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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 15:11 GMT
Sir Paul: Yesterday and today
Sir Paul McCartney

He is the very model of a modern-day Renaissance Man: musician, singer, songwriter, painter, sculptor, patron of the arts and animal rights campaigner. Surely, Paul McCartney has nothing more to prove... or does he?
This year has been another busy one for Sir Paul McCartney. In February, he serenaded 72,000 delirious American football spectators - and 800 million television viewers around the world - at Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

A month later, he popped up in primetime yet again, performing his Oscar-nominated song, Vanilla Sky - title-track to the film of the same name - at the Academy Awards.

April saw the start of the first McCartney tour for nearly a decade, one which has delighted the critics, broken box-office records and grossed more per show than Springsteen, The Who and Eminem.

Sir Paul McCartney with one of his paintings
Sir Paul, the artist
June saw the undoubted highlights. A spectacular line-up of stars, including Sir Paul and fellow knights Elton John and Cliff Richard - together with many others including Ozzy Osbourne, Brian Wilson, Tom Jones and Kermit the Frog - marked the Queen's Golden Jubilee with a concert in the back garden of Buckingham Palace.

Just days later, Sir Paul married Heather Mills, in Ireland amid celebrations estimated to have cost £2m.

As well as all this, he has had his paintings, photographs and sculptures exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in his home town of Liverpool and headlined at a tribute concert for fellow Beatle, George Harrison at London's Albert Hall.

And, on Thanksgiving Eve, the video of his 34-city American tour, Back in the US, played coast-to-coast on US television.

Not bad for a man of 60.

Credit where credit's due

But, beyond this astonishing and enduring success, James Paul McCartney remains a driven man, still somewhat unsure of his legacy and said to be irritated at not receiving what he considers to be his proper due.

History could be rewritten

Sir Paul McCartney
This has recently become clear through his well-publicised tiff with Yoko Ono over the credits to some Beatles hits. Although Lennon and McCartney wrote most songs individually, they shared a joint credit with Lennon's name coming first.

Matters came to a head some time ago when, glimpsing a pianist's music book in a Rome bar, Sir Paul saw the song Hey Jude - which he had written on his own - credited to John Lennon.

The relationship between the two men, which began when they were first introduced to one another on 6 July 1957 and ended with Lennon's death on 8 December 1980, was a complex one.

Those who caricature Lennon as being an avatar of the avant garde and the only truly creative force in the Beatles are missing the point, feels McCartney.

Future reputation

With his untimely and violent death, Lennon was raised to near sainthood in the minds of many people.

The Beatles
The Beatles' success remains undimmed by time
To them, Lennon was cutting-edge, angry, brilliant. McCartney was sentimental, suburban and just too cute for his own good.

Sir Paul recently told one interviewer: "There were people saying I did nothing in the Beatles...

"I just thought: 'If that gets on a hard disk 100 years from now, history could end up being rewritten!'

"I just wanted people, when they call up data in the future, for my side to be there."

Restoring his reputation

To this end, Sir Paul has, as he sees it, worked hard to set the record straight.

First, there was the Beatles Anthology project - a TV series, three double CDs and a huge book - chronicling the story of the Fab Four.

This isn't anything I'm going to lose sleep over

Sir Paul keeps his cool
Beatle-watchers everywhere saw that McCartney, the driving force behind the Anthology, was attempting to rebalance the Lennon-McCartney reputation.

For instance, a telling passage in the book details, in Sir Paul's own words, the day he introduced John Lennon to that doyen of modern composers, Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The message behind this subtle reassessment is clear: McCartney, not Lennon, introduced key creative elements to the Beatles.

Second, Sir Paul's authorised biography, Many Years From Now, shone new light on his own abilities as a songwriter and musician in his own right, not just as a collaborator.

John Lennon
Lennon has become a secular saint
And now, on his most recent album - a live collection of songs from his latest American tour - he has reversed the credits on 19 of the tracks. They now read McCartney/Lennon.

Yoko has taken exception to this and there are dark, as yet unclear, mutterings about legal action.

But Sir Paul believes the issue will resolve itself.

"This isn't anything I'm going to lose sleep over, nor is it anything that will cause litigation," he says.

However, with Lennon, and not him, featuring prominently in a recent BBC poll of the greatest-ever Britons, it is clear to anyone with an interest in the Beatles, and rock music in general, why Sir Paul McCartney would wish to re-stake his claim to equal status.

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19 Dec 02 | Entertainment
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