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The shocking images of oil-covered wildlife and ruined beaches across the Gulf of Mexico have horrified millions. But passionate green campaigner Sir Paul McCartney believes the environmental disaster may have a silver lining, with the search for clean, renewable energy now being pushed forward.
The Beatles legend said: “Sadly we need disasters like this to show people. Some people don’t believe in climate warming – like those who don’t believe there was a Holocaust. But the facts indicate that there’s something going on and we’ve got to be aware of it if we want our kids to inherit a decent world, not a complete nightmare of a planet – clean, renewable energy is for starters.“
In an exclusive interview, Sir Paul also defended US President Barack Obama’s conduct during the crisis, which was caused by an explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April that left 11 dead.
The singer said: “I don’t accept the criticism of Barack over the oil spill. I think he’s been great. It’s tough if we Brits whinge that he’s whingeing at us. Tough, then don’t spill oil.“
Sir Paul – who met Obama for the first time earlier this month – added: “BP isn’t just a British company any more, it’s half American. The thing is if you do something like that you’re not going to get away with it. If the President of the country you spilled oil in tells you off then you’ve just got to take it or say, ‘I’m really sorry, we’ll clean it up and pay for it all by next week’. If you create the biggest environmental disaster in US history then you’re not going to get off that lightly.“
About 60,000 barrels of oil have leaked into the Gulf every day since.
An ardent supporter of animal rights, just this week Sir Paul joined the anti- whaling campaign and appealed to the Norwegian government not to lift a ban on commercial hunting. Teaming up with the World Society for the Protection of Animals, he pleaded with officials in the country not to back a proposal which would allow the slaughter of up to 1,400 whales next year.
“It’s time to end the cruel slaughter of whales and leave these magnificent creatures alone. In the 21st Century how can we even contemplate killing whales – or any animal – in such barbaric ways?“
The Sun met Sir Paul backstage in his dressing room before his sold-out show at Glasgow’s Hampden Park on Sunday.
A darkened room lit only by scented candles is where he rests to gather his thoughts before the three-hour show begins. It has been a weekend of celebrations for Sir Paul, beginning with his 68th birthday on Friday and Father’s Day on Sunday.
Looking 15 years younger than his age, he chomps away on a handful of nuts and says: “I haven’t even opened my birthday or Father’s Day presents yet because I’ve been running around for this show. I should have retired by now but I’m enjoying it and I’m still going strong and it’s not like footballers or athletes, where there’s a certain finite period where you can’t do it any more.” Tapping on the wooden table in front of him, he adds: “I hope there isn’t, touch wood.“
It’s been a busy month for Sir Paul. Three weeks ago he met Obama for the first time when the President presented him with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He was only the third recipient after Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder and the first-ever British winner. Sir Paul described picking up the award in front of musicians including Wonder, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Dave Grohl as “one of the proudest nights in my life“.
He beams: “It was such an honour. I’d heard of the prize – it’s the biggest for popular music in the US. When the President gave it to me, I was so touched. I’m a huge Obama supporter. I really love him. When it was the election I was praying he would win and dreading John McCain or Sarah Palin getting in. It was like, ‘No, America – you don’t need that right now.’ I’d read Obama’s books and had an opportunity to talk to him there, in the White House, where I’d never been before. It was amazing to be chatting away, just him and his family.“
Sir Paul’s momentous evening saw him perform his 1982 No1 hit Ebony And Ivory with Stevie Wonder for the first time in public. He says: “We had a big hit with it but I’d never performed it live with Stevie until that night – and in front of the first black President. When I wrote the song it was a much more troubled time for civil rights, so it took on a significance I’d never dreamed of. I was welling up. I think Obama’s doing great. He’s a smart guy.“
Sir Paul says the night was especially moving as assembled musical guests performed stirring versions of songs from The Beatles’ career – with the President leading the singalong. And he says he is still amazed that the Beatles’ songs have stood the test of time.
December marks the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon and Sir Paul has said he will never again create that magic he had when they were together. So how does he feel at seeing his old friend being portrayed on the big screen in the film Nowhere Boy and last night’s BBC4 drama Lennon Naked?
Sir Paul says: “It’s a great tribute that whatever we did is so lasting and people can still make films about The Beatles which can still be successful. For me, though, they’re not true and that’s the unfortunate thing about them. John NEVER punched me out like he does in Nowhere Boy, but my character is kind of cool in the film so I don’t mind being punched out. I told the film director Sam (Taylor-Wood) all of that but she said, ‘Yeah, but Paul, it’s just a film.’ It’s like the rumour I told John off for posing nude for the Two Virgins cover as in Lennon Naked. I never told him that – that’s another legend. What John and Yoko did was always up to them. By that point we were grown people so I would never say to them, ‘Ooh, you’ve got your willy out in public. Imagine what John Lennon would’ve said to that?’“
On Sunday, Sir Paul headlines Hard Rock Calling at London’s Hyde Park, the final UK gig of his Up And Coming Tour.
It will be an extra-special gig for him as his late wife Linda’s photos of Paul, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones will be on display in the Exclusive Hard Rock Exhibition.
Sir Paul says: “I’ve got memories of Linda in the photos she took. I’ve got incredible memories of the people in those pictures because a lot of the people were my mates. The exhibition will be lovely. I’ve seen all the photos for it and it’s really nice they wanted to do that. But I did the whole thing on the condition that they sold veggie burgers or I couldn’t do it!”
Last updated on November 22, 2020