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When I get older: Paul McCartney going strong at 80

Paul McCartney turns 80 on Saturday and a week later becomes the oldest headliner to play at the Glastonbury Festival.

The singer-songwriter has been married three times, and has a son and four daughters, plus eight grandchildren. — © AFP
The singer-songwriter has been married three times, and has a son and four daughters, plus eight grandchildren. — © AFP
Charles ONIANS

Paul McCartney turns 80 on Saturday and a week later becomes the oldest headliner to play at the Glastonbury Festival. There’s even been talk of the ex-Beatle being made a lord before the year is out.

Not bad for a kid from a working-class family in Liverpool after almost 60 years topping the charts.

Between his years with the Fab Four, his work with Wings and his solo career, McCartney has written or co-written more than 50 top 10 singles.

During lockdown in 2020, “Macca”, as he is affectionately known, recorded “McCartney III” on his own and it became his first UK solo number one album since 1989.

McCartney and The Beatles returned to the spotlight last year thanks to director Peter Jackson’s eight-hour documentary “Get Back” about the making of their 1970 album “Let It Be”.

With a string of 80th birthday events planned in Liverpool, British media have reported that McCartney could be made a peer of the realm — 25 years after he was first knighted.

– ‘Grandude’ –

His knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II was upgraded five years ago to admit Sir Paul to the even rarer Order of the Companions of Honour, which recognises outstanding achievement throughout the Commonwealth.

Paul McCartney turns 80 on Saturday and is still performing

Paul McCartney turns 80 on Saturday and is still performing – Copyright AFP Leon Neal

A source told The Sun newspaper in March that “the idea of offering him the chance to sit as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords has been mooted.

“He has given incredible service to British culture, so it could be a very fitting tribute and mark of all that he has done for his country.”

McCartney married his third wife, US heiress Nancy Shevell, 62, in 2011, and has eight grandchildren, who he says call him “Grandude”.

The Sunday Times Rich List estimates that the couple are together worth £861 million ($1.03 billion, 992 million euros).

That marriage came after his bitter divorce from model-turned-campaigner Heather Mills in 2008, who walked away from six years of wedlock with a settlement worth £24.3 million.

Born in the port city of Liverpool in northwest England, McCartney met John Lennon at the age of 15 and the pair formed the Quarrymen, the skiffle band that eventually metamorphosed into the Beatles.

McCartney and Ringo Starr are the only surviving Beatles. — © AFP

McCartney, Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr would become synonymous with mobs of screaming fans, mop-top haircuts, and an image of four men strolling over London’s Abbey Road at a zebra crossing.

Simply put, they were one of the most powerful cultural influences of their era.

They are also the best-selling band in history, with their record label EMI estimating all-time sales of more than a billion discs and tapes.

Relentlessly imaginative, the band would develop the catchy tunes that sparked “Beatlemania” in 1964 into an evolving sound incorporating every influence from psychedelia to country and western.

– ‘Total heartbreak’ –

Lennon and McCartney formed one of the most celebrated songwriting partnerships of the 20th century, but their creative differences ultimately helped bring about the Beatles’ break-up in 1970.

McCartney formed Wings with his first wife Linda in 1971, and used his ingenious ear for melody — which had earlier given life to classics such as “Hey Jude” and “Blackbird” — to rack up a decade of hits with the new group.

Linda, a renowned photographer and animal rights activist, died of breast cancer in 1998. After 29 years of marriage, McCartney described the loss as “total heartbreak”.

But he was back late the next year with a new album, of mainly cover versions, and has continued the Beatles’ experimental tradition — a techno record and two classical works are among more than a dozen solo studio albums.

He has also famously duetted with the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and in 2012 fronted a brief Nirvana reunion.

And his top-streaming song on Spotify, above any Beatles song, is his 2015 collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna, “FourFiveSeconds”.

Away from music, the singer has dabbled in painting, directed the film “Give My Regards To Broad Street”, and campaigned on causes ranging from animal rights to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

He has a son and four daughters — including high-profile fashion designer Stella, and Beatrice, born to Mills in 2003.

McCartney and The Beatles were one of the most powerful cultural influences of the 20th century. — © AFP/File

Of the four Beatles, two have since died: Lennon was shot dead in New York in 1980 and Harrison from cancer in 2001.

Drummer Ringo Starr is still very much alive and due to start touring again later this year, aged 81.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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