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Perhaps best known for his work with the influential British rock and roll quartet the Beatles, Paul McCartney emerged from the group to embark on a successful solo career through the 1970s and 1980s. Born in Liverpool in 1942, McCartney was raised by his father after the death of his mother in 1956. A musician, McCartney’s father encouraged his children to learn musical instruments and sing. He bought young Paul a trumpet that was traded, with the rise of rock and roll, for an acoustic guitar. Left-handed, McCartney reversed the order of his strings, inspired by a Slim Whitman poster.
In 1957, McCartney joined John Lennon’s band the Quarrymen as a rhythm guitarist, enlisted his friend George Harrison, and by 1960, as the Beatles, the band had traveled to Germany for a series of club residencies. Now a bassist, through 1970, McCartney and Lennon proved to be the primary creative engine behind the group’s songwriting and thirteen studio albums. He became the group’s leader after the death of manager Brian Epstein in 1967, while other members were beginning to explore their options outside the band.
After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, McCartney released his solo debut, McCartney. Following 1971’s Ram, McCartney formed Wings and, through 1981, released seven albums and toured successfully. Bolstered by tensions between members and McCartney, Wings broke up in 1981 and, once again, McCartney embarked on a solo career. The trajectory of his electronic-oriented McCartney II, released in 1980, continued through his collaborative work in the 1980s with artists including Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. He returned to touring in 1989 and, through the 1990s, focused on orchestral work and the release of the Beatles Anthology collection. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, McCartney (who had been situated in a plane on the tarmac at John F Kennedy airport at the time) helped to organize the Concert for New York City and wrote “Freedom,” released on November 2001’s album Driving Rain.
Through the 2010s, McCartney was regularly featured as the first performer for new venues and managed to continually draw large crowds. In the 2010s, he began to collaborate with a new cohort of pop artists including Rihanna and, in 2014, Kanye West. Throughout his career, McCartney’s ownership of the McCartney-Lennon collection of Beatles songs has often been in contention. He settled with Sony in 2017 for an undisclosed amount and maintained control over his music. He received myriad accolades, was inducted into the Rock and Hall of Fame twice, and received a knighthood from the Queen.