BBC News Online readers named Paul McCartney the "greatest composer of the millennium". According to the BBC, his Beatles song "Yesterday" has been covered by over 2,200 artists — more than any other song in the history of recorded music. Since its 1965 release it has been played more than 7,000,000 times on American television and radio. Wings' 1977 single "Mull of Kintyre" became the first single to sell more than two million copies in the United Kingdom, and remains the UK's top selling non-charity single. Based on the 93 weeks his compositions have spent at the top spot of the UK chart, and 24 number one singles to his credit, Paul McCartney is the most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history. As a performer or songwriter, McCartney was responsible for 31 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, and has sold 15.5 million RIAA certified albums in the United States alone.
Paul McCartney has composed film scores, classical and electronic music, released a large catalogue of songs as a solo artist, and has taken part in projects to help international charities. He is an advocate for animal rights, for vegetarianism, and for music education; he is active in campaigns against landmines, seal hunting, and Third World debt. He is a keen football fan, supporting both Everton and Liverpool football clubs. His company MPL Communications owns the copyrights to more than 3,000 songs, including all of the songs written by Buddy Holly, along with the publishing rights to such musicals as Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, and Grease. McCartney is one of the UK's wealthiest people, with an estimated fortune of £475 million in 2010.
Paul McCartney was born in Walton Hospital in Liverpool, England, where his mother, Mary (née Mohin), had worked as a nurse in the maternity ward. He has one brother, Michael, born 7 January 1944. McCartney was baptised as a Roman Catholic but was raised non-denominationally: his mother was Roman Catholic and his father James, or "Jim" McCartney, was a Protestant turned agnostic.
In 1947, he began attending Stockton Wood Road Primary School. He then attended the Joseph Williams Junior School and passed the 11-plus exam in 1953 with three others out of the 90 examinees, thus gaining admission to the Liverpool Institute. In 1954, while taking the bus from his home in the suburb of Speke to the Institute, he met George Harrison, who lived nearby. Passing the exam meant that Paul McCartney and Harrison could go to a grammar school rather than a secondary modern school, which the majority of pupils attended until they were eligible to work, but as grammar school pupils, they had to find new friends.
Paul McCartney's father was a trumpet player and pianist who had led Jim Mac's Jazz Band in the 1920s and encouraged his two sons to be musical. Jim had an upright piano in the front room that he had bought from Epstein's North End Music Stores. McCartney's grandfather, Joe McCartney, played an E-flat tuba. Jim McCartney used to point out the different instruments in songs on the radio, and often took McCartney to local brass band concerts. McCartney's father gave him a nickel-plated trumpet, but when skiffle music became popular, Paul McCartney swapped the trumpet for a £15 Framus Zenith (model 17) acoustic guitar. As he was left-handed, McCartney found right-handed guitars difficult to play, but when he saw a poster advertising a Slim Whitman concert, he realised that Whitman played left-handed with his guitar strung the opposite way to a right-handed player. McCartney wrote his first song ("I Lost My Little Girl") on the Zenith, and also played his father's Framus Spanish guitar when writing early songs with Lennon. He later learned to play the piano and wrote his second song, "When I'm Sixty-Four". On his father's advice, he took music lessons, but since he preferred to learn 'by ear' he never paid much attention to them.
Paul McCartney was heavily influenced by American Rhythm and Blues music. He has stated that Little Richard was his idol when he was in school and that the first song he ever sang in public was "Long Tall Sally", at a Butlins holiday camp talent competition.
At the age of 15, Paul McCartney met John Lennon and The Quarrymen at the St. Peter's Church Hall fête in Woolton on 6 July 1957. He formed a close working relationship with Lennon and they collaborated writing many songs. Harrison joined the group in early 1958 as lead guitarist, followed in early 1960 by Lennon's art school friend, Stuart Sutcliffe on bass. By May 1960, they had tried several new names, including "Johnny and the Moondogs" and "The Silver Beetles", playing a tour of Scotland under that name with Johnny Gentle. They finally changed the name of the group to "The Beatles" in mid-August 1960 and recruited Pete Best at short notice to become their drummer for an imminent engagement in Hamburg.
