16 Facts About Paul McCartney’s Magical Musical Life
Each year, there's no magical mystery as to who'll reign supreme on the list of the world's wealthiest musicians. With an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion, the knighted Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney, aka Macca, wins by a mile.
How did Sir Paul get so flush?
For starters, since the Fab Four released their first U.K. single ("Love Me Do") in 1962, The Beatles' estimated worldwide album sales top 600 million, and the band's estimated number of singles sold (including digital downloads) clocks in somewhere north of 1.6 billion, and counting. Add the cash generated by McCartney's solo output, with and without his 1970s' band Wings, and Macca's fortune is getting better all the time...better, better, better!
But wait. Aren't rock stars notorious for mismanaging their fortunes and winding up in ruin? Not so with Sir Paul. The "cute Beatle" also has an acute business acumen, evidenced by a drive to own publishing rights for his own material as well as songs by other artists. Macca's also so fond of lawsuits, ex-bandmate George Harrison mocked his litigious nature in the 1973 song "Sue Me, Sue You Blues."
Sit back, play your favorite Beatles album (it's "Revolver," correct?), and delve into the musical and business history of a talent that, unlike Justin Bieber, will still be discussed a century from now.
His First Musical Instrument Was a Trumpet
For his 14th birthday, Paul's father bought him a trumpet. Idolizing legendary horn blowers like Harry James and Eddie Calvert, he learned to play a bit.
Then, as McCartney says in an interview from The Beatles Anthology, "I realized that I wasn't going to be able to sing with this thing stuck in my mouth, so I asked my dad if he'd mind if I swapped it for a guitar, which also fascinated me. He didn't, and I traded my trumpet in for an acoustic guitar, a Zenith, which I still have."
In 2014, he dusted off the old Zenith and played it in the music video for the aptly named tune "Early Days."
How much might this axe be worth if sold today at auction? To get an idea, the first guitar Macca simply ever held and played but did not own, his school mate's 1950s Rex acoustic, fetched about $400,000 in 2006.
The Beatles' Early Days Were Anything but Glamorous
In 1960, The Beatles began their first residency gig in Hamburg, Germany at the tiny Indra Club.
Contracted to play 4-1/2 to 6 hours per night, the band members were paid 2.50 British pounds each, per day (in 2018, about $25 U.S.). Earning barely enough to scrape by, the club owner offered them a place to sleep in the back of a rundown movie theater.
In The Beatles Anthology, McCartney recalls, "We lived backstage in the Bambi Kino [theater], next to the toilets, and you could always smell them. The room had been an old storeroom, and there were just concrete walls and nothing else. No heat, no wallpaper, not a lick of paint; and two sets of bunk beds, like little camp beds, with not very many covers. We were frozen."
What a Difference 48 Years Make
Nowadays on tour, McCartney often travels by private jet, stays in luxury hotels and, per Pollstar's 2017 estimate, grosses an estimated $3.5 million per show. That's the take for an average arena crowd.
One can only fathom how much scratch he raked in from a single 1990 Rio de Janeiro concert attended by a whopping 185,000 paying customers.
He's His Own Company
Since establishing it in 1969, McCartney's umbrella company MPL Communications (McCartney Productions Ltd.) has handled all his post-Beatles work.
It’s also made him a mint from the publishing rights to songs by other artists — from Buddy Holly and Carl Perkins to Frank Loesser and Louis Jordan — which he's acquired over the decades.
He Was Offered a Laughable $3,000 for a Beatles Reunion...and Almost Took It
The post-Beatles McCartney-Lennon feud had cooled by the spring of 1976 and Paul was occasionally turning up at John's NYC apartment to hang out. On the night of April 24, the pair were watching NBC's "Saturday Night Live" when show producer Lorne Michaels appeared on screen and offered the ex-Beatles $3,000 if they'd come to the TV studio, reunite and perform three songs.
In a 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, Lennon remembers: "Paul and I were together watching that show. He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired."
He Sued Steve Jobs Three Times
In 1968, the Beatles founded their own record label and multi-media company named Apple Corps Ltd. The name, which is a pun (pronounced "apple core"), was McCartney's idea.
In 1977, the now broken-up-as-a-band yet still Apple-incorporated Beatles caught wind of a new personal computer company named Apple Computer, Inc., and were none too pleased. The ensuing, nearly 30-year legal battle over trademark infringement was headlined by three lawsuits resulting in the score: Beatles 2, Steve Jobs 1.
And Steve Jobs Ultimately Paid the Pipers
The hatchet was finally buried in 2007 when Apple Inc. paid the Beatles (McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the estates of Lennon and George Harrison) an undisclosed, surely astronomical sum that gave the tech giant ownership of the Apple trademark.
