- Quinn, Ben. “Paul McCartney ‘Saw God’ after Taking Drugs during Beatles Heyday.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Sept. 2018, www.theguardian.com/music/2018/sep/02/paul-mccartney-saw-god-after-taking-drugs-during-beatles-heyday.
- Rolling Stone. “100 Greatest Beatles Songs.” Rolling Stone, 19 Sept. 2011, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/100-greatest-beatles-songs-154008/yesterday-2-181637/.
- Shelokhonov, Steve. “Paul McCartney.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/name/nm0005200/bio.
- Telegraph Reporters. “Paul McCartney on Beatles Split: ‘John Wanted Yoko’.” The Telegraph, 12 Sept. 2018.
- Thomson, Rex. “The Story Behind The End Of The Beatles, On This Day In 1970.” Live 4 Live Music, L4LM, 9 Apr. 2018, liveforlivemusic.com/features/the-story-behind-the-end-of-the-beatles-on-this-day-in-1970/.
- Wonfor, Geoff and Bob Smeaton, directors. The Beatles Anthology. EMI Records, 1995.
 The Beatles Box Score: John Outhits Paul
 The Beatles Box Score: John Outhits Paul
 Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties
 Paul McCartney Biography
 Drug Use Belied Beatles’ Squeaky-Clean Image
 The Beatles Anthology
 Watch Paul McCartney DRUGS Confession But No Apology
 Paul McCartney “saw God” after taking drugs during Beatles heyday
 Paul McCartney on Beatles Split
 Why the Beatles Broke Up
 The Story of Paul McCartney’s Lawsuit to Break Up the Beatles
 The Beatles Encyclopedia
 The Story Behind the End of the Beatles, On this Day in 1970
 Paul McCartney Biography
 100 Greatest Beatles Songs
 100 Greatest Beatles Songs
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