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14 Reasons Every Teenager Should Know Who Paul McCartney Is

Calm down: Millennials should be aware of Kanye’s special guest

Rolling Stone Jan 06, 2015
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Paul McCartney, 1975 | Photo Credit: Linda McCartney

Paul McCartney, 1975 | Photo Credit: Linda McCartney

By Nick Murray, Christopher R. Weingarten

On New Year’s Eve, Kanye West and Paul McCartney dropped their collaboration “Only One,” an Auto-Tuned, Stevie-tinged meditation on parenthood that a spokesperson calls “the first publicly available recording from what has become a prolific musical collaboration between these two legendary artists.”

Some folks ”” most likely joking ”” started posting variations of “Who is Paul McCartney?” and a cyclone of activity soon took over Twitter. There were smug folks angry or saddened that kids don’t know their hugely famous elders; there were equally smug people defending a teen’s right not to know someone whose biggest hit came out 46 years ago; there were headlines from news organizations that fueled the fires.

Let Rolling Stone soothe the worried minds of anyone trolled by these pranksters: Assuming that a teenager has been actively aware of pop culture in the last 10 years, here are 14 reasons why there’s really no excuse that millenials aren’t mindful of Macca.


He Headlined the 2005 Super Bowl Halftime Show

After Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock and ­”” most famously ”” Janet Jackson made the 2004 halftime show the most controversial in history, the Super Bowl went classic rock, leaning on acts like the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen for the rest of the decade. This run started with Paul McCartney, who played three Beatles classics (“Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” “Hey Jude”) and one Wings hit (“Live and Let Die”) for the 76,000 people at Jacksonville’s Everbank Field and 84 million watching at home.

He Appeared on the 2006 Grammys With Jay Z and Linkin Park

The only reason a viral “Who is that guy onstage with Jay Z?” joke didn’t happen in 2006 was because Twitter didn’t get invented until the following month. During the death throes of mash-up mania, Jay Z (rocking a John Lennon shirt!) and Linkin Park performed their Grammy-winning combo of the rapper’s “Numb” and the band’s “Encore.” The song slowly transformed into the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and the Wing-leader emerged from the wings.

‘The Beatles: Rock Band’ Sold Over a Million Copies

At the height of its popularity, Rock Band was one of the biggest stories in tech: By the end of 2008 it had sold 4 million units and its creators were included in Time‘s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. In the issue, Steven Van Zandt mused that the game “may have saved classic rock for generations to come.” The next year, a McCartney-supervised sequel with only Beatles music sold over a million copies in North America.

A legal tangle between Apple and the Beatles’ Apple Corps had prevented the Fab Four from joining the magical mystery world of legal MP3 sales. But in 2010, the band that defined music of the Sixties was finally compatible with the technology that defined music of the Aughts. The Beatles were on iTunes and Apple couldn’t help but tell the world ”” multiple TV commercials, billboards, a full-page ad in the New York Times and a “digital box set. “I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes,” said Ringo Starr. He might have also been glad when they sold more than 2 million songs in the first week.

He Closed the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

More than 40 million Americans watched Paul McCartney close the Opening Ceremony of London Summer Olympics with an extended stadium sing-along performance of “Hey Jude.” “I can’t stop it!” the singer yelled six minutes in. “Keep on rolling!” The show was directed by Danny Boyle and also featured Dizzee Rascal, Frank Turner and the Arctic Monkeys, who covered “Come Together” as cyclists with bird wings rode in circles.

He Played the Sandy Relief Concert That Aired on 39 TV Stations

Paul McCartney joined the three surviving members of Nirvana for this Sandy Relief benefit and it was hard to miss. The concert was beamed onto 39 American TV stations, tons of radio stations, more than 25 popular websites (including YouTube and Vevo) and select movie screens across the nation.

Have You Seen TV Lately?

The first three seasons of Glee all featured a Beatles song, and season five featured two entire episodes built on nothing but the Fab Four, complete with a soundtrack album that debuted in the Top 40. Season 7 of American Idol featured two Beatles-themed episodes (winner David Cook did “Day Tripper” and “Eleanor Rigby”), and Season 12 had one too. The Voice judges Shakira, Blake Shelton, Usher and Adam Levine joined forces to sing “With a Little Help From My Friends” in 2013. Paul wasn’t on Dancing With the Stars, but his ex-wife Heather Mills was. And many headlines were made when Mad Men paid $250k to use “Tomorrow Never Knows” in an episode. “It was always my feeling that the show lacked a certain authenticity because we never could have an actual master recording of the Beatles performing,” show creator Matthew Weiner told The New York Times. “Because they are the band, probably, of the 20th century.”

Fifty years after the Beatles made their U.S. television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Record Academy assembled a post-Grammy tribute with a cast of performers designed to appeal to both boomers and millennials. For the latter: Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry and Imagine Dragons.

He’s Stella McCartney’s Dad

Stella McCartney has styled countless Aughts celebs, created lines for H&M and Target and designed a decade of Adidas sportswear. She has appeared on Time‘s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and her work has been honored by magazines like Vogue and Elle. She’s also the inspiration for the Wings’ band name: During her birth, Stella’s famous dad prayed that she would be born with some.

He’s Pals With Jimmy Fallon

In 2013, Paul McCartney appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon for a hilarious sketch in which the Beatle and the SNLer switched accents. The clip went viral (currently at 2.8 million views) and featured Macca saying “Honey Boo Boo.” Before that, McCartney and Fallon sang the “original version” of “Yesterday” (with some new lyrics) in 2010.

‘Spongebob Squarepants’ Loves the Beatles

Spongebob, Paul McCartney

Spongebob Squarepants has been on TV for 15 years, so it’s a good chance many American teens have glimpsed some of the Beatles references floating around Bikini Bottom. In 2007, Patrick said “Ringo” into a walkie-talkie, there’s a 2008 episode called “Krabby Road” and another where you can spot the Yellow Submarine in the background. Naturally, in 2005, the show released a soundtrack called The Yellow Album. 

5 Seconds of Summer Love the Beatles

Earlier this year, 5 Seconds of Summer drummer Ashton Irwin was caught wearing a pair of shirts featuring shots of the Beatles in their early club days. If fans of the Australian pop-punk boy band missed the photos, they were also exposed to McCartney at the Billboard Music Awards, where a video introduced 5SOS by invoking their Liverpool forbearers and Miley Cyrus and the Flaming Lips covered “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”

Teenagers Haven’t Lived a Day on Earth Without the Ability to Use a Search Engine

You only have to type “pau” into Google and his name shows up. Even a teenager at the ripe old age of 19 was born in the days of AltaVista.

The Beatles Are Still Incredibly Popular Among Young People, Like They Have Been for the Last 50 Years

At least if this video is any indication.

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