24 Things You Didn’t Know About Sir Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney Guitar

Paul McCartney Guitar by Jimmy Baikovicius (CC BY-SA)

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The Beatles
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Man on the Run

Sir Paul McCartney turns 81 on June 18, and in those eight decades he's gifted the world with some of the most timeless music ever written. He still has seemingly boundless energy to continue making movie cameos, raise money for countless charities and causes, and is even still selling out stadiums on his latest tour. So while you celebrate his birthday with your favorite Beatles and Wings hits, expand your trivia knowledge about this living legend. 

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney by Raph_PH (CC BY)

His First Name Is James

Paul is his middle name, not his first name. He was named after his father, James. To avoid confusion his family started calling him Paul, and it stuck. Somehow, "James McCartney" just doesn't sound like a Beatle.  

Choir by Government Press Office (Israel) (CC BY-SA)

He Failed Two Choir Auditions

Sir Paul may be one of the world's most beloved singers, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, he failed two choir auditions when he was a boy. The first one was because he didn't want to be in the choir, so he purposely blew it, while the second was a true rejection. Still, he eventually did make the choir whether he wanted to or not.  

Related: 22 Locations From Famous Songs That You Can Actually Visit

Paul McCartney & John Lennon
PICRYL Public Domain

He Lost His Mom at 14

McCartney's teenage years were difficult. His mother, a nurse, died during a breast cancer surgery when Paul was only 14. That left Paul's father to raise him and his brother alone. John Lennon also lost his mother at a young age to a tragic accident, and that shared traumatic loss helped John and Paul bond. 

Let It Be
Let It Be by Bradford Timeline (CC BY-NC)

‘Mother Mary’ Was His Mother

The line in "Let It Be" about Mother Mary isn't about a religious figure, it's about Paul's mother, whose name was Mary. Ten years after she died, he had a dream that she came to him and gave him advice. That dream helped inspire one of the most memorable and moving pop songs of all time.

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His First Instrument Was a Trumpet

Though we now associate Paul McCartney most closely with a guitar or bass, his first instrument was actually a trumpet. His father played the trumpet, so for his birthday, he gave his teenage son one. But since Paul was into rock and roll, he didn't appreciate that he couldn't sing while playing the trumpet, and switched to guitar. 

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Paul McCartney Guitar
Paul McCartney Guitar by Jimmy Baikovicius (CC BY-SA)

He's a Lefty

Paul is a southpaw, which presented a problem when he was learning how to play the guitar. He finally figured out that he had to restring the instrument and play it upside down in order to make it work for him. Good thing he was persistent.

Related: 50 Famous Left-Handed People Who Changed the World

McCartney piano

His Family's Piano Came From a Serendipitous Source

The McCartney family's upright piano came from a music store that was owned by the parents of Brian Epstein. Epstein eventually became The Beatles' manager, and was even known as the Fifth Beatle. Talk about a coincidence. 

Deported Beatles
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He Was Deported from Germany

Before the Beatles got big, they were on tour in Hamburg in 1960. Their contract to play at a local club was canceled, so they went to their room to pack their things. For some reason, perhaps because it was too dark and they needed more light to see, they lit a condom on fire and nailed it to the wall. Nothing caught on fire, but the building owner saw the burn marks and called the police. The band spent the night in jail under suspicion of arson before being deported. 

Related: Famous Places to Revisit the 1960s in America and Beyond

Paul & Linda
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He Didn't Invite the Other Beatles to His Wedding

When Paul married Linda Eastman in 1969, none of his other bandmates were on the invite list. It was a small ceremony, but you'd still expect Paul to invite the guys, especially Lennon. But they got married in the time before the band officially broke up, and things weren't going well in their relationships as they fought over things like new managers, wives' involvements, and creative differences.  

The Family Way

His First Solo Project Was in 1966

While he won notice for his solo work after the Beatles, Paul's first solo project happened while the band was still together in 1966. He composed the soundtrack of the film "The Family Way" along with the George Martin Orchestra. Though he was enthusiastic about the project, he ended up only being minimally involved. 

The Beatles
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One Hit Started Out as Scrambled Eggs

The tune for the iconic song "Yesterday" literally came to Paul in a dream. He figured he'd heard the melody sometime in the past, but it was an original. The first lyrics he wrote for it were nonsense to keep the melody, and were, "scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs." Thankfully, he finally decided on a better three-syllable word.  

Gatti's Pizza

He Flew Pizzas on the Concorde

It's no surprise that Paul McCartney is a rich man. And while he's a philanthropist, he also enjoys the spoils of his work. One time, that even included ordering a pizza delivery from New York to London on a Concorde jet. Apparently, even he knows that NYC has the best pizza in the world. 

Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney by Fiona (CC BY-SA)

He Performed Live for Outer Space

In 2005, McCartney became the first musician to broadcast live music to outer space, and even holds the Guinness World Record for it. He broadcast a live wake-up call to astronauts on the International Space Station during a concert he was performing in Anaheim. The broadcast lasted about 15 minutes and included a conversation between McCartney and the astronauts and two songs — including "Good Day Sunshine."

John Lennon and Paul McCartney
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He Wrote More No. 1 Hits Than Lennon

… At least if you look at the U.S. charts. McCartney and Lennon were an unmatched songwriting pair, but separately they created countless hits as well. Paul has 33 No. 1 hits in the U.S. compared to Lennon's 26. But in the UK, Lennon has 29 No. 1s compared to McCartney's 28. 

Related: 12 Enduring Quotes From John Lennon

Paul McCartney
Wikimedia Commons

He Makes a Half Million Dollars on One Christmas Song Each Year

It's hard to go anywhere in December and not hear "Wonderful Christmastime" playing. Accordingly, royalties from that song alone are estimated to be between $400,000 and $600,000 each year. Given that, he's probably made at least $16 million on that one song since it was released.

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Airplane by Kuhnmi (CC BY-SA)

He Was on a Plane on Sept. 11

During the attacks of Sept. 11, McCartney was actually sitting in a plane on the tarmac at JFK airport in New York. From his window he saw the plumes rising after the planes hit the towers. After that tragic event unfolded, he organized a benefit concert that raised over $77 million for charity and first responders in just one night. It was so successful that the New York Police Department made him an honorary detective for it.

Tokyo by Chris 73 (CC BY-SA)

He Spent Time in a Tokyo Jail

Being deported from Germany was not McCartney's only run-in with the law: He's also been busted for marijuana possession a number of times. One of the most famous incidents was when Japanese authorities found a half-pound of marijuana in his suitcase at the Tokyo airport in 1980 when he was on tour with Wings. All of their upcoming concerts were canceled as he spent 10 days in jail. He faced a 7-year sentence, but he was released and immediately deported instead. 

Badgreeb Records / Flickr

Wings Was Not the Original Name of His Band

Wings is a lovely, airy name for a band, but it wasn't what McCartney was originally going to name his after-Beatles project. He had decided to call it Turpentine until a Scottish fan pointed out that it's what you use to remove paint — and suggested they name the band the Dazzlers. Luckily, McCartney eventually decided on Wings over any of those options.

The Beatles
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His Voice Cracked on his Debut

McCartney's first official gig was on October 18, 1957, when he appeared onstage with the Quarrymen, the band that would soon become the Beatles. It was not a momentous occasion, though. The performance was largely forgettable, especially when it came to McCartney's first solo — his voice kept cracking. John Lennon, who was also in the band already, supposedly found it incredibly amusing and laughed at him. 

Lisa Simpson

Lisa Simpson Is a Vegetarian Because of Him

McCartney and his late wife Linda are famously vegetarians. They lived on a farm and Paul is an animal rights activist. But besides convincing a lot of fans to explore vegetarianism, he also convinced the creators of "The Simpsons" to make Lisa Simpson vegetarian for the entirety of the show. When he agreed to guest star on an episode of the show with Linda in 1995, it was under the condition that the character would remain vegetarian, and she has ever since. 

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean by Tomás J. Sepúlveda (CC BY)

He Had a Cameo in a Pirate Movie

Many famous faces have had cameos in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise, and that includes McCartney. He made a quick appearance in "Dead Men Tell No Tales" as Jack Sparrow's uncle. He actually replaced legendary rocker Keith Richards, who was going to reprise his role as the pirate's father, but wasn't available for filming.

Paul McCartney Paintings

He's a Painter

Not only does McCartney make musical art, he makes visual art, too. He's an avid art fan and has become a prolific painter. Dozens of his paintings have been exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, where he and Lennon used to spend time together. He kept his passion for painting a secret for many years, but let the cat out of the bag in 2000 at his first exhibit.

Steve Jobs
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He Sued Steve Jobs Three Times

Founded in 1968 by the Beatles, Apple Corps is a worldwide record label and holding company. In 1976, Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer, and there were a number of legal disputes related to their competing trademark rights, especially once Apple Computer released the iPod and got into the music business. After a number of lawsuits and settlements, McCartney and Jobs became friends, and the Beatles finally agreed to offer their catalog in the iTunes store. 

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson by Constru-centro (CC BY-SA)

He Feuded with Michael Jackson

While collaborating with Michael Jackson in the early 1980s on a couple of hits, McCartney gave Jackson some business advice, which included getting into music publishing. Jackson's response was that he was going to buy McCartney's music one day, but it seemed like a joke. Not long after that conversation, Jackson bid and acquired 251 Beatles songs in 1985 for $47 million. McCartney was understandably miffed, and was very vocal about it. He didn't get the rights back to his music until 2017. 

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