“You learn from a conglomeration of the incredible past – whatever experience gotten in any way whatsoever” – Bob Dylan
Regardless of our backgrounds or path in life, we all seem to take a look behind us, peering into our past with misgivings about our choices, and wishing we could have done things differently. Even as I speak with persons who have a history of great accomplishments, they always look back into their past with the word “if. That word “if” is powerful because it implies a different possibility, and a variation on the present life. Of course, there are those of us who have made very bad past decisions like committing criminal acts or perhaps drug or alcohol abuse. I think we can all understand a person looking back and wanting to alter such a past life pattern, but I am thinking about other life choices. What about decisions regarding education and career advancement we did or did not make? Those types of choices or non-choices can create a long life of reservations.
I made the choice of leading with the quote by Bob Dylan to give all of you reading out there something to think about, especially the many musicians still working to be the best they can be. Bob Dylan’s words will help us look at our pasts’ without questions, but owning our history as a part of out current makeup. Yes, including those so-called mistakes we made in life, we should own everything, learn from it all and accept that these mistakes also help to define us currently. This is important for musicians because we all (musicians) have questions about previous choices, wondering “what if” pertaining to our past choices made.
Well, it’s once again word and name association time. If I mention the word beetles, most of you immediately think about the band: The Beatles. The association continues to include the endless library of great music and songs the group recorded throughout their time together. If I go further and mention the name Paul McCartney, then we think about even more music and a very long musical career that is still commercially relevant. On October 11, 2013, Paul McCartney released his sixteenth studio album New. McCartney has stated that the record was inspired by recent events in his life as well as memories of his pre-Beatles history. New is not a collection of old songs previously recorded, nor is it old music with fresh arrangements. McCartney added that he specifically sought out younger producers to record the album. He and his stage band performed in various venues to promote the record, along with promotional events held through social media.
Indeed, the seventy-one year old multi-instrumental musician surely is still producing music that matters today. As implied previously the name Paul McCartney is almost synonymous with the title “songwriter”. More specifically excellent songwriter. Guinness World Records described McCartney as the “most successful composer and recording artist of all time”, with 60 gold discs and sales of over 100 million albums and 100 million singles, and as the “most successful songwriter” in United Kingdom chart history. More than 2,200 artists have covered his Beatles song “Yesterday”, more than any other song in history. Most musicians would love just a fraction of McCartney’s success to feel musically satisfied. It makes me wonder if at seventy-one years old, and with a new album on the market, McCartney looks back on his life and starts a sentence with the word “if”.
For sure he has endured setbacks just like any other human. Two failed relationships before his wonderful marriage to Linda Eastman ended in her death, which was followed by his second marriage to Heather Mills that ended in divorce in 2008. Possibly the biggest musical setback had to be the breakup of The Beatles in 1970. Creative and legal differences lead to the breakup of arguably one of the greatest bands in musical history. Most music fans look back on the breakup and wonder “what if” all the time…..even down until today. After so many times that the group could have put the band back together, at least for one recording or concert, it never happened. The murder of John Lennon in December 1980 ended the possibilities. Paul McCartney described his first exchange with Yoko Ono after the murder, and his last conversation with Lennon:
I talked to Yoko the day after he was killed, and the first thing she said was, “John was really fond of you.” The last telephone conversation I had with him we were still the best of mates. He was always a very warm guy, John. His bluff was all on the surface. He used to take his glasses down, those granny glasses, and say, “it’s only me.” They were like a wall you know? A shield. Those are the moments I treasure. In 1983, McCartney said, “I would not have been as typically human and standoffish as I was if I knew John was going to die. I would have made more of an effort to try and get behind his “mask” and have a better relationship with him.”
However, all of his experiences, even the painful ones, have shaped Paul McCartney into the performer and songwriter we know today. As for tomorrow, who really knows? It seems as if McCartney has no thoughts about retirement. More music I presume!