Harmonica_header

Beautiful Dreamer (chrom)

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER chrom

By: Stephen Foster

Key: D

Time: 9/8

 

-5 5* -5   -3 -2*   2 -1* 2 -4

Beau-ti-ful dream-er, wake un-to me,
-3   4* -4 -4   -3
Star-light and dew-drops

3   3   -2* 2   -2*

are wait-ing for thee;
-5   5* -5   -3   -2*
Sounds of the rude world,

2 -1* 2 -4

heard in the day,
-3   4* -4   -4   -3
Lulled by the moon-light

3   3   -2*   2 -1

have all passed a-way!
-3 3   2   1* 4*
Beau-ti-ful dream-er,

-4   -3 -2* -1

queen of my song,
-5   5* -5 -4   6
List while I woo thee

-5   5* -5 -4 -3

with soft mel-o-dy;
-5   5* -5   -3
Gone are the cares

-2* 2   -1* 2   -4

of life’s bus-y throng,
-3 4* -4   -4   -3
Beau-ti-ful dream-er,

3 3 -2* 2 -2*

a-wake un-to me!
-4 4* -5   -5   -3
Beau-ti-ful dream-er,

-2* 2 -2* 2 -1

a-wake un-to me!

Lyrics


Beautiful Dreamer

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

3/4 time – slowly.

7 -7 7 6 5 -4 4 -4 -6
Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,

6 -7 -6 -6 6 5 -5 5 -4 4
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;

7 -7 7 6 5 -4 4 -4 -6
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,

-7 -6 -6 6 -5 -5 5 -4 4 4
Lull’d by the moonlight have all pass’d away!

6 -5 -4 -3 -6 6 6 5 4
Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,

7 -7 7 -6 -8 7 -7 7 -6 6
List while I woo thee with soft melody;

7 -7 7 6 5 -4 4 -4 -6
Gone are the cares of life’s busy throng,

-7 -6 -6 6 -5 -5 5 -4 4 4
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

-6 -7 7 7 6 5 -5 5 -4 4
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea
Mermaids are chanting the wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.
Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E’en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

*This ballad sounds great played
with a Bb/A# key (straight harp).
Or you could crossharp it in a Eb
key. But if you don’t have those
keys, don’t let that stop you. It
will sound fine in any key.

*Words & Music By Stephen C. Foster
1825-1864 (Beautiful Dreamer was the
last song written by Stephen Foster
in 1862 and was published after his
death in 1864)

Lyrics


Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

W: Oscar Hammerstein II
M: Richard Rogers
From: Cinderella
Vic Damone
Key: Bb

3 -2* 3 -3 3 -2 3 -3 2 2
Do I love you be-cause you’re beau-ti-ful,
2 2 2 3 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -2 -2
or are you beau-ti-ful be-cause I love you?
3 -2* 3 -3 3 -2 3 -3 2 2
Am I mak-ing be-lieve I see in you
2 2 2 3 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -2
a girl too love-ly to be real-ly true?
3 3 -3 -3* -3 3 -3 -3* -2 -2
Do I want you be-cause you’re won-der-ful,
-2 -2 -2 4 3 3 3 3 3 -3 -3
or are you won-der-ful be-cause I want you?
-3* -3* -3* -3* -3* -3* 4
Are you the sweet in-ven-tion
-3-3*-3* 4 -5
of a lov-er’s dream
-5 -3* 5 -5 -5 -5 -5 5 -3* 5 -3 -3*
or are you real-ly as beau-ti-ful as you seem?

Lyrics


It’s A Beautiful Day

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

4 -4 5 6
I don’t know why
6 -6 -7 7 -7 -6 6
You think that you could hold me
5 5 -5 6 5 -5 6 -6 6
When you couldn’t get by by yourself
4 4 -4 5 -4
And I don’t know who
-4 -4 -4 5 6 5 4 -3″ 5 -4 4 3
Would ever want to tear the seam of someone’s dream
-8 -8, -7 -7, -7 -6 -7 -6 -7 7 -7 -6
Baby, it’s fine, you said that we should just be friends
6, 5 5 -5 6 5 -5 6 -6 6
Well, I came up with that line and I’m sure
4 4 -4 5 -4
That it’s for the best
4 -4 5 6 5 4 -3″, 5 -4 4 3
If you ever change your mind, don’t hold your breath

3 -3″ -3 4 -3″ 5 -4, -4 5 -4
‘Cause you may not believe, mmm mmm mmm
-3″ -3″ -3, 4 -3″ 5 -4, 5 -4
That baby, I’m relieved, mmm
-3″ -3″ -3″ -3 4, -4 6 -6 -7 6
When you said goodbye, my whole world shined

(Chorus)
9 9 9
Hey hey hey
8 8 8 -8 9 10 -9 9 -8 8 -5 6 -6 6 5
It’s a beautiful day and I can’t stop myself from smiling
6 -6 7 -5, 6 -6 6 5
If we’re drinking, then I’m buying
6 -6 7 -5 6 -6 6 7
And I know there’s no denying
8 8 8 -8 9 10, -9 9 -8 8, -5 6 -6 6 5
It’s a beautiful day, the sun is up, the music’s playing
6 -6 -7 7 -5 6 -6 6 5
And even if it started raining
6 -6 7 -5 6 -6 6 5
You won’t hear this boy complaining
6 -6 7 -5 6 -6 6 5 -4 4 5 -4
‘Cause I’m glad that you’re the one who got away
5 5 6 5 -4 4
It’s a beautiful day

Lyrics


Island Of Dreams

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

5 5 -5 5 5 -4 4 -4 4 -4 4 3
i wander the streets and the gay crowded places
-4 5 -4 -4 5 -4 -4 5 -7 7
trying to forget you but somehow it seems
-5 5 -5 5 5 -4 4 -4 4 -4 4 3
my thoughts ever stray to our last meeting places
5 5 -4 4 4 -4 5 -3 -4 4
over the sea on the island of dreams
-5 -5 5 -4 4 -4 5 -4 5 6
high in the sky is a bird on the wing
-5 5 -4 4 -4 -4
please carry me with you
-5 -5 5-4 4 -4 5 -4 5 6
far far away from the mad rushing crowd
-5 5 -4 4 -4 6
please carry me with you
-5 5 -5 5 5 -4 4 -4 4 -4 4 3
again i would wander where memories enfold me
5 5 -4 4 4 -4 5 -3 -4 4
there on the beautiful island of dreams
5 5 -4 4 4 -4 5 5 -4 4
far far away on the island of dreams.

