I am listening to McCartney III, the new Paul album, recorded at age 78 with Paul playing all of the instruments and doing all of the production at home. There is no “Hey Jude” on here, but it is pretty good and given the broader context it is remarkable. I recently linked to an Ian Leslie post on 64 reasons why Paul is underrated, but I don’t think he comes close to the reality.
Paul has been writing songs and performing since 1956, with no real breaks. Perhaps he has written more hit songs than anyone else. He brought the innovations of Cage and Stockhausen into popular music, despite having no musical education and growing up in the Liverpool dumps. His second act, Wings, sold more records in its time than the Beatles did. On a lark he decided to learn techno/EDM and put out five perfectly credible albums in that area. He decided to learn how to compose classical music, and after some initial missteps his Ecce Cor Meum is perhaps the finest British choral work in a generation, worthy of say Britten or Nicholas Maw. And that is from a guy who can’t really read music. He has learned how to play most of the major musical instruments, typically well. He can compose and play and perform in virtually every musical genre, including heavy metal, blues, music hall, show tunes, ballads, rockers, Latin music, pastiche, psychedelia, electronic music, Devo-style robot-pop, drone, lounge, reggae, and more and more and more.
His vocal range once spanned over four octaves, he is sometimes considered the greatest bass player in the history of rock and roll, and he was the first popular musician to truly master the recording studio, again with zero initial technical or musical education of any sort.
He is perhaps the quickest learner the music world ever has seen.
He has collaborated with John Lennon, George Harrison, George Martin, Ravi Shankar, Jimmy McCullough, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Carl Perkins, Kiri Te Kanawa, David Gilmour, Kanye West, Rihanna, and numerous others. He wrote the best theme song for any James Bond movie. He was the workaholic of the Beatles. He was one of the most influential individuals worldwide, including behind the Iron Curtain, in the 1960s and sometimes beyond.
He was a very keen businessman in buying up the rights to music IP at just the right time, making him a billionaire.
He is OK enough as a painter, has been an effective propagandist for vegetarianism, active in numerous charities, and has put out two (?) children’s books, which I strongly doubt are ghostwritten. He has been very active as a father in raising five children, while touring regularly, often intensely. He had planned to be touring this summer at age 78, with a world class show spanning two and a half hours with Paul taking no break or even letting up (I saw the previous tour).
There is no backward-bending supply curve for this one.
If you are looking to study careers, Paul McCartney’s career is one of the very best and most instructive.