Paul McCartney says John Lennon's death turned him into a posthumous "martyr"

By Maria Coder
Updated July 07, 2015 11:00 AM
Credit: NBC; Inset: Rowland Scherman/Getty

It’s been 45 years since the Beatles split up, but Sir Paul McCartney is still smarting from arguments over songwriting credits. And he’s still trying to find his place in history with former band mate John Lennon.

In a new interview with the U.K. edition of Esquire magazine, the British musician reveals his frustration.

The former Beatle, 73, says Lennon’s being shot on a New York street made him into a posthumous “martyr.”

He said the four members of the British band were mostly “equal” following their split in 1970 – until 10 years later, when Lennon’s death, at the age of 40, forever changed that.

“John did a lot of great work, yeah. And post-Beatles he did more great work, but he also did a lot of not-great work. Now the fact that he’s now martyred has elevated him to a James Dean, and beyond,” said McCartney. “So whilst I didn’t mind that – I agreed with it – I understood that now there was going to be revisionism. It was going to be: John was the one.”

McCartney also opens up about the controversy surrounding songwriting credits – specifically citing the lyrics to "Yesterday", which McCartney says he wrote by himself.

He explains there was a plan to alternate the Beatles’ writing credits between “Lennon and McCartney” and “McCartney and Lennon.” While that didn’t happen, McCartney says at first he didn’t mind.

“It’s a good logo, like Rodgers and Hammerstein. ‘Hammerstein and Rodgers’ doesn t work. So I thought, ‘OK,’ ” said McCartney, even if his name wasn’t first. Things changed when the Anthology came out and cited “Songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.” Adding to the injury for McCartney, the original artwork for “Yesterday,” written by McCartney, had a photo of Lennon above it.

“I said, ‘Could we have “By Paul McCartney and John Lennon”; wouldn t that be a good idea?”

In the end, nothing changed. “And I went, ‘Argh! Come on, lads!’ Anyway, they wouldn t do it.”

Despite the ups and downs, McCartney says the Beatles found worldwide fame because of their original work and talent, crediting all his band mates for their work – Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Lennon and himself.

When asked if he thought his name and Lennon’s would forever be linked, McCartney responded, “Hopefully.”

Read the full interview at the Esquire site.