Paul McCartney’s brilliant pop songs

On June 18th Paul McCartney will celebrate his 75th birthday. As a composer of pop songs, the stature of the former Beatle is unprecedented.

Many Beatles songs were officially written by Lennon / McCartney as a duo. Nevertheless, McCartney’s influence on the music of the most successful pop group of the sixties is evident. McCartney was the creator of subtle harmonic shifts that turned simple melodies into brilliant pop songs.

Paul McCartney live

Paul McCartney live

The Beatles recorded their albums collectively. But if you listen to McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’ you don’t hear any other Beatle sing or play apart from the composer’s voice and his guitar. McCartney enriched the recognizable melody with a subtle string arrangement. With 2200 different versions, ‘Yesterday’ is one of the most covered songs ever. Countless improvised versions have turned ‘Yesterday’ into a jazz standard as well.

On ‘Eleanor Rigby’ McCartney went even further: a choir and a string ensemble accompanied his solo voice. The Beatles were pioneers in many ways; for each album explored new musical areas. Most of these experiments took place in the recording studio. During the second half of the 1960s the group retreated from public performances.

Other Beatles songs that McCartney put his mark on include: ‘Michelle’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘And I Love Her’. McCartney didn’t only create the song melodies; his instrumental second parts had their own independent function. Recent instrumental renditions by Brad Mehldau and Robin Nolan put ‘And I Love Her’ in a different, unexpected glorious light.

My Valentine

My Valentine

In 1991 McCartney was commissioned to compose a work for the 150th anniversary of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. This ‘Liverpool Oratio’ was performed by the Liverpool Cathedral Choir and Kiri te Kanawa was one of the soloists. Opinions about McCartney’s classical piece differed: The Guardian was downright negative, The New York Times heard boring passages but some beautiful sections as well. The recording reached the number one position of the classical top 10. In 2000, McCartney recorded an album with electronic music: Liverpool Sound Collage, which included references to the history of The Beatles. When Prince Charles appointed him as an honorary member of the Royal College of Music McCartney responded: “Not bad for anyone who can’t read music!”

The 2012 album Kisses On The Bottom featured the (unexpected) jewel ‘My Valentine’. Nearly fifty years after ‘Yesterday’ McCartney had been able to write a new timeless song. ‘My Valentine’ is Paul McCartney at his very best: some sophisticated chord sequences, well written lyrics about love and a melody that sounds like it has always existed. A silly love song by a 75-years-old genius who achieved everything, but who – deep down in his heart – has always remained one of the lads from Liverpool.

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Paul McCartney