Lyrics


Too Beautiful To Last

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

W: Paul Francis Farmer
M: Richard Rodney Bennett
From: Nicholas & Alexandra
Engelbert Humperdinck
Key: C

10 -9 10 9 10 -8 -7
The days of au-tumn splen-dor
8 -8 8 -7 8 7 -6
Those mo-ments, warm and ten-der
-6 6 -6 -5 -6 5 -4 5
Was it too beau-ti-ful to last
10 -9 10 9 10 -8 -7
The love we shared to-geth-er
8 -8 8 -7 8 7 -6
The dreams we dared to-geth-er
-6 6 -6 -5 -6 5 -4 5
Was it too beau-ti-ful to last

8 7* -7* 8 7*
Walk-ing hand in hand
-6 7 7* -7* -10
The dawn dis-clos-es
-9 8 -7* 7 7*-7* 7
We were dream-ing of a land
7 7* -7*-10 -9*
Where love re-pos-es
9* 8 7* -7* 8 7*
But cas-tles made of sand
-7 -7* 8 -9* -9 9 -9 -6 7 7*
Like win-ter ros-es are fat-ed to die
7* -7* 8 -9 7 -7 -8
My dar-lin’, like you and I
-8 9 -9
My dar-lin’

10 -9 10 9 10 -8 -7
Where are those sweet Sep-tem-bers
8 -8 8 -7 8 7 -6
The joy my heart re-mem-bers
-6 6 -6 -5 -6 5 -4 5
Lost in the shad-ows of the past
10 -9 10 9 10 -8 -7
The rain-bow arched a-bove you
8 -8 8 -7 8 7 -6
The sa-cred words “I love you”
-6 6 -6 -5 -6 5 -4 5
Why did that dream go by so fast
8 -8 9 10 -9 9
Was it too beau-ti-ful
9 -8 9 10 -9 9 -8 -9 9
Was it too beau-ti-ful to last

Lyrics


Beautiful Ohio

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

BEAUTIFUL OHIO
W: Ballard MacDonald
M: Mary Earl
Kate Smith, Eddy Arnold
Key: Eb
Time: 3/4

-3* -3 3* 3 -3* -3
Drift-ing with the cur-rent
3* 3 -3* 3* -1
down a moon-lit stream
4 -4 -3* 3* 4 -4
While a-bove the heav-ens
-3* 3* 4 -3* -1*
in their glo-ry gleam
-5* 3 -5 3 5
And the stars on high
-5 3* 5 -3* 3
Twink-le in the sky

-3* -3 3* 3 -3* -3 3*
Seem-ing in a par-a-dise
3 -3* 3* -1
of love di-vine
4 -4 -3* 3* 4 -4 -3*
Dream-ing of a pair of eyes
3* 4 -3* -1*
that looked in mine
-5* -5* -5 -5*-3*3*3* -2 2 -2
Beau-ti-ful O-hi-o in dreams a-gain
-5 5 -5 5 -3* 3 3* -1 -1*
I see vis-ions of what used to be

Lyrics


Beautiful Maria of my Soul

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any
-6 -7 7 -7 -7 5 -5
In the sunlight of your smile
-5 6 -6 6 6 -4 5 
In the summer of our life
5 -5 6 -5 6 -6
In the magic of love
-6 -7 7
Storms above 
7 -8 7 -7
Scattered away

-6 -7 7 -7 -7 5 -5
Lovers dreaming in the night
-7 7 -8 -8 8 8 
Reaching for paradise
7 -8 8 -9 -9 7 -7
But as the dark shadows fade
-7 -5 -6 -6 
Love slips away

-6 -7 7 -7 -7 5 -5
On an empty stretch of beach
-5 6 -6 6 6 -4 5 
In the pattern of the waves
5 -5 6 -5 -5 6 -6 
Drawing pictures with my hand
-6 -7 7 7 -8 7 -7
In the sand, I see your face


-6 -7 7 -7 -7 5 -5
Skipping pebbles on the sea
-7 7 -8 -8 8 8 
Wishing for paradise
7 -8 8 -9 -9 7 -7
Sand castles crumble below
7 -8 8 -9 -9 7 -8
The restless tides ebb and flow


9 -9 8 -8 8
Listening to a shell
9 -9 8 -8 8 
Hoping for your voice
9 -9 8 -8 8 -6 -8 -7 -6
Beautiful Maria of my soul

Lyrics


Beautiful Life

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

BEAUTIFUL LIFE ACE OF BASE

KEY OF Eb

5 -4 5 -4 5 -5 4 4 5 -3b
You can do what you want just seize the day

-4 4 -4 4 -4 -4 5
What you’re do-ing to-mor-row’s

5 -5 5 -4 4
Gon-na come your way

5 -4 5 -4 5 -5 4 4 5 -3b
Don’t you ev-er con-sid-er giv-in’ up,

-3 -3b 4 -4
you will find, oooh

(CHORUS)

-4 4 -4 4 -4 5 5 -5
It’s a beau-ti-ful life, oh oh

-4 4 -4 4 -4 5 5 -5
It’s a beau-ti-ful life, oh oh

-4 4 -4 4 -4 5 5 -5
It’s a beau-ti-ful life, oh oh

-4 -4 -4 5 -5b 5 4 -3b -4
I just wan-na be here be-side you

4 -4 4 -4 -4 -4 -4 4
please stay un-til the break of dawn

VERSE 2 plays as 1

Take a walk in the park when you feel down
There’s so many things there
That’s gonna lift you up
See the nature in bloom a laughing child
Such a dream, oooh

(CHORUS)

-3b -3b -3 4 -4 4 -3 -3 -3b
You’re look-ing for some-where to be-long

-5b 5 -4 4 -4 4
You’re stand-ing all a-lone

-3b -3b -3 4 -4 4 -3 -3b -2
For some-one to guide you on your way

5 5 5 -5b 5
Now and For-ev-er

(CHORUS)

-3b -5 -5 -5 -5b -5b 5
were liv-ing in dif-f�rent ways

5 -4 5 -4 5 -5b
It’s a beau-ti-ful life

-5b 5 -5b -5 -5b -5b -5b
I’m gon-na take you to the

-4 4 -4 4 -4 5 -5
It’s a beau-ti-ful life, oooh (TIMES 6)

ENJOY!!

