Sir Paul McCartney was born James Paul McCartney in Liverpool in 1942. His father, Jim McCartney worked as a cotton salesman and his mother, Mary, worked as a nurse and midwife. Paul's dad had a talent for music too, and was a keen pianist: he even had his own band, called Jim Mac's Jazz Band. Paul's younger brother, Michael, is better known as Mike McGear, the Liverpool poet who belongs to a group called The Scaffold. Mike uses the stage name McGear so as not to capitalise on his older brother's fame.
Growing up in Liverpool just after World War II, Sir Paul enjoyed a happy and uneventful childhood and showed an early gift for music and also for art. He did well at primary school and was one of only four pupils in his year to pass the 11+ exam. His success earned him a place at the prestigious Liverpool Institute for Boys, which he attended from 1953 until 1960. He left school having passed A-levels in English and art.
Sir Paul's happy childhood came to an abrupt end when he was 14-years-old, and his beloved mother died very suddenly and unexpectedly from breast cancer. He was devastated by this tragic loss and turned to music and writing songs in order to try and come to terms with his mother's death. A short while later, he was performing music at a local church fete, when he happened to meet a fellow budding musician called John Lennon. At that time, Lennon had already formed his own band, called The Quarrymen, and he was so impressed by Sir Paul's guitar skills and versatile singing ability that he invited him to come and join his band. Over the course of the next few years, Lennon added George Harrison and Pete Best to the line-up and the band changed its name to The Beatles. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the beginning, the band played most of their gigs in their home town Liverpool, at a venue called The Cavern Club, and made a brief foray over to Germany, where they played in Hamburg. By the end of 1961, the boys had decided that they needed to find a manager and chose local businessman Brian Epstein for the job. Epstein was a skilful entrepreneur and helped the boys to improve their image and make the most of their raw, unpolished talents. Epstein also replaced drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr, and helped the boys secure a recording contract with EMI. Sir Paul became the lead vocalist with The Beatles, as well as playing a variety of instruments, including bass guitar, acoustic and electric guitar, piano and keyboards. He reportedly also played upwards of three dozen other musical instruments.
Sir Paul was not only a multi-talented instrumentalist, he was also a gifted songwriter, and he and Lennon wrote many of the hit songs together during the Beatles years. Back in 1957, whilst they were still both teenagers, Lennon and Sir Paul agreed that every song they wrote together would have 50/50 ownership, and they stuck to this agreement in later years, despite the fact that such an oral contract wasn't legally binding, as they were still both minors.
Even though each wrote a great many songs individually, over 200 songs that were recorded by The Beatles are still formally credited to both men. Many of the songs evolved during the band's jamming sessions: the 1963 classic number, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand' is one such song. Sir Paul's most famous songs have all become classics: perhaps the most famous of these are ‘Yesterday', ‘Eleanor Rigby', ‘Let It Be', ‘When I'm 64', and ‘Blackbird'. ‘Yesterday' is arguably perhaps the most famous song ever written, since over 3,000 cover versions of it have been recorded by hundreds of artists, since it was first published. Many of the Beatles songs and cover images were quite political, and promoted values of peace, freedom and the liberation of the imagination.
As well as revolutionising the music of the day, The Beatles' music and style had a massive impact on popular culture. As a band, they were massively popular, particularly with teenage girls, and tended to be greeted by hysterical crowds of screaming fans whenever they arrived in a city to play a gig. This phenomenon soon became known as ‘Beatlemania!' Everything about them, their clothes, their hairstyles, was widely copied. It might well be said that they were the original ‘boy band'.
In 1967, the band suffered a terrible loss, when their manager Brian Epstein died. From that point onwards, the Beatles began to lose their unified creative focus, and all four members began to develop their individual creative ambitions. In 1969, Sir Paul married his first wife Linda, whom he'd met in a London nightclub called The Bag O'Nails. Linda was a musician too, and quite soon after his marriage, he formed his own band, called Wings. Sir Paul's first solo album, ‘Maybe I'm Amazed' was a number one hit, and his new band Wings soon became one of the most successful groups in the world during the 1970s; the album ‘Band On The Run' won two Grammy Awards.
In 1977, Wings released ‘Mull of Kintyre', which was number one in the UK charts for nine weeks, and became the highest selling single record for seven years. In 1979, Sir Paul teamed up with fellow musician Elvis Costello to help organise benefit concerts for the people of Cambodia.
As the 1980s dawned, Sir Paul encountered a run of bad luck. In 1980, he was arrested in Tokyo for possession of marijuana and spent ten days in jail. This scandalous event provoked a massive media response throughout the world and when he was released from prison, he retreated into seclusion for the major part of the following year. Fate also struck a tragic blow in December 1980, when his former song writing buddy and fellow Beatle John Lennon was killed by an assassin's bullet outside his apartment building in New York. The tragedy caused Sir Paul to retreat still further from the public eye, and he did not appear in public again until 1982, when he released his new album ‘Tug Of War'.
