During Lollapalooza this past weekend, I encountered an unforgettable (in the worst way), yet remarkable situation as I was walking in to the festival early Friday afternoon. I was with a few of my girlfriends while they began chatting with a couple other female counterparts in front of us, all of us shuffling slowly toward the entrance gates, city skyline at our backs. Making small talk, one of these girls excitedly asked us whom we were seeing for the headliner, and told us she was going to see The Weeknd. She continued by saying that she, “wanted to see Paul McCartney, too, but only because she heard he was going to bring out Rihanna,” as a special guest. Now, if you’re the person who read this and thought to yourself, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, this article’s predominant goal is to explain that to you. My reaction to this statement—on the other hand—was more of a daunting combination between a panic attack, fainting, crying, and a horrible feeling trenching the gut of my stomach (or maybe I was just PMSing that day). Either way, as a diehard Beatles fan, this was the ultimate offense.
In January of this year, Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West released their single “Four Five Seconds,” and I could recall hearing several radio stations joke about the rare trio, and the youth generation’s common “Who’s this old guy?” reaction to the track. When this joke was spreading, I flirted with the thought, but didn’t actually think people my age were unaware of who Sir Paul was, and this was more of the disc jockeys’ stab at the assumed ignorant youth. That was until I had this encounter unravel before my eyes. In this moment I had a disheartening realization: the Beatles and the music of their era may have finally become lost on the current youth generation.
Although I know there are plenty Beatles/McCartney lovers my age, older and even younger out there, the situation I ran into this past weekend made me feel it necessary for some justice to be served. What I don’t want to do is make it seem like I’m bashing on my own generation for lack of musical knowledge, because I know everyone doesn’t have the same background. I was blessed with parents and a family who passed onto me a well-rounded, vast knowledge and love for music, and I understand this isn’t the case for everyone (thanks, Mom and Dad.) And maybe those people don’t even care! Or maybe they just don’t like the music of Paul McCartney and the Beatles. And that’s ok, too! But it must be said that this article isn’t to make those who had the first reaction discussed previously feel bad for feeling this way. Rather, the goal is to inform and pass onto you—fellow uninformed young readers—who exactly this old Paul McCartney guy is that your parents listen to, and five reasons as to why he is so important regarding any conversation about music and rock and roll.
1. He was a Beatle
Ok, hopefully everyone reading at least knows this part of information. The Beatles came to the United States in February of 1964, having not the slightest idea what their fame and music would amount to in the six short years between the time they arrived, and when the band broke-up in 1970. For the U.S., the Beatles were a representation of partnership and togetherness. At a time when race relations divided our nation—and our youth generation was destroyed by a war it couldn’t comprehend the reasons for being fought—the Beatles gave people something to believe in, and showed how a group of people can work together for the same cause. They even boldly spoke up against these issues in songs like “Blackbird” and “Revolution.”
When Paul and John Lennon first met in 1957 when John was to perform with his first band formerly known as The Quarrymen, Paul was mesmerized at the way John played the guitar and the wailing of his voice so many would come to recognize. John was similarly impressed that Paul could tune and play his guitar by ear, and had a knack for musical instruments that still shows more than five decades later (he would later play every instrument for his solo albums McCartney and McCartney II). It was this moment that began one of the greatest musical collaborations of all time.
And it stayed this way throughout their entire career. The Beatles were a band that so indubitably worked off of each other and relied on each individual. One member couldn’t exist without the other; it was a team and there was no frontman.
Watch Paul explain this idea when discussing how he wrote the song “Yesterday”:
2. He was a pioneer in the recording studio
While Red Roll is a medium that covers all things music, there is an obvious focus on the electronic music scene, or EDM. Many of our viewers may look at electronic music as something that began in the early 1990s in places such as Detroit and Chicago. Although it is this era that has made electronic music popular as a genre in the past 25 years or so, the idea and entity of electronic music dates much further back, and could boil down to a simple definition: music made by using electronic technologies (or something other than and/or incorporation with musical instruments). If we think of electronic music in this sense, Paul McCartney and the rest of the Beatles took popular radio music of its day and turned it into something entirely created and expressed in the studio, using established and advanced technologies that had never been used before. The Beatles became so popular during the 60s, they had to stop touring because the screaming crowds were so loud that their speakers couldn’t be heard. Not only this, but their recording techniques (with help of producer George Martin) and musical compilations became so complex, they could no longer be performed on stage. Some pioneered techniques they used were segmented isolation recordings, the usage of 4-tracks and overdubbing of voices.
Hear the Beatles’ music producer George Martin discuss the recording of the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”:
3. He is a knight
Yes, that’s right kids. In 1997, Paul McCartney became Sir Paul McCartney when Queen Elizabeth II knighted Paul, while acknowledging him and the rest of the Beatles members for their “services to music.”
Paul was also named a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1965. The music of Paul McCartney was so influential and important to music history, we now know him as the knight, Sir Paul.
4. He is an influence for musicians of all genres
As an avid music lover, something I always do when I find a new artist, group or band that I like is to perform a simple Google search to find out more information about their music. One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is there seems to be a pattern between musicians and artists of all genres of music: Paul McCartney/the Beatles always seem to appear under other artists’ musical influences.
In an interview with Access Hollywood, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters said:
When I was young, that’s how I learned how to play music– I had a guitar and a Beatles songbook. I would listen to the records and play along. Of course, it didn’t sound like the Beatles, but it got me to understand song structure and melody and harmony and arrangement. So, I never had a teacher– I just had these Beatles records.
5. He and his music are timeless
With producing over 50 albums throughout his +50 year long career, becoming a Guinness Book of World Records holder for most successful musician and contemporary songwriter in history, being the wealthiest rock star ever with a worth of over $1.5 billion and a fan base that extends throughout the entire world, Paul McCartney and his music are something that will never go out of style. No matter what new genres of music are becoming popular and taking over, McCartney’s legacy is one that—regardless of time—will remain prominent and everlasting.
So, for those of you out there who didn’t know who Paul McCartney was, or knew who he was but wrote him off as your parents’ music, recognize him now for what he truly is: a Beatle, a knight, a musical pioneer and a legend.