Lyrics


Beautiful Disaster

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

BEAUTIFUL DISASTER LIVE KELLY CLARKSON

KEY OF G

-5 -6 -6 -5 7
He drowns in his dreams

-5 -5 -6 -6 -5 7 -5 -5
An ex-qui-site ex-treme I know

-5 -5 -6 -6 -7 7
He’s as damned as he seems

-6b -6b -5 -5 5 -5 -6b -5
more hea-ven than a heart could hold

-5 8 7 -6b 8 8 -7
And if I try to save him

-7 -6b -5 -7 -7 7
My whole world would cave in

-5 7 -6b -5b
It just ain’t right

7 7 7 -6b -5
Lord it just aint right

(CHORUS)

7 -7 8 8 -7
whoa and I don’t know

-5 -8 8 -7 7 -7 7
I don’t know what he’s af-ter

7 7 7 7 –6 -6
But he’s so beau-ti-ful

-5 -6 -6 7 -7 -6 -6b -6b -5
He�s Such a beau-ti-ful dis-as-ter

-5 7 -7 8 8 -7
And if I could hold on

8 8 -8 -7 7 -7 -6b
Through the tears and the laugh-ter

7 7 7 7 -6 -6
Would it be beau-ti-ful

-5 -6 -6 7 -6 -6b -5 -6b -5
Or just a beau-ti-ful dis-as-ter

VERSE 2 same as 1

He’s magic and myth
As strong as what I believe
A tragedy with
More damage than a soul should see
And do I try to change him
So hard not to blame him
Hold on tight Hold on tight

(CHORUS)

-8 -8 -8 -8 -8 8 7 8 -8 -8
I’m long-ing for love and the log-i-cal

7 9 -8 8 -8 8 7 8 7 7
But he’s on-ly hap-py hys-ter-i-cal

7 -8 -8 -8 -8 8 7 8 -8 -8
I’m search-ing for some kind of mir-a-cle

9 -8 8 -8 -5 -6 -6 7 -7
Wait-ing so long I�ve wait-ed so long

-5 -6 -6 -5 7
He’s soft to the touch

-5 -6 -6 -5 7 -5 -5
But frayed at the ends he breaks

-5 -6 -6 -7 7
He’s nev-er e-nough

-5 -6b -5 -5 5 -5 -6b -6b
And still he’s more than I can take

(CHORUS)

He’s beautiful
Such a beautiful disaster

ENJOY!!

Lyrics


America the Beautiful

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

6 6 5 5 6 6 -4 -4
Oh beau-ti-ful, for spac-ious skies,
5 -5 6 -6 -7 6
for am-ber waves of grain,
6 6 5 5 6 6 -4 -4
for pur-ple moun-tain ma-jes-ties
-8 7 -8 8 -6 -8
a-bove thy fruit-ed plain,
6 8 8 -8 7 7 -7 -7
A-me-ri-ca, A-mer-i-ca,
7 -8 -7 -6 6 7
God shed his grace on thee.
7 7 -6 -6 7 7 6 6
And crown thy good with broth-er-hood
6 -6 7 6 -8 7
From sea to shin-ing sea.

Repeat music above for each verse below:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov’d
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Lyrics


Stephen Foster

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Stephen Collins Foster (July 4, 1826 – January 13, 1864), known also as “the father of American music”, was an American songwriter known primarily for his parlor and minstrel music. He wrote more than 200 songs, including “Oh! Susanna”, “Hard Times Come Again No More”, “Camptown Races”, “Old Folks at Home” (“Swanee River”), “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, “Old Black Joe”, and “Beautiful Dreamer”, and many of his compositions remain popular today. He has been identified as “the most famous songwriter of the nineteenth century” and may be the most recognizable American composer in other countries. Most of his handwritten music manuscripts are lost, but editions issued by publishers of his day feature in various collections.

Biography

There are many biographies on Foster, but details can differ widely. In addition, Foster wrote very little biographical information himself, and his brother Morrison Foster destroyed much of the information that he judged to reflect negatively upon the family.

Foster was born on July 4, 1826, to William Barclay Foster and Eliza Clayland Tomlinson Foster, with three older sisters and six older brothers. His parents were of Ulster Scots and English descent. He attended private academies in Allegheny, Athens, and Towanda, Pennsylvania and received an education in English grammar, diction, the classics, penmanship, Latin, Greek, and mathematics. The family lived in a northern city but they did not support the abolition of slavery.

Foster taught himself to play the clarinet, guitar, flute, and piano. He did not have formal instruction in composition but he was helped by Henry Kleber (1816–97), a German-born music dealer in Pittsburgh. In 1839, his brother William was serving his apprenticeship as an engineer at Towanda and thought that Stephen would benefit from being under his supervision. The site of the Camptown Races is 30 miles (48 km) from Athens and 15 miles from Towanda. His education included a brief period at Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, now Washington & Jefferson College. His tuition was paid, but he had little spending money. He left Canonsburg to visit Pittsburgh with another student and did not return.

Career

In 1846, Foster moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and became a bookkeeper with his brother Dunning’s steamship company. He wrote his first successful songs in 1848–1849, among them “Oh! Susanna”, which became an anthem of the California Gold Rush. In 1849, he published Foster’s Ethiopian Melodies, which included the successful song “Nelly Was a Lady” as made famous by the Christy Minstrels. A plaque marks the site of his residence in Cincinnati, where the Guilford School building is now located.
House in Hoboken, New Jersey where Foster is believed to have written “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” in 1854

Then he returned to Pennsylvania and signed a contract with the Christy Minstrels. It was during this period that he wrote most of his best-known songs: “Camptown Races” (1850), “Nelly Bly” (1850), “Ring de Banjo” (1851), “Old Folks at Home” (known also as “Swanee River”, 1851), “My Old Kentucky Home” (1853), “Old Dog Tray” (1853), and “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” (1854), written for his wife Jane Denny McDowell.
A Pittsburgh Press illustration of the original headstone on Stephen Foster’s grave

Many of Foster’s songs were of the blackface minstrel show tradition popular at the time but now recognized as racist. He sought to “build up taste…among refined people by making words suitable to their taste, instead of the trashy and really offensive words which belong to some songs of that order”.[citation needed] In the 1850s, he associated with a Pittsburgh-area abolitionist leader named Charles Shiras, and wrote an abolitionist play himself.  Many of his songs had Southern themes, yet Foster never lived in the South and visited it only once, during his 1852 honeymoon.

Foster’s last four years were spent in New York City. There is little information on this period of his life, although family correspondence has been preserved.

Illness and death

Foster got sick with a fever in January 1864. Weakened, he fell in his hotel in the Bowery, cutting his neck. His writing partner George Cooper found him still alive but lying in a pool of blood. Foster died in Bellevue Hospital three days later at the age of 37. Other biographers describe different accounts of his death.

Historian JoAnne O’Connell speculates in her biography, The Life and Songs of Stephen Foster, that Foster may have killed himself, a common occurrence during the Civil War. George Cooper, who was with Foster until he died, said: “He lay there on the floor, naked, suffering horribly. He had wonderful big brown eyes, and they looked up at me with an appeal I can never forget. He whispered, ‘I’m done for.’” Unlike Foster’s brother Morrison, who was not in New York and said Foster was ill and cut his neck on a washbasin, Cooper mentioned no broken crockery and also said Foster had a “large knife” for cutting up apples and turnips. Morrison may have covered up Foster’s suicide. Evelyn Morneweck, Morrison’s daughter, also said the family would have covered up the suicide of their uncle if they could have.

