Thorough portrait of “the Cute Beatle,” from his working-class childhood in Liverpool through his raucous years with the Fab Four and his continued musical output.
The Beatles are one of the most beloved rock bands of all time, and each member’s personal legacy is shaped by adoration, gossip and myth. This is especially true of McCartney, who receives long-overdue fair treatment in this insightful biography based on original interviews and careful research. Former People senior writer and current Oregonian pop-culture contributor Carlin (Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, 2006, etc.) firmly establishes McCartney’s role as the Beatles’ music director and formal taskmaster. He also exposes the nuances of his brilliant yet highly competitive personal and professional relationship with John Lennon and debunks several myths regarding his role in the band’s dissolution and the bitter lawsuits that followed. Along with Yoko Ono, McCartney has often been construed in Beatles lore as the villain, while Lennon is elevated to sainthood. The reality was much more complicated, and Carlin’s balanced portrayal of all the Beatles’ virtues and flaws is commendable. He not only debunks several unflattering myths about McCartney, but is also just to Ono and shows Lennon at times to be quite cruel. Carlin’s metaphor for the band as a family—with McCartney as the hardworking, underappreciated mother, Lennon as the magnetic but ne’er-do-well father, George as the sulky teen and Ringo as the small child with a toy train—feels apt. While the book loses some of its tension and momentum in the later chapters, parts are still emotionally fraught, most notably McCartney’s last moments with his wife Linda, his messy divorce from Heather Mills and his reaction to Harrison’s death. Carlin intersperses the narrative with snippets of song lyrics, which are fitting at times but occasionally stall the narrative flow.
An excellent pop-culture biography.