Paul McCartney, Speaking Words of Wisdom
6 life and work lessons from the latest show of the legendary Beatle
After telling friends I’d seen Paul McCartney’s sold-out show in Minneapolis recently, I heard these questions:
- Was he still good?
- Did you smell pot?
- Did he play (insert your favorite Beatles song here)?
- McCartney, 72, looked and sounded fantastic.
- I did not smell pot where I was seated.
- Yes, he probably played (insert Big Hit here). He’s a legend, after all. Nearly every song during the three-hour show was once a chart-topper.
But watching McCartney and listening to his stage stories made me think about more than his amazing musical talents. What resonated was his genuineness and ease on stage, a comfort and command that are hallmarks of aging well — eight years after he turned 64.
(MORE: Ringo Starr and Other Rock Stars Reflect on Aging)
Here are six lessons I gleaned from McCartney’s show, both for career success and living a vital life:
1. Claim your place. McCartney unabashedly owns his spot in the pantheon of great entertainers, not in an obnoxious, prima donna kind of way, but by conveying authority and confidence. He's not back to where he once belonged—he's staying where he clearly belongs, leading the songs, the band, the whole show.
He shares his talents — like his roaring guitar on Purple Haze as a transition to Let Me Roll It — and stories, like the one about attending a Jimi Hendrix show in Britain when Hendrix was relatively unknown. McCartney said Hendrix “called out into the crowd for Eric (Clapton),” asking for help tuning his guitar after shredding through a song. Clapton refused, according to McCartney, with a “Do it yourself!” shrug. “He was a great guy,” McCartney said of Hendrix. “So humble.” McCartney wasn’t name-dropping but showing his eyewitness place in music history with that fond remembrance.
2. Keep doing what you love. Right before seeing McCartney, I read a Gen X friend’s Facebook post, “Letter from the Forgotten Generation.” It makes a point that boomers should step aside and make way for X'ers to finally have their chance to rise in the workplace. But McCartney made me think about what we’d lose if he (and those in different fields with vast experience) weren’t still contributing.
Surely there’s room for older workers to keep getting better all the time and give of themselves. McCartney’s New record is his best in years. His show, with fireworks, confetti and cheering as well as Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da and Naa, Naaa Naaaa Naanaa Naanaa sing-alongs was a celebration of shared music and memories that brought generations together and to their feet. Speaking of generations…
3. Connect with all ages. The appeal of Beatles, Wings and McCartney’s solo songs spans five decades. Boomers, Gen X'ers, Milliennials and multi-generational groupings of grandparents, parents, kids and grandkids packed the Minneapolis show.
After playing a raucous All Together Now, which he’s never done in concert before, McCartney acknowledged the younger set, saying: “That one was for the kids.” He’s also connected to, and generous with, younger musicians. Take, for example, Sirvana (Sir Paul plus the surviving members of Nirvana) winning a Grammy this year.
4. Remember your friends. I saw McCartney in 2005, four years after George Harrison died. McCartney remembered his bandmate and friend then by bringing out a ukulele and telling a story about how much Harrison enjoyed playing that instrument. He demonstrated some Harrison-style hyperkinetic strumming. On this tour, McCartney is still talking about Harrison and paying tribute to his friend. He played ukulele this time to lead into Something, calling it “George’s wonderful song.”
Memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead—McCartney’s upbeat remembrance of his friend’s passion and talent showed an enduring love.
5. Show gratitude for those who inspire you. He appreciates the ones who help him sing his songs. He dedicated My Valentine to his wife, Nancy, and Maybe I’m Amazed to his first wife, Linda. He seemed to like and respect women, playing Lady Madonna while images of powerful, iconic females in sports, politics and entertainment flashed on a screen behind the band: Jackie Joyner Kersee, Billie Jean King, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Hillary Clinton, Glorian Steinem and more.
6. Speak your piece to find peace. McCartney also mentioned John Lennon and called for the crowd to shout out to remember his iconic writing partner. He said he wrote Here Today from the Tug of War record as an imagined conversation — one he wished he’d had with Lennon but never did, leaving him with regret when Lennon died. Now, he's taking a sad song and making it better, telling the crowd: "If you think it, say it.”
That's good advice from a wise rocker.
McCartney’s Set List
Eight Days a Week
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said
Let Me Roll It
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed
I’ve Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
And I Love Her
All Together Now
Everybody Out There
Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Band On the Run
Back in the USSR
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hi, Hi, Hi
Carry That Weight