As O’Connell and musicologist Ken Emerson have noted, several of the songs Foster wrote during the last years of his life foreshadow his death, such as “The Little Ballad Girl” and “Kiss Me Dear Mother Ere I Die.”Emerson says in his 2010 Stephen Foster and Co. that Foster’s injuries may have been “accidental or self-inflicted.”
Telegram that communicated Stephen Foster’s death addressed to his brother Morrison Foster

When Foster died, his leather wallet contained a scrap of paper that simply said, “Dear friends and gentle hearts”, along with 38 cents (one for each year of his life) in Civil War scrip and three pennies. The note is said to have inspired Bob Hilliard’s lyric for “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” (1949). Foster was buried in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh. After his death, Morrison Foster became his “literary executor”. As such, he answered requests for copies of manuscripts, autographs, and biographical information. One of the best-loved of his works was “Beautiful Dreamer”, published shortly after his death.

Music

Foster grew up in a section of the city where many European immigrants had settled and was accustomed to hearing the music of the Italian, Scots-Irish, and German residents. He composed his first song when he was 14 and entitled it the “Tioga Waltz”. The first song that he had published was “Open thy Lattice Love” (1844). He wrote songs in support of drinking, such as “My Wife Is a Most Knowing Woman”, “Mr. and Mrs. Brown”, and “When the Bowl Goes Round”, while also composing temperance songs such as “Comrades Fill No Glass for Me” or “The Wife”. Foster also authored many church hymns, although the inclusion of his hymns in hymnals ended by 1910. Some of the hymns are “Seek and ye shall find”, “All around is bright and fair, While we work for Jesus”, and “Blame not those who weep and sigh”.  Several rare Civil War-era hymns by Foster were performed by The Old Stoughton Musical Society Chorus, including “The Pure, The Bright, The Beautiful”, “Over The River”, “Give Us This Day”, and “What Shall The Harvest Be?”

Foster usually sent his handwritten scores directly to his publishers. The publishers kept the sheet music manuscripts and did not give them to libraries nor return them to his heirs. Some of his original, hand-written scores were bought and put into private collections and the Library of Congress.

Popular songs

Foster’s songs, lyrics, and melodies have often been altered by publishers and performers. Ray Charles released a version of “Old Folks at Home” that was titled “Swanee River Rock (Talkin’ ’Bout That River),” which became his first pop hit in November 1957.

“My Old Kentucky Home” is the official state song of Kentucky, adopted by the General Assembly on March 19, 1928. “Old Folks at Home” became the official state song of Florida, designated in 1935. The lyrics are widely regarded as racist today, however, so “Old Folks at Home” was modified with approval from the Stephen Foster Memorial. The modified song was kept as the official state song, while “Florida (Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky)” was added as the state anthem.

Critics and controversies

From a modern perspective Foster’s compositions can be seen as disparaging to African Americans, or outright racist. Apologists have argued that Foster unveiled the realities of slavery in his work while also imparting some dignity to African Americans in his compositions, especially as he grew as an artist.[ Foster composed many songs that were used in minstrel shows. This form of public entertainment lampooned African Americans as buffoonish, superstitious, without a care, musical, lazy, and dim-witted. In the early 1830s, these minstrel shows gained popularity, and blackface minstrel shows were a separate musical art form by 1848, more readily accessible to the general public than opera.

Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum

In 1935, Henry Ford ceremonially presented a new addition to his historical collection of early American memorabilia in the “Home of Stephen Foster”. The structure was identified by notable historians of the time as being authentic and was then deconstructed and moved “piece by piece” from Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh), to Greenfield Village, attached to the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan. Foster’s niece insisted that it was not his birthplace, and the claim was withdrawn in 1953. Greenfield Village still displays a structure that is identified as the birthplace of Stephen Foster.  The Foster family stated that the original Foster birthplace structure was torn down in 1865.

Legacy

Musical influence

  • Many early filmmakers selected Foster’s songs for their work because his copyrights had expired and cost them nothing.
  • Professor of Folklore and musician John Minton wrote a song titled “Stephen C. Foster’s Blues”.
  • Erika M. Anderson, of the band EMA, refers to Foster’s “Camptown Races” in the song “California”, from past Life Martyred Saints (2011): “I bet my money on the bobtail nag/somebody bet on the bay.”
  • The Firesign Theatre makes many references to Foster’s compositions in their CD, Boom Dot Bust (1999, Rhino Records)
  • Larry Kirwan of Black 47 mixes the music of Foster with his own in the musical Hard Times, which earned a New York Times accolade in its original run: “a knockout entertainment”. Kirwan gives a contemporary interpretation of Foster’s troubled later years and sets it in the tumultuous time of the New York draft riots and the Irish–Negro relations of the period. A revival ran at the Cell Theater in New York in early 2014, and a revised version of the musical, called Paradise Square opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2018.
  • Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song in 1970 titled “Your Love’s Return (Song for Stephen Foster)”
  • Spike Jones recorded a comedy send-up “I Dream of Brownie in the Light Blue Jeans.”
  • Humorist Stan Freberg imagined a 1950s style version of Foster’s music in “Rock Around Stephen Foster” and, with Harry Shearer, had a sketch about Foster having writer’s block in a bit from his “United States of America” project.
  • Songwriter Tom Shaner mentions Stephen Foster meeting up with Eminem’s alter ego “Slim Shady” on the Bowery in Shaner’s song “Rock & Roll is A Natural Thing.”
  • The music of Stephen Foster was an early influence on the Australian composer Percy Grainger, who stated that hearing “Camptown Races” sung by his mother was one of his earliest musical recollections. He went on to write a piece entitled “Tribute to Foster,” a composition for mixed choir, orchestra, and pitched wine glasses based on the melody of “Camptown Races.”
  • Art Garfunkel was cast as Stephen Foster and sang his songs in an elementary school play in Queens, New York
  • Neil Sedaka wrote and recorded a song about Foster and released it on his 1975 album, The Hungry Years.
  • Alternative country duo The Handsome Family‘s song “Wildebeest,” from their 2013 album Wilderness, is about Foster’s death.

Television

  • Two television shows about the life of Foster and his childhood friend (and later wife) Jane MacDowell were produced in Japan, the first in 1979 with 13 episodes, and the second from 1992 to 1993 with 52 episodes; both were titled Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair after the song of the same name.
  • In the Honeymooners episode, “The $99,000 Answer,” Ed Norton warms up on the piano by playing the opening to “Swanee River.” Later, when Ralph returns to the game show, the first question asked is “Who is the composer of ‘Swanee River’?” Ralph nervously responds, “Ed Norton,” and loses the game.
  • In a “Fractured Fairy Tales” segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Aladdin finds a lamp with a female genie with light brown hair, who immediately asks, “Are you Stephen Foster?”

