According to Guinness World Records, Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE is the most commercially successful songwriter in the history of popular music with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles sold in the UK.
McCartney was heavily influenced by American Rhythm and Blues music. He has stated that Little Richard was his idol when he was in school and that the first song he ever sang in public was "Long Tall Sally," at a Butlins holiday camp talent competition.
McCartney gained worldwide fame as a member of The Beatles, alongside John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. McCartney and Lennon formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships and wrote some of the most popular songs in the history of rock music.
After leaving The Beatles, McCartney launched a successful solo career and formed the band Wings with his wife, Linda Eastman, and singer-songwriter Denny Laine.
BBC News Online readers named McCartney the "greatest composer of the millennium," and BBC News cites his Beatles song "Yesterday" as the most covered song in the history of recorded music—by over 2,200 artists—and since its 1965 release, has been played more than 7,000,000 times on American television and radio according to the BBC.
Wings' 1977 single "Mull of Kintyre" became the first single to sell more than two million copies in the UK, and remains the UK's top selling non-charity single.
Based on the 93 weeks his compositions have spent at the top spot of the UK chart, and 24 number one singles to his credit, McCartney is the most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history. As a performer or songwriter, McCartney was responsible for 32 number one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and has sold 15.5 million albums in the U.S. alone.
McCartney has composed film scores, classical and electronic music, released a large catalogue of songs as a solo artist, and has taken part in projects to help international charities. He is an advocate for animal rights, for vegetarianism, and for music education; he is active in campaigns against landmines, seal hunting, and Third World debt.
His company MPL Communications owns the copyrights to more than 3,000 songs, including all of the songs written by Buddy Holly, along with the publishing rights to such musicals as Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, and Grease.
McCartney's grandfather, Joe McCartney, played an E-flat tuba. (He was not the fellow who played "Paul's Grandfather" in Hard Days Night.) McCartney's father was a trumpet player and pianist who had led Jim Mac's Jazz Band in the 1920s and encouraged his two sons to be musical. The McCartneys had an upright piano in the front room. Jim McCartney used to point out the different instruments in songs on the radio, and often took McCartney to local brass band concerts.
McCartney's father gave him a nickel-plated trumpet, but when skiffle music became popular, McCartney swapped the trumpet for a £15 Framus Zenith (model 17) acoustic guitar. As he was left-handed, McCartney found right-handed guitars difficult to play, but when he saw a poster advertising a Slim Whitman concert, he realised that Whitman played left-handed with his guitar strung the opposite way to a right-handed player.
McCartney wrote his first song ("I Lost My Little Girl") on that guitar, a Zenith, and also played his father's Framus Spanish guitar when writing early songs with Lennon. He later learned to play the piano and wrote his second song, "When I'm Sixty-Four." On his father's advice, he took music lessons, but since he preferred to learn 'by ear' he never paid much attention to them.
In 1954, while taking the bus from his home in the suburb of Speke to the Liverpool Institute, he met George Harrison, who lived nearby. When he was 15, McCartney met John Lennon and The Quarrymen at St. Peter's Church Hall in Woolton on July 6. 1957. He formed a close working relationship with Lennon and they collaborated writing many songs. Harrison joined the group in early 1958 as lead guitarist, followed in early 1960 by Lennon's art school friend, Stuart Sutcliffe on bass.
By May 1960, they had tried several new names, including "Johnny and the Moondogs" and "The Silver Beetles," playing a tour of Scotland under that name with Johnny Gentle. They finally changed the name of the group to "The Beatles" in mid-August 1960 and recruited Pete Best at short-notice to become their drummer for an imminent engagement in Hamburg.
During extended stays over the next two years, The Beatles performed as a resident group in a number of Hamburg clubs. On returns to Liverpool they played at the Cavern club. Prior to the end of the residency, Sutcliffe left the band, so McCartney, reluctantly, became The Beatles' bass player. The Beatles recorded their first published musical material in Hamburg, performing as the backing group for Tony Sheridan on the single "My Bonnie."
This recording later brought the Beatles to the attention of a key figure in their development and commercial success, Brian Epstein, who became their next manager. Epstein eventually negotiated a record contract for the group with Parlophone in May 1962. After replacing Best with Ringo Starr on drums, The Beatles took off; and the rest, as they say, is history.