The Paul McCartney Project

Paul McCartney: "My fans say my music heals them"

Interview of Paul McCartney • Aug 30th, 2010
Published by:
CNN
By:
Emily Wither
Read interview on CNN
Timeline More from year 2010

Songs mentioned in this interview


Hey Jude

Officially appears on Hey Jude / Revolution


Yesterday

Officially appears on Help! (Mono)

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Interview

London, England (CNN) — Paul McCartney, by some accounts the most successful songwriter of all time, has told CNN that his fans say his music appears to have a healing quality about it.

The 68-year-old music icon has been speaking out about what music really means to him and his fans all over the world.

The former Beatle says people have shared stories with him of situations when his songs and music have helped them through difficult times.

“I’m very blessed,” McCartney told CNN. “People come up to me and say, ‘I was going through chemo or I was going through this or that and your music got me through.’ That’s kind of wow!” he said.

McCartney continued, “I heard recently about a guy who had been in a coma and ‘Hey Jude’ came on the radio and he woke up and said, ‘That’s “Hey Jude!”‘”

“For me you can imagine what’s that like, it’s so emotional and so gratifying, because the great thing is I don’t even know how I do it,” he added.

Paul McCartney says that it’s stories like these that bring him the greatest satisfaction about working in music.

“Some kid from Liverpool comes out, gets in a group, we’re trying to make money, we’re just trying to get a job, we suddenly do this stuff that’s reaching out to people, that other musicians want to cover — and finally its greatest pay-off is that it’s actually healing people physically,” he said.

That “kid from Liverpool,” as he calls himself, has come a long way from his modest upbringing in Northern England. According to the Guinness Book of World Records 2009 edition, McCartney is the world’s most successful songwriter of all time. He’s written or co-written a phenomenal 188 UK-charted records, of which 91 reached the British Top 10 and 33 made it to No.1.

But what does it take to pen a world-wide hit record? The superstar told CNN that for him it’s something that comes from above.

“You get an idea and you follow the trail,” he said. “Sometimes it can be even more spiritual than following that trail, sometimes you find an idea just coming to you,” he continued.

Take the song “Yesterday,” for example. The most copied song of all time, with over 3,000 recorded cover versions, apparently sprung from a dream that McCartney had one night.

“I just woke up one morning and just had this song in my head, and the melody was fully formed,” he told CNN.

“If I ask myself where did that come from, I think you do have to think it’s some sort of higher place, some sort of spiritual place that just delivered it to me,” he continued. “That song has been covered by some three thousand people, so maybe they feel this spiritual thing too,” he added.

Q: Tell us about Les Paul’s contribution to music history

A: Well, I think he made contributions on a number of fronts. The first thing was that he was the original multi-tracker, multi layering of tapes which is now the norm but at the time when he started it, nobody had ever done it. And so he did what we later took for granted, so I think that’s a pretty amazing invention, just that in itself.

Q: What influence did his work have on you specifically and your career?

A: Well I think the sound on the early records, was something we couldn’t believe like ‘wow, how has he done that?!’ The speeding up, that actually opened the doors for us to say when we started making Beatles records, we’d say ‘oh can we speed it up a bit and the technicians and producers would go ‘why?’ and we’d say ‘no, it’d be good you know, it’s an interesting thing. Can we have twice the speed? I think the thing was when we went into the studio, we wanted to experiment and I’m sure at the back of our minds there was the idea that Les was the great innovator, the great experimenter; he opened the doors to that. I think without him we wouldn’t have known that there’s such a thing as speeding up. So, on early Beatle records we did a lot of that. We had a solo, Hard Day’s Night, which is very hard to play so George Martin said well we could speed up and when you played it up (strums and hums faster) so we used a lot of those techniques and I think probably Les’s influence had made us think of that. But before that, before all the Beatles recordings I go back earlier as I say to his original records. Just hearing them on the radio thinking ‘wow! What’s that? How High the Moon, The World’s waiting for the Sunrise, and I had a funny experience. John and I were kids, before the Beatles, and we hitchhiked down to the house of my cousin Betty, she and her husband Mike had a pub in a place called Reading. And we wanted to go down on a week’s holiday and they said ‘well come down here’, so we hitchhiked down, we had no money. So we worked in the bar and we played around (air strums), we took our guitars so we were taking the opportunity during the day to goof around and play and my cousin Mike, he’d say — he was a kinda entertainmenty guy, he’d been on the stage himself, he’d done a bit of stuff, and he said do you wanna sing at the bar, do you wanna play on Saturday night? And we said yeah, sure! So he said well ok, let’s work out what you’re going to do, so we said ok, we’ll open with Be-Bop A Lula which is an early Jean Vincent record. He said no, no, you can’t open with that, he said it’s got to be instrumental and it’s got to be fast, that’s an opener. We said ‘what?’ He said, do you know any instrumentals that are fast? I said well yeah, we know How High the Moon no! – The World Waiting for the Sunrise.