Film

Other events

  • “Stephen Foster! Super Saturday” is a day of thoroughbred racing during the Spring/Summer meet at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. During the call to the post, selections of Stephen Foster songs are played by the track bugler, Steve Buttleman. The day is headlined by the Stephen Foster Handicap, a Grade I dirt race for older horses at 9 furlongs.
  • 36 U.S.C. §140 designates January 13 as Stephen Foster Memorial Day, a United States National Observance. In 1936, Congress authorized the minting of a silver half dollar in honor of the Cincinnati Musical Center. Foster was featured on the obverse of the coin.
  • “Stephen Foster Music Camp” is a summer music camp held on EKU’s campus of Richmond, Kentucky. The camp offers piano courses, choir, band, and orchestra ensembles.

Art

 

Accolades and honors

Foster is honored on the University of Pittsburgh campus with the Stephen Foster Memorial, a landmark building that houses the Stephen Foster Memorial Museum, the Center for American Music, as well as two theaters: the Charity Randall Theatre and Henry Heymann Theatre, both performance spaces for Pitt’s Department of Theater Arts. It is the largest repository for original Stephen Foster compositions, recordings, and other memorabilia his songs have inspired worldwide.

Two state parks are named in Foster’s honor: the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, Florida and Stephen C. Foster State Park in Georgia. Both parks are on the Suwannee River. Stephen Foster Lake at Mount Pisgah State Park in Pennsylvania is also named in his honor.

One state park is named in honor of Foster’s songs, My Old Kentucky Home, an historic mansion formerly named Federal Hill, located in Bardstown, Kentucky where Stephen is said to have been an occasional visitor according to his brother, Morrison Foster. The park dedicated a bronze statue in honor of Stephen’s work.

The Lawrenceville (Pittsburgh) Historical Society, together with the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association, hosts the annual Stephen Foster Music and Heritage Festival (Doo Dah Days!). Held the first weekend of July, Doo Dah Days! celebrates the life and music of one of the most influential songwriters in America’s history. His home in the Lawrenceville Section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, still remains on Penn Avenue nearby the Stephen Foster Community Center.

A 1900 statue of Foster by Giuseppe Moretti was located in Schenley Plaza, in Pittsburgh, from 1940 until 2018. On the unanimous recommendation of the Pittsburgh Art Commission, the statue was removed on April 26, 2018. Its new home has not yet been determined. It has a long reputation as the most controversial public art in Pittsburgh “for its depiction of an African-American banjo player at the feet of the seated composer. Critics say the statue glorifies white appropriation of black culture, and depicts the vacantly smiling musician in a way that is at best condescending and at worst racist.”  A city-appointed Task Force on Women in Public Art called for the statue to be replaced with one honoring an African American woman with ties to the Pittsburgh community. The Task Force held a series of community forums in Pittsburgh to collect public feedback on the statue replacement and circulated an online form which allowed the public to vote for one of seven previously selected candidates or write in an alternate suggestion. However, the Task Force on Women in Public Art and the Pittsburgh Art Commission have not reached an agreement as to who will be commemorated or if the statue will stay in the Schenley Plaza location.

Lyrics


Cole Porter

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Many of his songs became standards noted for their witty, urbane lyrics, and many of his scores found success on Broadway and in film.

Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, Porter defied his grandfather’s wishes and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn to musical theatre. After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike many successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics as well as the music for his songs. After a serious horseback riding accident in 1937, Porter was left disabled and in constant pain, but he continued to work. His shows of the early 1940s did not contain the lasting hits of his best work of the 1920s and 1930s, but in 1948 he made a triumphant comeback with his most successful musical, Kiss Me, Kate. It won the first Tony Award for Best Musical.

Porter’s other musicals include Fifty Million Frenchmen, DuBarry Was a Lady, Anything Goes, Can-Can and Silk Stockings. His numerous hit songs include “Night and Day”, “Begin the Beguine”, “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “Well, Did You Evah!”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “You’re the Top”. He also composed scores for films from the 1930s to the 1950s, including Born to Dance (1936), which featured the song “You’d Be So Easy to Love”; Rosalie (1937), which featured “In the Still of the Night”; High Society (1956), which included “True Love”; and Les Girls (1957).

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Life and career

Early years

Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, the only surviving child of a wealthy family. His father, Samuel Fenwick Porter, was a druggist by trade. His mother, Kate, was the indulged daughter of James Omar “J. O.” Cole, “the richest man in Indiana”, a coal and timber speculator who dominated the family.   J. O. Cole built the couple a house on his Peru-area property, known as Westleigh Farms. After high school, Porter returned to his childhood home only for occasional visits.

Porter’s strong-willed mother doted on him and began his musical training at an early age. He learned the violin at age six, the piano at eight, and wrote his first operetta (with help from his mother) at ten. She falsified his recorded birth year, changing it from 1891 to 1893 to make him appear more precocious. His father, a shy and unassertive man, played a lesser role in Porter’s upbringing, although as an amateur poet, he may have influenced his son’s gifts for rhyme and meter. Porter’s father was also a talented singer and pianist, but the father-son relationship was not close.

J. O. Cole wanted his grandson to become a lawyer, and with that in mind, sent him to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts in 1905. Porter brought an upright piano with him to school and found that music, and his ability to entertain, made it easy for him to make friends. Porter did well in school and rarely came home to visit. He became class valedictorian and was rewarded by his grandfather with a tour of France, Switzerland and Germany. Entering Yale College in 1909, Porter majored in English, minored in music, and also studied French. He was a member of Scroll and Key and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and contributed to campus humor magazine The Yale Record. He was an early member of the Whiffenpoofs a cappella singing group and participated in several other music clubs; in his senior year, he was elected president of the Yale Glee Club and was its principal soloist.

Porter wrote 300 songs while at Yale,[ including student songs such as the football fight songs “Bulldog”  and “Bingo Eli Yale” (aka “Bingo, That’s The Lingo!”) that are still played at Yale. During college, Porter became acquainted with New York City’s vibrant nightlife, taking the train there for dinner, theater, and nights on the town with his classmates, before returning to New Haven, Connecticut, early in the morning. He also wrote musical comedy scores for his fraternity, the Yale Dramatic Association, and as a student at Harvard – Cora (1911), And the Villain Still Pursued Her (1912), The Pot of Gold (1912), The Kaleidoscope (1913) and Paranoia (1914) – which helped prepare him for a career as a Broadway and Hollywood composer and lyricist. After graduating from Yale, Porter enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1913. He soon felt that he was not destined to be a lawyer, and, at the suggestion of the dean of the law school, switched to Harvard’s music department, where he studied harmony and counterpoint with Pietro Yon. His mother did not object to this move, but it was kept secret from J. O. Cole.

In 1915, Porter’s first song on Broadway, “Esmeralda”, appeared in the revue Hands Up. The quick success was immediately followed by failure: his first Broadway production, in 1916, See America First, a “patriotic comic opera” modeled on Gilbert and Sullivan, with a book by T. Lawrason Riggs, was a flop, closing after two weeks. Porter spent the next year in New York City before going overseas during World War I.