McCartney's solo music began popping up on iTunes later that year, followed by the Beatles catalog in 2010.
His Fortune Can Withstand Colossal Divorce Settlements
In an ugly marital split that made The Beatles' break-up look positively cordial, 2008 found Sir Paul in divorce court with his second wife, Heather Mills. Claiming all sorts of domestic nastiness at the hands of Macca, Mills sought a whopping $250-million settlement.
London's Royal Courts of Justice found Mills "a less than impressive witness," and awarded her roughly $48.6 million — a relative drop in the bucket to a bloke worth upwards of $1 billion.
McCartney’s Current Wife Has Her Own Loot
In The Beatles' classic "Rocky Raccoon," McCartney sings, "Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy."
In this case, we're talking Nancy Shevell, Macca's third wife and also vice president of her family's freight trucking empire, the Shevell Group of Companies, LLC, which Forbes estimates earns some $300-million per year.
Apparently willing to do anything for his lady love, Macca performed a private gig at a 2015 trucking management conference, where he changed the lyrics of The Beatles' hit "Drive My Car" to "Baby, you can drive my truck."
One wonders what cheesiness he played for the encore. "Live and Let Drive"?
Every Christmas, Santa Claus Brings Him a Sack Full of Money
Anyone who's set foot in a department store during the holidays has at one time or another heard McCartney's 1979 single "Wonderful Christmastime" playing over the sound system.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, popular yuletide songs almost always stand the test of time; in the music biz they're called "evergreens." And since McCartney wrote, produced and performed (vocals and instruments) the track entirely himself, Forbes estimates he earns $400,000 to $600,000 in royalties from the tune annually.
His Daughter Is a Rock Star of the Fashion World
When she was born to Paul and his first wife Linda in 1971, bouncing baby Stella Nina had no clue she'd just won the McCartney sweepstakes. In her teens, an interest in fashion design led to an apprenticeship under her father's Savile Row tailor, the influential Edward Sexton.
Launched in 2001, the Stella McCartney brand has grown into a global fashion empire that counts Beyoncé, Rihanna, Meghan Markle and Amal Clooney among its celeb clientele. And like her famously vegan father, Stella's a strong animal rights supporter. She abstains from leather and fur in her creations.
Stella's estimated net worth: $75 million.
He Formed an Ill-Fated Music Publishing Company with John Lennon
With the 1963 release of The Beatles' debut album "Please Please Me," McCartney and John Lennon needed a music publisher for their songs. Along with the group's manager Brian Epstein and publisher Dick James, they founded a publishing company named Northern Songs Ltd.
By 1969, Epstein was dead and Northern Songs' majority shareholder James decided to sell his stake to Britain's Associated Television (ATV) without telling McCartney and Lennon. After failed attempts to buy out ATV, the pair threw in the towel and sold their stock.
Then He Got Swooped by the King of Pop
Flash forward to 1985. ATV's parent company, in dire financial straits, put its vast song catalog (including its crown jewel of some 250 Lennon-McCartney compositions) up for sale.
And who should moonwalk onto the scene and snap it up for $47.5 million? None other than Michael Jackson, who according to McCartney had previously teased him "I'm going to get yours [Beatles songs]."
Then He Delivered His Comeuppance
Later, Jackson, deep in a financial hole himself, sold half the ATV song catalog to Sony for roughly $100 million. After his passing, Jackson's estate would sell the remainder to Sony/ATV for $750 million — a none too shabby ROI.
In 2017, with U.S. copyright laws on his side, Sir Paul sued Sony/ATV and finally re-claimed ownership of his Beatles music in a private settlement with the company, ending a 48-year saga. So if any filmmakers out there are looking to use "Can't Buy Me Love" in your next movie, it's time to pay Paul.
And in a Twist...
One song not included in the deal has a title related to money. Before the 1985 sale of the catalog to Michael Jackson, the head of ATV gave his teenage daughter the choice of one Beatles' song to keep for herself.
Someone with dollar signs in their eyes would've instantly chosen "Yesterday," one of the top royalty earning songs in history. But her favorite was the McCartney-penned classic "Penny Lane," which she owns to this day.
Speaking of “Penny Lane”...
McCartney recently returned to his hometown of Liverpool to film “Carpool Karaoke” for “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” during which he revisited the street that inspired the song.
Corden stopped the car and McCartney checked in on some of the places that inspired him. He said hello at a barber shop, sang in a flower shop and added his signature to the graffitied Penny Lane road sign.
The segment, which concluded with a joyous mini-concert at a pub, has been a Beatles-sized hit. It’s been viewed almost 30 million times on YouTube, and it’s being expanded to a prime-time special, “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live From Liverpool.”
Macca may not own the song anymore. But he’ll never have to buy his own beer on the real Penny Lane.