Sir Paul pursued a highly successful career as a solo recording artist, and also found time to explore different forms of musical composition. During the 1990s, he composed several pieces of classical music for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, including ‘The Liverpool Oratorio', which was written for a choir and symphony orchestra, and a work for solo piano entitled ‘A Leaf'. In 1994, the three surviving members of The Beatles re-united and produced John Lennon's unpublished song ‘Free As A Bird', which had been preserved by Yoko Ono on a tape recording made in 1977.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Sir Paul and his wife Linda also made time to promote their own personal causes. The McCartneys were both committed vegetarians and spent considerable time and energy promoting vegetarianism (Linda McCartney produced her own line of vegetarian frozen foods), and raising public awareness of animal rights issues. Sir Paul and Linda raised four children - Stella, Mary, Heather and James - and enjoyed a happy marriage and family life. When he was arrested on drugs charges in Japan in 1980, he claimed that the nights he spent in prison were the only time he'd ever been separated from his wife.
Sadly, in 1995, Linda was diagnosed the breast cancer, the same disease that had claimed the life of Sir Paul's mother: he nursed her during her illness, and she fought the disease bravely, but to no avail. She died in April 1998 after a marriage of almost 30 years. Shattered by his loss, Sir Paul retreated into seclusion once again. In 2000, he released the album ‘A Garland For Linda', which was a tribute album, the proceeds of which were donated to help survivors of cancer. He was knighted by the Queen in 1997. Since Linda's death, Sir Paul has pursued both his interest in classical music, and his own solo recording career. He released a classical album, ‘Working Classical' at the end of 1999, and an album of rock'n'roll covers called ‘Run Devil Run', also in 1999. His latest classical album, ‘Ecco Cor Meum' (Behold My Heart) was widely acclaimed and was also voted Classical Album of The Year in 2007.
Also in 2000, Sir Paul was invited by the disabled former model Heather Mills to attend her birthday party. Romance blossomed, and he and Heather became engaged the following year. They married in June 2002 at a castle in Scotland and their daughter Beatrice Milly McCartney was born in October 2003. That same year, Sir Paul gave an extraordinary concert in Red Square in Moscow, called ‘Back in The USSR'. The concert was attended by the Russian president Vladimir Putin, who invited the Beatle to be guest of honour at the Kremlin.
Sadly, Sir Paul's second marriage floundered: he and Heather split up in 2005 and generated massive media attention thanks to their highly acrimonious and public divorce. In March 2008, the courts ordered that Sir Paul pay £24.3m to Heather Mills. The judge awarded a lump sum of £16.5 million and assets of £7.8 million. The judge found that the total value of all Sir Paul's assets, including his business interests, was about £400 million and that there was no evidence at all before him that he was worth £800 million - as had been reported in the media.
His latest musical venture saw him enter the world of ballet. The musician recently announced that he would be collaborating with Peter Martins, the New York City Ballet's master in chief, on a World Premiere Ballet. Commenting on his decision to write for a ballet, Sir Paul said: "I am always interested in new directions that I haven't worked in before. So I became very excited about the idea. When I got back to England after meeting Peter, I started writing music and am now in the very final stages of the orchestral score." He explained that he was enjoying writing music that conveyed emotions, as opposed to using words to depict a feeling.
In 2008, Sir Paul was given an Outstanding Contribution to Music by the Brit Awards and an honorary degree - Doctor of Music - from Yale University. He also performed at a concert in Liverpool to celebrate the city being named the European Capital of Culture 2009.
In 2009, the US gave Sir Paul recognition in the form of a Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for his live version of ‘Helter Skelter' from ‘Good Evening New York City'.
He said the news was a "big surprise" and described how he received a text telling him he had won after attending a BAFTA's after show party.
This recognition from the US was followed by Sir Paul being honoured by current US president Barack Obama on 2 June 2010, as he was given the Gershwin Prize for his contributions to popular music in a live performance at the White House.
There are currently plans to record a tribute to Sir Paul, with artists including Kiss, Billy Joel and BB King, to name but a few, singing some of his songs.
Sir Paul announced an 11-date tour, with three dates being played in the UK, which will start in November 2011.
He will also be named Musicares Person of the Year on 10 February 2012, two days before the 54th Grammy Awards.
Sir Paul has been dating Nancy Shevell since 2007, who has perhaps notably nothing to do with the show business world, and is vice president of a family-owned transportation conglomerate which owns New England Motor Freight.
The couple got married on 9 October 2011 at the Old Marylebone Town Hall in London. The reception took place at his north London home, with Ringo Starr wishing them 'peace and love'.
He continues to write and record music that still delights audiences the world over. He's one of the key shakers and movers in popular culture, as well as being one of the wealthiest men in Britain.
He is generally acknowledged to be one of the most popular entertainers in the world today. The Guinness Book of Records has recognised his many and varied contributions to the music industry and lists him as the most successful musician and composer in popular music history.