Paris and marriage

In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Porter moved to Paris to work with the Duryea Relief organization. Some writers have been skeptical about Porter’s claim to have served in the French Foreign Legion, but the Legion lists Porter as one of its soldiers and displays his portrait at its museum in Aubagne. By some accounts, he served in North Africa and was transferred to the French Officers School at Fontainebleau, teaching gunnery to American soldiers. An obituary notice in The New York Times stated that, while in the Legion, “he had a specially constructed portable piano made for him so that he could carry it on his back and entertain the troops in their bivouacs.” Another account, given by Porter, is that he joined the recruiting department of the American Aviation Headquarters, but, according to his biographer Stephen Citron, there is no record of his joining this or any other branch of the forces.

Porter maintained a luxury apartment in Paris, where he entertained lavishly. His parties were extravagant and scandalous, with “much gay and bisexual activity, Italian nobility, cross-dressing, international musicians and a large surplus of recreational drugs”. In 1918, he met Linda Lee Thomas, a rich, Louisville, Kentucky-born divorcée eight years his senior. She was beautiful and well-connected socially; the couple shared mutual interests, including a love of travel, and she became Porter’s confidante and companion. The couple married the following year. She was in no doubt about Porter’s homosexuality, but it was mutually advantageous for them to marry. For Linda, it offered continued social status and a partner who was the antithesis of her abusive first husband. For Porter, it brought a respectable heterosexual front in an era when homosexuality was not publicly acknowledged. They were, moreover, genuinely devoted to each other and remained married from December 19, 1919, until her death in 1954. Linda remained protective of her social position and, believing that classical music might be a more prestigious outlet than Broadway for her husband’s talents, tried to use her connections to find him suitable teachers, including Igor Stravinsky, but was unsuccessful. Finally, Porter enrolled at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, where he studied orchestration and counterpoint with Vincent d’Indy. Meanwhile, Porter’s first big hit was the song “Old-Fashioned Garden” from the revue Hitchy-Koo in 1919. In 1920, he contributed the music of several songs to the musical A Night Out.

Marriage did not diminish Porter’s taste for extravagant luxury. The Porter home on the rue Monsieur near Les Invalides was a palatial house with platinum wallpaper and chairs upholstered in zebra skin. In 1923, Porter came into an inheritance from his grandfather, and the Porters began living in rented palaces in Venice. He once hired the entire Ballets Russes to entertain his guests, and for a party at Ca’ Rezzonico, which he rented for $4,000 a month ($60,000 in current value), he hired 50 gondoliers to act as footmen and had a troupe of tightrope walkers perform in a blaze of lights. In the midst of this extravagant lifestyle, Porter continued to write songs with his wife’s encouragement.

Porter received few commissions for songs in the years immediately after his marriage. He had the occasional number interpolated into other writers’ revues in Britain and the U.S. For a C. B. Cochran show in 1921, he had two successes with the comedy numbers “The Blue Boy Blues” and “Olga, Come Back to the Volga”. In 1923, in collaboration with Gerald Murphy, he composed a short ballet, originally titled Landed and then Within the Quota, satirically depicting the adventures of an immigrant to America who becomes a film star. The work, written for the Ballets suédois, lasts about 16 minutes. It was orchestrated by Charles Koechlin and shared the same opening night as Milhaud’s La création du monde. Porter’s work was one of the earliest symphonic jazz-based compositions, predating George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue by four months, and was well received by both French and American reviewers after its premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in October 1923.

After a successful New York performance the following month, the Ballets suédois toured the work in the U.S., performing it 69 times. A year later the company disbanded, and the score was lost until it was reconstructed from Porter’s and Koechlin’s manuscripts between 1966 and 1990, with help from Milhaud and others. Porter had less success with his work on The Greenwich Village Follies (1924). He wrote most of the original score, but his songs were gradually dropped during the Broadway run, and by the time of the post-Broadway tour in 1925, all his numbers had been deleted. Frustrated by the public response to most of his work, Porter nearly gave up songwriting as a career, although he continued to compose songs for friends and perform at private parties.

Broadway and West End success

At the age of 36, Porter reintroduced himself to Broadway in 1928 with the musical Paris, his first hit. It was commissioned by E. Ray Goetz at the instigation of Goetz’s wife and the show’s star, Irène Bordoni. She had wanted Rodgers and Hart to write the songs, but they were unavailable, and Porter’s agent persuaded Goetz to hire Porter instead. In August 1928, Porter’s work on the show was interrupted by the death of his father. He hurried back to Indiana to comfort his mother before returning to work. The songs for the show included “Let’s Misbehave” and one of his best-known list songs, “Let’s Do It”, which was introduced by Bordoni and Arthur Margetson. The show opened on Broadway on October 8, 1928. The Porters did not attend the first night because Porter was in Paris supervising another show for which he had been commissioned, La Revue, at a nightclub. This was also a success, and, in Citron’s phrase, Porter was finally “accepted into the upper echelon of Broadway songwriters”. Cochran now wanted more from Porter than isolated extra songs; he planned a West End extravaganza similar to Ziegfeld’s shows, with a Porter score and a large international cast led by Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale and Tilly Losch. The revue, Wake Up and Dream, ran for 263 performances in London, after which Cochran transferred it to New York in 1929. On Broadway, business was badly affected by the 1929 Wall Street crash, and the production ran for only 136 performances. From Porter’s point of view, it was nonetheless a success, as his song “What Is This Thing Called Love?” became immensely popular.

Porter’s new fame brought him offers from Hollywood, but because his score for Paramount’s The Battle of Paris was undistinguished, and its star, Gertrude Lawrence, was miscast, the film was not a success. Citron expresses the view that Porter was not interested in cinema and “noticeably wrote down for the movies.” Still on a Gallic theme, Porter’s last Broadway show of the 1920s was Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929), for which he wrote 28 numbers, including “You Do Something to Me”, “You’ve Got That Thing” and “The Tale of the Oyster”. The show received mixed notices. One critic wrote, “the lyrics alone are enough to drive anyone but P. G. Wodehouse into retirement”, but others dismissed the songs as “pleasant” and “not an outstanding hit song in the show”. As it was a lavish and expensive production, nothing less than full houses would suffice, and after only three weeks, the producers announced that they would close it. Irving Berlin, who admired and championed Porter, took out a paid press advertisement calling the show “The best musical comedy I’ve heard in years. … One of the best collections of song numbers I have ever listened to”. This saved the show, which ran for 254 performances, considered a successful run at the time.

