Paul McCartney's Life in Photos

The Beatles frontman, activist and actor has lived quite the life

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics

Born on June 18, 1942, Paul McCartney grew up in Liverpool, England, with his parents and younger brother Peter Michael. His dad was a self-taught musician, and often gathered the family around the piano at night for a musical wind-down.

"I have some lovely childhood memories of lying on the floor and listening to my dad play 'Lullaby of the Leaves' [and other] old songs like [George Gershwin's] 'Stairway to Paradise,' " Paul said in interviews published in The Beatles Anthology.

Paul was a solid student and sang in the church choir while balancing piano and trumpet lessons.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics

Paul successfully campaigned his dad for a guitar and learned to play Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers hits by ear.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
Hulton Archive/Getty

At the Liverpool Institute, Paul reconnected with an old school friend, George Harrison, and soon after, met John Lennon.

"You saw him rather than met him," Paul once said of John. "He grew long sideburns, he had a long drape jacket, he had the drainpipe trousers and the crepe-soled shoes."

Their friendship — and shared love of music — affected Paul's schoolwork, much to his father's chagrin.

"I ruined Paul's life," John once told journalist Ray Connolly. "He could have been a doctor. He could have been somebody!"

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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In 1957, Paul watched John's band The Quarrymen at a church carnival, soon joining them and bringing George along, too.

"The Quarrymen were so knocked out that I actually knew and could sing 'Twenty Flight Rock,' " Paul said in The Anthology. "That's what got me into the Beatles."

That and "he also looked like Elvis," John told Hunter Davies in The Beatles. "I dug him."

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Cummings Archives/Redferns

Paul and John immediately began writing songs together.

"We had a rule," Paul once said. "If we couldn't remember the song the next day, then it was no good."

The young men also shared a sad bond: the loss of their mothers. Paul's mom died of complications from breast cancer in 1956, while John's mom was hit by a car in 1958. The latter put the band's music on hold for a while — until George brought them back together in 1959.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics

Drummer Pete Best left the group in the early 1960s, and with the addition of new drummer Ringo Starr, the band shot to superstardom. The Beatles won Best New Artist at the 7th annual Grammy Awards, and took the United States (and the world) by storm with their harmonies and charm — not to mention Paul's good looks.

The group also got quite a bit of screen time, starring in movies like Help and A Hard Day's Night, based on their musical works.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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This music man, however, was taken, by photographer Linda Eastman, who became both a muse and collaborator of the star.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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On March 12, 1969, Linda and Paul said "I do," with Linda's daughter Heather by their side. Paul adopted Heather as the newlywed's family grew.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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Together, the pair had daughters Heather, Stella and Mary (here at London's Heathrow Airport in 1975). Heather is now an artist, Stella a designer and Mary an activist and photographer.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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The couple also had a son, James, born in 1977 (here with Dad in N.Y.C. in 1981). He has since become a musician like his father.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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In the 1970s, Paul launched his solo career, later gathering musician friends and Linda to form the successful band Wings before returning to solo work in the '80s and '90s.

Linda died of breast cancer in 1998. Following her death, "I think I cried for about a year on and off ... it seemed the only thing to do," Paul told the BBC. "You expect to see them walk in, this person you love, because you are so used to them."

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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In 2002, Paul married model and activist Heather Mills, but the pair's divorce made way more headlines beginning in 2006. By 2008, Mills — mom of the couple's young daughter Beatrice — was granted an almost $50 million settlement following a drawn-out court battle to end the marriage.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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On Oct. 9, 2011, Paul married New York City businesswoman Nancy Shevell in an intimate ceremony in London. One week prior, the singer told PEOPLE, "It's a good time for me. I'm happy."

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
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In 2012, amidst a series of tours, Paul — now an Oscar winner and an 81-time Grammy nominee (with 18 wins) — helped close out the London Olympics.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics

Despite the untimely deaths of bandmates John and George, Paul and Ringo have remained close, joining each other on stage once in a while like at the 2014 The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to the Beatles in L.A.

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Paul McCartney Life in Pics
Keith Birmingham/getty

Currently, Paul is back on the road on his Got Back U.S. tour, with a performance at the Glastonbury Festival slated for next weekend.

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special edition cover for the Paul McCartney life in photos

For more on Paul and his Beatles bandmates, pick up PEOPLE's Special Edition: The Beatles Sgt. Pepper at 55! on newsstands and now.

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