Guest Post By Julie Farin (@JulieFarin)
In a White House ceremony recently, Paul McCartney was awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which was created by the Library of Congress to honor artists “whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation.” Part of this honor recognizes McCartney for making “an impact far beyond music through his humanitarianism and activism around the world, which are emblematic of the spirit of the Gershwin Prize.”
A writer for NPR Music, Tom Cole, questions whether Sir Paul actually deserved this honor in the absence of his equally talented songwriting partner John Lennon, since The Beatles music catalog is comprised predominantly (with a few exceptions) of Lennon/McCartney tunes. Cole challenges us to name a post-Beatles McCartney song that “holds even a dim candle to what they wrote together.” Furthermore, he feels that Lennon was the true humanitarian and activist, not McCartney, saying it’s unfair that “the Library’s website does not even mention John Lennon’s name.”
While Lennon’s activism during the Vietnam era has been well-documented, most notably his 1969 anthem “Give Peace a Chance” still being used today in anti-war rallies, McCartney has also stood behind causes he feels strongly about, such as Animal Rights and Meat-Free Mondays.
Regarding his post-Beatles body of work, I would argue that “Live & Let Die,” “Here Today” (which he wrote for Lennon in 1982 and still performs in concert) and “Maybe I’m Amazed” are among McCartney’s finest compositions. Although the Library of Congress website might not have mentioned Lennon by name, President Barack Obama certainly made sure he did on the night McCartney was honored.
John Lennon has always been my favorite Beatle. But no one is implying that Lennon was less of a songwriter than McCartney by bestowing this honor on Sir Paul, who turns 68 on June 18th. And while the work McCartney has produced and continues to produce in the 40 years since the Beatles dismantled may not be everyone’s cuppa English tea, even the staunchest Macca foe would have to admit that the man and his music have staying power. Let’s see if anyone remembers Lady Gaga 40 years from now.
“In Performance at the White House” airs on PBS July 28 at 8 pm ET/PT.