1930s

Ray Goetz, producer of Paris and Fifty Million Frenchmen, the success of which had kept him solvent when other producers were bankrupted by the post-crash slump in Broadway business, invited Porter to write a musical show about the other city that he knew and loved: New York. Goetz offered the team with whom Porter had last worked: Herbert Fields writing the book and Porter’s old friend Monty Woolley directing. The New Yorkers (1930) acquired instant notoriety for including a song about a streetwalker, “Love for Sale”. Originally performed by Kathryn Crawford in a street setting, critical disapproval led Goetz to reassign the number to Elisabeth Welch in a nightclub scene. The lyric was considered too explicit for radio at the time, though it was recorded and aired as an instrumental and rapidly became a standard. Porter often referred to it as his favorite of his songs. The New Yorkers also included the hit “I Happen to Like New York”.

Next came Fred Astaire’s last stage show, Gay Divorce (1932). It featured a hit that became Porter’s best-known song, “Night and Day”. Despite mixed press (some critics were reluctant to accept Astaire without his previous partner, his sister Adele), the show ran for a profitable 248 performances, and the rights to the film, retitled The Gay Divorcee, were sold to RKO Pictures.[n 10] Porter followed this with a West End show for Gertrude Lawrence, Nymph Errant (1933), presented by Cochran at the Adelphi Theatre, where it ran for 154 performances. Among the hit songs Porter composed for the show were “Experiment” and “The Physician” for Lawrence, and “Solomon” for Elisabeth Welch.

In 1934, producer Vinton Freedley came up with a new approach to producing musicals. Instead of commissioning book, music and lyrics and then casting the show, Freedley sought to create an ideal musical with stars and writers all engaged from the outset. The stars he wanted were Ethel Merman, William Gaxton and comedian Victor Moore. He planned a story about a shipwreck and a desert island, and for the book he turned to P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton. For the songs, he decided on Porter. By telling each of these that he had already signed the others, Freedley gathered his ideal team together.[n 11] A drastic last-minute rewrite was necessitated by a major shipping accident that dominated the news and made Bolton and Wodehouse’s book seem tasteless. Nevertheless, the show, Anything Goes, was an immediate hit. Porter wrote what many consider his greatest score of this period. The New Yorker magazine’s review said, “Mr. Porter is in class by himself”, and Porter subsequently called it one of his two perfect shows, along with the later Kiss Me, Kate. Its songs include “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “All Through the Night”, “You’re the Top” (one of his best-known list songs), and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow”, as well as the title number. The show ran for 420 performances in New York (a particularly long run in the 1930s) and 261 in London. Porter, despite his lessons in orchestration from d’Indy, did not orchestrate his musicals. Anything Goes was orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett and Hans Spialek. Now at the height of his success, Porter was able to enjoy the opening night of his musicals; he made grand entrances and sat in front, apparently relishing the show as much as any audience member. Russel Crouse commented “Cole’s opening-night behaviour is as indecent as that of a bridegroom who has a good time at his own wedding.”

Anything Goes was the first of five Porter shows featuring Merman. He loved her loud, brassy voice and wrote many numbers that displayed her strengths. Jubilee (1935), written with Moss Hart while on a cruise around the world, was not a major hit, running for only 169 performances, but it featured two songs that have since become standards, “Begin the Beguine” and “Just One of Those Things”. Red, Hot and Blue (1936), featuring Merman, Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope, ran for 183 performances and introduced “It’s De-Lovely”, “Down in the Depths (on the Ninetieth Floor)”, and “Ridin’ High”. The relative failure of these shows convinced Porter that his songs did not appeal to a broad enough audience. In an interview, he said “Sophisticated allusions are good for about six weeks … more fun, but only for myself and about eighteen other people, all of whom are first-nighters anyway. Polished, urbane and adult playwriting in the musical field is strictly a creative luxury.”

Porter also wrote for Hollywood in the mid-1930s. His scores include those for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films Born to Dance (1936), with James Stewart, featuring “You’d Be So Easy to Love” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, and Rosalie (1937), featuring “In the Still of the Night”. He wrote the score of the short film Paree, Paree, in 1935, using some of the songs from Fifty Million Frenchmen. Porter also composed the cowboy song “Don’t Fence Me In” for Adios, Argentina, an unproduced movie, in 1934, but it did not become a hit until Roy Rogers sang it in the 1944 film Hollywood Canteen. Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, and other artists also popularized it in the 1940s. The Porters moved to Hollywood in December 1935, but Porter’s wife did not like the movie environment, and Porter’s homosexual peccadillos, formerly very discreet, became less so; she retreated to their Paris house. When his film assignment on Rosalie was finished in 1937, Porter hastened to Paris to make peace with Linda, but she remained cool. After a walking tour of Europe with his friends, Porter returned to New York in October 1937 without her. They were soon reunited by an accident Porter suffered.

On October 24, 1937, Porter was riding with Countess Edith di Zoppola and Duke Fulco di Verdura at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, New York, when his horse rolled on him and crushed his legs, leaving him substantially crippled and in constant pain for the rest of his life. Though doctors told Porter’s wife and mother that his right leg would have to be amputated, and possibly the left one as well, he refused to have the procedure. Linda rushed from Paris to be with him, and supported him in his refusal of amputation. He remained in the hospital for seven months before being allowed to go home to his apartment at the Waldorf Towers. He resumed work as soon as he could, finding it took his mind off his perpetual pain.

Porter’s first show after his accident was not a success. You Never Know (1938), starring Clifton Webb, Lupe Vélez and Libby Holman, ran for only 78 performances. The score included the songs “From Alpha to Omega” and “At Long Last Love”.[78] He returned to success with Leave It to Me! (1938); the show introduced Mary Martin, singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, and other numbers included “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love” and “From Now On”. Porter’s last show of the 1930s was DuBarry Was a Lady (1939), a particularly risqué show starring Merman and Bert Lahr. After a pre-Broadway tour, during which it ran into trouble with Boston censors, it achieved 408 performances, beginning at the 46th Street Theatre. The score included “But in the Morning, No” (which was banned from the airwaves), “Do I Love You?”, “Well, Did You Evah!”, “Katie Went to Haiti” and another of Porter’s up-tempo list songs, “Friendship”. At the end of 1939, Porter contributed six songs to the film Broadway Melody of 1940 for Fred Astaire, George Murphy and Eleanor Powell.

Meanwhile, as political unrest increased in Europe, Porter’s wife closed their Paris house in 1939, and the next year bought a country home in the Berkshire mountains, near Williamstown, Massachusetts, which she decorated with elegant furnishings from their Paris home. Porter spent time in Hollywood, New York and Williamstown.

