English singer-songwriter and musician extraordinaire Sir Paul McCartney turns 70 next week. Aref Omar showcases some of the former Beatles’ thrilling songs that span his over five decade career
1. A monster hit from the Beatles album Help, it’s also credited as one of the most covered, as well as performed, song from the 20th Century in the history of recorded music. McCartney was the sole Beatle featured in this melancholic acoustic guitar ballad, accompanied by a string quartet. Although he is the sole writer, the song has been credited to Lennon-McCartney.
Hey Jude (1968)
2. Another Lennon-McCartney song that was actually written by McCartney, this moving epic was the first single released by the Beatles’ record label Apple Records. Often thought to have been written for John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his father’s breakup from his first wife, Hey Jude became a massive hit. Running over seven minutes, this was the Beatles’ longest single and, at the time, the longest song released as a single.
Helter Skelter (1968)
3. From their eponymous album, The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album), this was the heaviest song the Beatles ever recorded. Written by McCartney, who uncharacteristically wanted to create a sound as loud and dirty as possible, it has since been credited by many musical historians as a key point in the development of the Heavy Metal genre.
4. This hit, written by George Harrison from the Beatles album Abbey Road, showcased McCartney’s knack for melodic and beautiful basslines. Like many other Fab Four tunes such as Taxman, Rain, Paperback Writer, Help and Come Together, McCartney made playing the bass cool and influenced a whole new generation of musicians along the way.
Live And Let Die (1973)
5. After the Beatles disbanded, McCartney formed the rock band Paul McCartney & Wings. This theme song for the Roger Moore-era James Bond film of the same name featured moving and bold symphonic flourishes, groovy breakdowns and a dynamic arrangement. Naturally, it became one of his biggest post-Beatles hits.
Band On The Run (1974)
6. A classic song from the Paul McCartney & Wings period, released on the mega-popular album of the same name, it hit No.3 on the UK Billboard charts and No.1 in the US. Gradually moving from a soft, melodious intro to a pop phase and ending on a more rock-oriented note, the song tells a three-part story arc of a band confined in prison who later escape and then go on the run.
Maybe I’m Amazed (1970)
7. This is an example of McCartney’s keen ability to express love and romance, unlike any other. Released on his first solo album McCartney, the song was dedicated to his wife Linda, who had helped him to get through the Beatles’ difficult break up. Aside from being one of his memorable love songs, it also featured his musical proficiency — he played all the piano, guitar and drum parts.
Ebony And Ivory (1982)
8. A saccharinely catchy melding of pop and R&B, this single from McCartney’s solo album Tug Of War peaked at No.1 on US and UK charts, making it one of his most commercially successful tunes from the’ ‘80s. A collaboration with Stevie Wonder, the track was about the black and white keys on a piano. On a deeper level, it dealt with integration and racial harmony, which led to its ban, for a while, in South Africa during the Apartheid era.
Hope Of Deliverance (1993)
9. Released on his solo album Off The Ground, this bouncy and optimistically sunny ditty was McCartney’s most commercially successful single from the’ ‘90s.
Jenny Wren (2005)
10. From McCartney’s funnily named solo album, Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, it represents a departure from his usual upbeat tunes. Jenny Wren is a beautifully moody acoustic track, which features a duduk (Armenian woodwind instrument) solo. A song about a character of the same name from Charles Dickens’ novel Our Mutual Friend, it earned McCartney a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2007 (He has won over a dozen Grammys, among other music awards, so far).