The Beatles alum Paul McCartney, who turns 69 this week, soared to fame with the band, but may never have made it if two failed choirboy auditions had discouraged him.
The Instant Expert: Sir Paul profiled
THE BASICS, PART ONE Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. A member of the Beatles (1960-1970) and Wings (1971-1981), he is the most commercially successful songwriter in pop music history, according to Guinness World Records.
THE BASICS, PART TWO McCartney soared to fame with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr as the Beatles. After the band broke up in 1970, he went solo, then soon formed Wings with his first wife, Linda Eastman, and the singer-songwriter Denny Laine. He has collaborated with many other pop artists, played at many benefits, ventured into classical music, and produced poetry and paintings.
THE EARLY LABEL With the media's initial inability to tell the "mop tops" apart, McCartney was called "the cute one". Lennon was "the smart one" (that must have grated on his songwriting partner), Harrison "the silent one" and Starr "the funny one".
THE BEATLE YEARS ... From grubbing around in Hamburg to taking the world by storm, from writing catchy pop tunes to producing groundbreaking music on the albums Revolver, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road, McCartney was one fourth of a pop culture phenomenon that has never been equalled.
... AND AFTERWARDS After the Beatles imploded, McCartney released two solo albums, McCartney and Ram. Wings was formed in 1971, was active for a decade and enjoyed enormous success. He was knighted in 1997 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 1999. He has performed at two Super Bowls. Whew. Must be all those veggies.
SO, HOW TALENTED IS HE? McCartney was the only Beatle to have received formal training in music. The fact that he played every instrument on every song on his first solo album, McCartney, remains praiseworthy, even noting the palpable "I'll show them!" hubris factor.
HOW DID HE AND LENNON WORK TOGETHER? The two agreed early on that all songs they wrote, individually or jointly, would be credited to both. But most of the 180 Lennon/McCartney songs were principally, or solely, the work of only one. Still, both their competitiveness and collaboration were behind their success.
THE BIG FLOP McCartney's filmmaking attempt, Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), was a critical and commercial failure. It seemed he had learnt nothing from the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour British television debacle of 1967.
THE WIVES The US photographer Eastman provided McCartney with a happy marriage from 1969 until her death from breast cancer in 1998. In 2002, McCartney wed Heather Mills, a former model and anti-landmines campaigner. They separated in 2006 and were divorced in 2008. McCartney became engaged last month to the New York businesswoman Nancy Shevell.
STILL GOING STRONG McCartney continues his Up and Coming tour with the guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, Paul "Wix" Wickens on keyboards and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. Last month he wowed fans in Brazil, Peru and Chile, and eight days ago he played Las Vegas. Will we still need him, will we still feed him, when he's 69? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
THE DISSENTING OPINION Yes, he can be sentimental, cloying and too clever by half. But all the musical candy floss is more than offset by his genius. Listen to Band on the Run, Eleanor Rigby, Hey Jude, Jet, Let It Be, Live and Let Die, The Long and Winding Road, Maybe I'm Amazed and Yesterday - which has the most cover versions of any song, more than 2,200 - and then try to dismiss him as a lightweight.
10 quirky facts about Sir Paul
1. His first instrument was a trumpet, not a guitar.
2. He twice - twice! - failed auditions to be a choirboy.
3. He is one of the UK's richest people, with an estimated worth of £475 million (Dh2.86 billion).
4. He witnessed the September 11 attacks in New York from a plane on the tarmac at JFK airport.
5. He was good friends with the late professional wrestler Giant Haystacks.
6. The minor planet 4148, discovered in 1983, was named "McCartney" in his honour.
7. One of his companies owns the copyrights to more than 3,000 songs, including all of those written by Buddy Holly, along with the publishing rights to musicals including Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line and Grease.
8. In 2005 he released a children's book, High in the Clouds: An Urban Furry Tail.
9. He tried and failed to persuade the Dalai Lama to become a vegetarian.
10. He is a keen football fan, supporting both the Everton and Liverpool football clubs.