LONDON – Paul McCartney can still rock at 70. What more could a former Beatle want?
He celebrated his birthday in private Monday, perhaps resting up between gigantic gigs this summer. But he shows no sign of slowing down as his music is passed on to generations too young to have seen him in Wings, much less the Beatles.
Once a pot-smoking counterculture rebel, “Sir Paul” is very much part of the British establishment now, closing Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee concert earlier this month with a mix of favourites that included a raucous “All My Loving,” one of the Beatles’ first smash hits.
He’s also preparing for a featured role as the final act at the July 27 opening ceremony of the London Olympics â€” just another global audience of a billion or more for one of the most popular performers in pop history.
Even McCartney may be a bit nervous for that one, but he won’t be short of material: Consider a back catalogue that includes “Yesterday,” ”Eleanor Rigby,” ”Penny Lane” and a few dozen other classics, including perennial crowd pleasers “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude.”
It’s been a strong year for McCartney, who in October married his third wife, dark-haired American heiress Nancy Shevell, closing the book on his failed union and messy divorce from second wife Heather Mills. His first wife, Linda, died of breast cancer in 1998.
McCartney has appeared relaxed and almost jovial in recent months as he eases into his role as one of rock’s eminent elder statesmen, a position he shares with Bob Dylan (71) and Mick Jagger (68).
And while there are plenty of other musicians of his generation still playing, McCartney manages to keep his act squarely in the mainstream, rather than becoming just another oldies show. He still puts out new music and attracts new fans. His latest album, “Kisses on the Bottom,” was released in February.
McCartney has admitted dyeing his hair (which sometimes seems to have an odd burgundy tint), but his musical ability has not diminished with age.
He can still captivate a large arena with a simple acoustic performance of “Blackbird” and can shift gears at the drop of a hat for a mean, Vegas-style, pyrotechnic-aided rendition of “Live and Let Die,” a James Bond theme song that has become a favourite part of his repertoire.
John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, tweeted birthday wishes to McCartney on Monday. And Paul Weller made a one-day-only digital release of the Beatles song “Birthday” as a tribute, with proceeds going to charity.
In the run-up to his birthday, McCartney, a longtime vegetarian, urged the public to cut back on meat consumption to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and ease the global warming crisis.