It's extremely tough to capture Paul McCartney's entire life in 20 photos. We could easily present 50 amazing shots from any one year of his time in the Beatles, let alone the 43 years since the group broke up. But in honor of McCartney's 24th post-Beatles album, New — and our new cover story — we're kicking off our look back at his career with a shot of McCartney and his songwriting partner John Lennon circa 1964.
The Beatles spent two-years playing around tiny gigs around Hamburg, Germany between 1960 and 1962. It was a crucial time for the young band, teaching them how to win over hostile crowds and keep them enthralled. A devoted fan-base grew out of this scene, and it got the attention of future manager Brian Epstein. Here is McCartney in Hamburg, circa 1961.
Beatlemania swept England in 1963, but they didn't come to America until "I Want to Hold Your Hand" reached the top of the charts. They played the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964 to a TV audience of 73 million people, inspiring teenagers all over the country to pick up the guitar, bass or drums.
The Beatles early American gigs were in theaters, but they were quickly forced to play stadiums in order to come even remotely close to satisfying demand. The sound was horrid at these shows, and 60,000 shrieking girls didn't exactly help matters. Here is the band in Munich, Germany in 1966. This was right around the time they decided to get off the road for good.
Free from the endless hassles of touring, the Beatles were able to devote more time to making albums. Here they are at the release party for their 1967 landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album marked the last time they fully functioned as a unit, and some critics see it as their best work.
On the rooftop of Apple Records in 1969.
Paul McCartney's life changed forever in May of 1967 when he met photographer Linda Eastman. They married less than two years later, and were together virtually every day until she died from breast cancer in 1998. Here they are in 1971, right around the time she gave birth to their daughter Stella.
Paul knew that recapturing the magic of the Beatles would be impossible, but that didn't stop him from forming Wings with Linda in 1971. They toured the world many times over and scored huge hits with "Band on the Run," "Jet," My Love" and "Let Me Roll It." Here they are on the Band on the Run tour in 1973.
It doesn't matter who you are, you simply can't bring marijuana into Japan. Authorities busted McCartney in Tokyo with eight ounces of weed and threw him into the clink for ten days, finally releasing him without any charges.
Paul formed a tight friendship with Michael Jackson in the early Eighties, and they scored hits with "Say Say Say" and "The Girl Is Mine." Their relationship fell apart a few years later when Jackson outbid McCartney for the rights to the Beatles catalog.
After getting busted with weed in Japan in 1980, Paul broke up Wings and spent the rest of the Eighties off the road. He finally relented in 1989 when he launched a huge stadium tour to support his new LP Flowers in the Dirt. For the first time in his career, he centered the show around Beatles classics.
Paul was feuding with Yoko and his fellow Beatles when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, so he stayed home. Six years later, he showed up to induct John Lennon as a solo artist. "I remember writing 'A Day in the Life' with you," he said. "And the little look we gave each other when we wrote the line 'I'd love to turn you on.' We kinda knew what we were doing, you know. A sneaky little look."
The surviving members of the Beatles came together in 1995 to promote the three-volume Beatles Anthology collection and a new television documentary. They even went into the studio to finish a couple of John Lennon demos. They were essentially the first "new" Beatles songs in twenty-five years, but the reunion was short-lived.
Paul McCartney became Sir Paul McCartney on March 11, 1997. "Proud to be British," he said. "Wonderful day and it's a long way from a little terrace in Liverpool."
In 1999, Paul went back to the Cavern Club in Liverpool to promote his new covers record Run Devil Run. Backed by a group that included Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, he played standards like "Honey Hush" and "Brown Eyed Handsome" before wrapping things up with "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Party" by Jessie Mae Robinson.
McCartney helped organize The Concert For New York City in 2001, which also included David Bowie, the Who, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Bon Jovi, Elton John, Billy Joel and many, many others. Macca closed out the night with an amazing set of Beatles classics, marking his first public performance with a band he'd take all over the world during the next twelve years (and counting).
In 2003, Paul McCartney's Driving Rain tour brought him to Moscow's Red Square. He played to over 100,000 people. Needless to say, he played "Back in the U.S.S.R." Twice.
In 2006, Paul, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison all went to Las Vegas to attend the opening night of the incredible Cirque du Soleil show Love, which features a grand mega-mix of Beatles classics. The album became a best seller and the show is still going strong seven years later.
Ringo Starr turned seventy on July 7th, 2010. He celebrated with an All Starr Band show at Radio City Music Hall. Paul McCartney delighted the crowd when he came out during the encore to play "Birthday." It was one of a only very tiny handful of times the two surviving Beatles have shared the stage in recent years.