Q: I wanted to ask about a very rare rear — the Gibson Les Paul guitar tell us how a musician forms a relationship with an instrument.

A: The thing about Les Paul guitars is that they are beautiful guitars and that’s due to Les’s knowledge of the instrument and due to his technical knowledge. So he together with Gibson developed this amazing guitar. So for me it’s just beautiful to play, it’s a classic and one of the ones I have is 50 yrs old, so it’s a sort of great antique as well as being a classic… it plays great and I think that’s due to Les’s expertise and so you grow to love it because it’s just a beautiful guitar.

Q: How would you describe music?

A: Yeah, I mean I think there’s something spiritual about it. For instance, when you’re writing a song, it’s particularly evident cuz you start off and there’s nothing. You sit down and you think, ‘I’m gonna write a song’ and you start goofing around. You get an idea and you follow the trail and the idea… of like, well how do you do that and sometimes it can be even more spiritual than following that trail, sometimes you find an idea just coming to you. I think the biggest instance for me where I’d have to agree with that theory was with the song Yesterday which I dreamed, just woke up one morning and just had this song in my head, and it was, the melody was fully formed. The words weren’t, so

I blocked it out with crazy words but the tune was there. I had heard it in a dream and unlike most people, I remembered it so it was like, if I ask myself where did that come from I think you do have to think it’s some sort of higher place, some sort of spiritual place that just delivered it to me that song and its been covered by some 3000 people, so maybe they feel this spiritual thing too. So it is an amazing thing and with music, I don’t actually ask too much where it comes from. People say to me how do you sing three hours a night and how do you sing the same song still in the same key? I say I don’t know and I don’t really want to know. I just trust it’ll be there and it’s there, thank you.

Q: Les Paul has been an unchanged guitar

A: Yeah, I think it’s just a classic. I’m probably the least technical person you’d know, I’ve got guys who know all about them… I just play them. It is very good looking… I’m not really interested in the look; to me what it is, is that it plays great. So when I pick up the guitar I want it to sound good, I want it to sound great. And with Les Paul’s, with Les’s knowledge, he’s made a great guitar. So when you pick it up, you fall in love with it.

Q: What does it mean to you and why should it continue to be in people lives?

A: Music is a very special thing. I think maybe its best quality is its healing quality. I’m very blessed because I’ve a lot of people come up to me and say I was going through chemo or I was going through this or that and your music got me through — that’s kind of wow! I heard recently about a guy who had been in a coma and Hey Jude came on the radio and he woke up and said ‘that’s Hey Jude’ and everyone went aaahhhh… and he came out of his coma… so for me you can imagine what that’s like. It’s so emotional and so gratifying, because the great thing is I don’t even know how I do it. I wouldn’t mind if I was some brain surgeon I’d know what I’d done with Hey Jude and with music that heals people, I and many other musicians, don’t know how you do it, you’re just very blessed. I would say that’s the greatest thing about what I do, just to think some kid from Liverpool comes out, gets in a group we’re trying to make money we’re just trying to get a job, we suddenly do this stuff that’s reaching out to people, that other musicians want to cover and finally its greatest pay off is that it’s actually healing people, physically. So you know, sometimes I’d hear about someone who’s really ill and the mum often would say the kid really loves your music I say would you mind if I’d send you some CDs so I just you know just play ’em, you never know. So it’s just the best thing, months later you hear he’s in remission! And you go whoa!

Last updated on November 22, 2020


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