From August 1960, The Beatles were booked by Allan Williams, to perform at a club in Hamburg. During extended stays over the next two years, The Beatles performed as a resident group in a number of Hamburg clubs. On returns to Liverpool they played at the Cavern club. Prior to the end of the residency, Sutcliffe left the band, so Paul McCartney , reluctantly, became The Beatles' bass player. The Beatles recorded their first published musical material in Hamburg, performing as the backing group for Tony Sheridan on the single "My Bonnie". This recording later brought the Beatles to the attention of a key figure in their subsequent development and commercial success, Brian Epstein, who became their next manager. Epstein eventually negotiated a record contract for the group with Parlophone in May 1962. After replacing Best with Ringo Starr on drums, The Beatles became popular in the UK in 1963 and in the US in 1964. In 1965, they were each appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). After performing concerts, plays, and tours almost non-stop for a period of nearly four years, and giving more than one thousand four hundred live performances internationally, The Beatles gave their last commercial concert at the end of their 1966 US tour. They continued to work in the recording studio from 1966 until their break-up in 1970. In the eight years from 1962 to 1970, the group had released twenty-four UK singles and twelve studio albums, often released in different configurations in the USA and other countries (see discography).
After the break-up of The Beatles, Paul McCartney continued his musical career, in solo work as well as in collaborations with other musicians. After releasing his solo album McCartney in 1970, he worked with Linda McCartney to record the album Ram in 1971. Later the same year, the pair were joined by guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell to form the group Wings, which was active between 1971 and 1981 and released numerous successful singles and albums (see Wings discography). McCartney also collaborated with a number of other popular artists including Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Eric Stewart, and Elvis Costello. In 1985, Paul McCartney played "Let It Be" at the Live Aid concert in London, backed by Bob Geldof, Pete Townshend, David Bowie, and Alison Moyet.
Initially Australia was to be included in the 1989 world tour but McCartney decided to play extra shows in America. On the 1993 (New World Tour), Paul McCartney toured Australia extensively; this was his third and most recent tour of Australia. A proposed further tour to Australia in 2002 was cancelled after the Bali Bombings claiming that touring after the bombings would be insensitive.
In 1989, Paul McCartney joined forces with fellow Merseysiders including Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers and Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood to record a new version of Ferry Cross the Mersey (originally recorded 25 years earlier by Gerry and the Pacemakers) to generate money for the appeal fund of the Hillsborough disaster, which occurred on 15 April that year and in which 96 Liverpool F.C. fans died as a result of their injuries.
He collaborated with Carl Davis to release Liverpool Oratorio; involving the opera singers Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sally Burgess, Jerry Hadley and Willard White, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir of Liverpool Cathedral. The Prince of Wales later honoured McCartney as a Fellow of The Royal College of Music and Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music (2008). Other forays into classical music included Standing Stone (1997), Working Classical (1999), Ecce Cor Meum (2006), and "Ocean's Kingdom" (2011). It was announced in the 1997 New Year Honours that McCartney was to be knighted for services to music, becoming Sir Paul McCartney. In 1999, McCartney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist and in May 2000, he was awarded a Fellowship by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. The 1990s also saw McCartney, Harrison, and Starr working together on Apple's The Beatles Anthology documentary series.
Having witnessed the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks from the JFK airport tarmac, Paul McCartney took a lead role in organising The Concert for New York City. In November 2002, on the first anniversary of George Harrison's death, McCartney performed at the Concert for George. He has also participated in the National Football League's Super Bowl, performing in the pre-game show for Super Bowl XXXVI and headlining the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXIX.
Paul McCartney has continued to work in the realms of popular and classical music, touring the world and performing at a large number of concerts and events; on more than one occasion he has performed again with Ringo Starr. In 2008, he received a BRIT award for Outstanding Contribution to Music and an honorary degree, Doctor of Music, from Yale University. The same year, he performed at a concert in Liverpool to celebrate the city's year as European Capital of Culture. In 2009, he received two nominations for the 51st annual Grammy awards, while in October of the same year he was named songwriter of the year at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Awards. On 15 July 2009, more than 45 years after The Beatles first appeared on American television on The Ed Sullivan Show, McCartney returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater to perform on Late Show with David Letterman. McCartney was portrayed in the 2009 film Nowhere Boy, about Lennon's teenage years, by Thomas Sangster.
On 2 June 2010, Paul McCartney was honoured by Barack Obama with the Gershwin Prize for his contributions to popular music in a live show for the White House with performances by Stevie Wonder, Lang Lang and many others.
Paul McCartney has been touring since 2001 with guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, Paul "Wix" Wickens on keyboards and drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr.
There are plans for an upcoming Paul McCartney tribute album with recordings of McCartney songs by Kiss, Garth Brooks, Billy Joel, B.B. King and others.
Paul McCartney will be honoured as MusiCares Person of the Year on 10 February 2012, two days prior to the 54th Grammy Awards. Kisses on the Bottom, a collection of standards, is to be released on 7 February 2012.