A few weeks ago, on May 2, I saw 79-year-old Paul McCartney in concert in Seattle.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in Climate Pledge Arena watching him run through more than 30 songs and 60 years of the most celebrated musical career imaginable.
At various points during the show, I was overcome with emotion. Music, of course, has a way of doing that.
After the show, I reflected on why I was so moved by his show, and I think it came down to the fact that I can mark the entire passage of my life through McCartney’s music. From my earliest memories in the late 1960s through today, Paul McCartney has been composing and performing some of the most magical music of all-time.
To make it even more surreal, Paul McCartney played in this same physical spot (then called Seattle Center Coliseum) twice as a Beatle. The first time on August 21, 1964, and the second time on August 25, 1966. This second show was the final stage performance of the Beatles at an enclosed indoor venue. Their final two concerts were outdoors at baseball parks in California.
Ponder for a moment everything that’s taken place in his life—the history, the lives, the loves, the loss—and in the world between that first performance as a Beatle in 1964 and his solo performance on May 2, 2022.
Maybe you’re not nearly as fascinated by marking the passing of time through McCartney’s life and music as I am, but McCartney’s 60+ years of making and performing music also signifies an important point about living a full life.
Living a Full Life
Paul McCartney turns 80 today, June 18, 2022. Two nights ago, he played his final concert of the Got Back tour at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. And one week from now, he’s off to Glastonbury, England to headline the huge Glastonbury Festival.
Imagine you’re 80 years old, playing guitar, bass, and piano, and singing for nearly 3 hours in front of tens of thousands of people. Paul McCartney could have retired with millions of dollars 52 years ago when he was 28 and the Beatles had just disbanded. His legend was cemented by 1970.
Yet, McCartney has never stopped creating and playing music since he was 15.
In the poem, The Voiceless, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote:
A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them:–
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!
Paul McCartney has touched that magic string and is doing all he can to not die with music still in him. Music is like food and oxygen to him. Do you have something similar in your life?
The Drive Home
The May 2 show was the first of two consecutive nights that McCartney played in Seattle.
As my wife Linda and I got in the car to drive home from the Green Bay airport the day after his first Seattle show, we turned on the Beatles channel on Sirius/XM. The first song to come on was “Can’t Buy Me Love,” which was the first song Paul McCartney played at the concert the night before.
I looked at Linda and said, “Paul McCartney will be playing this song in 30 minutes in Seattle.” It was a surreal moment to know we heard him play this song the night before and that he will be playing it again in 30 minutes in Seattle while we’re hearing it on the radio as it was recorded nearly 60 years earlier.
And then as we neared our home, the song “The Long and Winding Road” came on and it ended just as we pulled into the driveway. It was a fitting end to an amazing trip!
The Passing of Time
Time. We’re so focused on saving time, spending time, making time, investing time, and using our time wisely. My McCartney experience was a transcendent reminder of the passing of time.
When we’re young, we take time for granted. We think it will always be there and we tend to look forward in time. As we get older, we tend to reverse and look back on time, sometimes wistfully, sometimes with pride.
And while I do look back on time, I know at a visceral level that the past and the future exist only in my head. The past is a reflection, the future, an imagining. The only thing I truly have is this instant. And this continuous string of instances makes a life.
What has so struck me about Paul McCartney is how he is one of two living uber iconic people (Queen Elizabeth II being the other) who never stopped “being” who they are for 60+ years. Each represents an unbroken thread of limelight time from the 1960s through today.
As someone who is 60, I’m (probably) past the halfway mark in my life. Yet, like McCartney, I do not plan to die with all my music in me. Creativity is a life force and I plan to be creative for as long as my body and faculties allow.
Thanks, Paul, for leading the way. And Happy Birthday!