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Paul McCartney defied the curse of irrelevance and re-emerged an 80-year-old rebel



Since binning the hair dye and meeting Nancy Shevel, he is thriving and deserves to be celebrated

June 19, 2022 3:49 pm(Updated 3:58 pm)

I am suffering terrible Fomo (fear of missing out). This week my “dad rock”-loving daughters will be at Glastonbury, enjoying our greatest living singer-songwriter perform in front of what may be the largest audience in the 50 glorious years of the world’s best music festival. Sir Paul McCartney has turned 80 and it is difficult to overstate his seminal influence and unparalleled status in not only Britain’s, but the world’s pop culture.

Think about it: multiple generations being genuinely excited by the opportunity to share in some of the world’s best-loved songs, performed by an 80-year-old, who has spent the past week in the US, fronting three-hour shows with superstars like Bruce Springsteen thrilled to share a stage with him. McCartney has achieved the most difficult of all tricks in modern culture: he has become relevant again, despite decades of being dismissed as a “saddo”. He has made it “cool” to be 80.

Imagine being Macca. Imagine being the face of so many millions looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves ageing, wistful for our youth. Imagine how many of us have lived with The Beatles’ music as the background soundtrack to our lives. McCartney has survived successively being the person who fell out with the sainted John Lennon as The Beatles disintegrated; the bizarre mythologies that surrounded his supposed evil influence or that the “real Paul” died in a car crash; being the person who created the Marmite sound of a second huge band, Wings; being (along with Ringo) the Beatle who didn’t die, unlike poor John and George; some truly dreadful songs like Ebony and Ivory and The Girl is Mine; being the poster boy for hair dye and the “there’s no fool like an old fool” humiliation of his tabloid-fodder marriage to Heather Mills.

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That period was emblematic of the “relevance” problem of being a middle-aged white man in contemporary culture – with a notable exception. For a global icon, McCartney has stayed relatively down to earth. He appears to be the serial monogamist rock star; his kids went to the local comprehensive and have all turned out to be grounded; he never flaunted his wealth ostentatiously; he even had no drugs scandal apart from possessing weed in Japan. He has also appeared on the right side of the past 50 years’ culture wars.

For much of that time, he was dissed by many as “uncool” or “lame”. Of course, he was. The Beatles had blown everything up decades before. Our culture ridicules ageing rebels; ageing humans gradually lose their voice and get patronised. Through it all, McCartney was sustained by the love not only of his family, but a fervent global fanbase.

Then there’s the talent. I once had the unforgettable privilege of dinner with the fifth Beatle, Sir George Martin, who was adamant that “Paul” was by far the most talented musician and composer he had worked with. He should know. Yes, Macca may be the cheesiest superstar, with a voice that is not what it once was, but he is not just surviving. Since binning the hair dye and meeting Nancy Shevel, he is thriving and deserves to be celebrated. He is not only a national, but a global treasure. Repeat after me: La, La-La, La-La-La, La…

@stefanohat



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