Paul McCartney was born June 18, 1942, in Liverpool, England. His work with the Beatles in the 1960s helped lift popular music from its origins in the entertainment business and transform it into a creative, highly commercial art form. He is also one of the most popular solo performers of all time in terms of both sales of his recordings and attendance at his concerts.
Sir James Paul McCartney was born on June 18, 1942, in Liverpool, England, to Mary and James McCartney. His mother was a maternity nurse, and his father a cotton salesman and jazz pianist with a local band. The young McCartney was raised in a traditional working-class family, much the same as his future fellow Beatles Ringo Starr and George Harrison. Tragically, when McCartney was only 14 years old, his mother died of complications after a mastectomy. His future bandmate, John Lennon, also lost his mother at a young age—a connection that McCartney would later point to as the start of a close bond between the two musicians.
Encouraged by his father to try out multiple musical instruments, Paul McCartney began his lifelong love affair with music at an early age. Though he took formal music lessons as a boy, the future star preferred to learn by ear, teaching himself the Spanish guitar, trumpet and piano. In 1957, the teenaged musician met John Lennon at a church festival where both young men were performing. Sensing an early affinity, McCartney joined Lennon’s band, the Quarrymen. The two quickly became the group’s songwriters, ushering it through many name changes and a few personnel changes as well.
By 1960, the group had settled on a new moniker, the Beatles, and George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best rounded out the group. The soon-to-be legendary “mod squad” started out in the 1960s in Hamburg, Germany, spending two years playing various nightclubs there. Sutcliffe soon left the band, leaving McCartney to pick up the slack as the group’s bass player. While in Hamburg, the Beatles recorded their first tracks, garnering the attention of Brian Epstein, who quickly signed on as the band’s manager. It wasn’t long before the Beatles headed back to their home country and began working their way into the popular consciousness there. And Best’s replacement by drummer Ringo Starr only helped the group gain steam.
The impact that the Beatles would ultimately have on ’60s popular culture is hard to overstate. “Beatlemania” soon gripped the world, and when the group made their debut in America, the media dubbed the period of musical crossover between the two nations the “British Invasion.” Little could they know at the time, this era would truly have a lasting impact on rock ‘n’ roll.
During a decade full of political and social strife, the Beatles expressed the broader hopes of their contemporaries for peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll. McCartney in particular would write more hits for the band than any other member. Songs like “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Yellow Submarine” and “Hello, Goodbye” would provide the soundtrack for a generation. From 1962 to ’70, the group released 12 hit studio albums, touring almost constantly, before disbanding.