1940s and postwar

Panama Hattie (1940) was Porter’s longest-running hit so far, running in New York for 501 performances despite the absence of any enduring Porter songs. It starred Merman, Arthur Treacher and Betty Hutton. Let’s Face It! (1941), starring Danny Kaye, had an even better run, with 547 performances in New York.[87] This, too, lacked any numbers that became standards, and Porter always counted it among his lesser efforts.[88] Something for the Boys (1943), starring Merman, ran for 422 performances, and Mexican Hayride (1944), starring Bobby Clark, with June Havoc, ran for 481 performances. These shows, too, are short of Porter standards. The critics did not pull their punches, complaining about the lack of hit tunes and the generally low standard of the scores. After two flops, Seven Lively Arts (1944) (which featured the standard “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”) and Around the World (1946), many thought that Porter’s best period was over.

Between Broadway musicals, Porter continued to write for Hollywood. His film scores of this period were You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) with Astaire and Rita Hayworth, Something to Shout About (1943) with Don Ameche, Janet Blair and William Gaxton, and Mississippi Belle (1943–44), which was abandoned before filming began. He also cooperated in the making of the film Night and Day (1946), a largely fictional biography of Porter, with Cary Grant implausibly cast in the lead. The critics scoffed, but the film was a huge success, chiefly because of the wealth of vintage Porter numbers in it. The biopic’s success contrasted starkly with the failure of Vincente Minnelli’s film The Pirate (1948), with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, in which five new Porter songs received little attention.

From this low spot, Porter made a conspicuous comeback in 1948 with Kiss Me, Kate. It was by far his most successful show, running for 1,077 performances in New York and 400 in London. The production won the Tony Award for Best Musical (the first Tony awarded in that category), and Porter won for best composer and lyricist. The score includes “Another Op’nin’, Another Show”, “Wunderbar”, “So In Love”, “We Open in Venice”, “Tom, Dick or Harry”, “I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua”, “Too Darn Hot”, “Always True to You (in My Fashion)”, and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.

Porter began the 1950s with Out of This World (1950), which had some good numbers but too much camp and vulgarity, and was not greatly successful. His next show, Can-Can (1952), featuring “C’est Magnifique” and “It’s All Right with Me”, was another hit, running for 892 performances. Porter’s last original Broadway production, Silk Stockings (1955), featuring “All of You”, was also successful, with a run of 477 performances. Porter wrote two more film scores and music for a television special before ending his Hollywood career. The film High Society (1956), starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly, included Porter’s last major hit song “True Love”. It was adapted as a stage musical of the same name. Porter also wrote numbers for the film Les Girls (1957), which starred Gene Kelly. His final score was for the CBS television special Aladdin (1958).

Last years

Porter’s mother died in 1952, and his wife died of emphysema in 1954. By 1958, Porter’s injuries caused a series of ulcers on his right leg. After 34 operations, it had to be amputated and replaced with an artificial limb. His friend Noël Coward visited him in the hospital and wrote in his diary, “The lines of ceaseless pain have been wiped from his face…I am convinced that his whole life will cheer up and that his work will profit accordingly.” In fact, Porter never wrote another song after the amputation and spent the remaining six years of his life in relative seclusion, seeing only intimate friends. He continued to live in the Waldorf Towers in New York in his memorabilia-filled apartment. On weekends, he often visited an estate in the Berkshires, and he stayed in California during the summers.

Porter died of kidney failure on October 15, 1964, in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 73. He is interred in Mount Hope Cemetery in his native Peru, Indiana, between his wife and father.

Tributes and legacy

Many artists have recorded Porter songs, and dozens have released entire albums of his songs. In 1956, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald released Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. In 1972, she released another collection, Ella Loves Cole. Among the many album collections of Porter songs are the following: Oscar Peterson Plays the Cole Porter Songbook (1959); Anita O’Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May (1959); All Through the Night: Julie London Sings the Choicest of Cole Porter (1965); Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Cole Porter (1982); and Anything Goes: Stephane Grappelli & Yo-Yo Ma Play (Mostly) Cole Porter (1989). In 1990 Dionne Warwick released Dionne Sings Cole Porter. In that same year, Red Hot + Blue was released as a benefit CD for AIDS research and featured 20 Cole Porter songs recorded by artists such as U2 and Annie Lennox.

Additional recording collections include Frank Sinatra Sings the Select Cole Porter (1996) and John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter (2004); Barrowman played “Jack” in the 2004 film De-Lovely. Other singers who have paid tribute to Porter include the Swedish pop music group Gyllene Tider, which recorded a song called “Flickan i en Cole Porter-sång” (“That Girl from the Cole Porter Song”) in 1982. He is referenced in the merengue song “The Call of the Wild” by David Byrne on his 1989 album Rei Momo. He also is mentioned in the song “Tonite It Shows” by Mercury Rev on their 1998 album Deserter’s Songs.

In 1965, Judy Garland performed a medley of Porter’s songs at the 37th Academy Awards shortly after Porter’s death. In 1980, Porter’s music was used for the score of Happy New Year, based on the Philip Barry play Holiday. The cast of The Carol Burnett Show paid a tribute to Porter in a humorous sketch in their CBS television series. You’re the Top: The Cole Porter Story, a video of archival material and interviews, and Red, Hot and Blue, a video of artists performing Porter’s music, were released in 1990 to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Porter’s birth. In contrast to the highly embellished 1946 screen biography Night and Day, Porter’s life was chronicled more realistically in De-Lovely, a 2004 Irwin Winkler film starring Kevin Kline as Porter and Ashley Judd as Linda. The soundtrack to De-Lovely includes Porter songs sung by Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall and Natalie Cole, among others. Porter also appears as a character in Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris.

Many events commemorated the centenary of Porter’s birth, including the halftime show of the 1991 Orange Bowl. Joel Grey and a large cast of singers, dancers and marching bands, performed a tribute to Porter in Miami, Florida during the 57th King Orange Jamboree parade, whose theme was “Anything Goes”. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performed a program of Cole Porter music at the Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, which also featured clips of Porter’s Hollywood films. “A Gala Birthday Concert” was held at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, with more than 40 entertainers and friends paying tribute to Porter’s long career in theater and film. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp honoring Porter’s birth. The Indiana University Opera performed Porter’s musical, Jubilee, in Bloomington, Indiana.

In May 2007, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was dedicated to Cole Porter. In December 2010, his portrait was added to the Hoosier Heritage Gallery in the office of the Governor of Indiana. Numerous symphony orchestras have paid tribute to Porter in the years since his death including Seattle Symphony Orchestra, with Marvin Hamlisch as conductor and the Boston Pops, both in 2011. In 2012, Marvin Hamlisch, Michael Feinstein, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra honored Porter with a concert that included his familiar classics. The Cole Porter Festival is held every year in June in his hometown of Peru, Indiana, to foster music and art appreciation. Costumed singers in the cabaret-style Cole Porter Room at the Indiana Historical Society’s Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in Indianapolis take requests from visitors and perform Porter’s hit songs. After Porter’s death, his 1908 Steinway grand piano, which he had used when composing since the mid-1930s, was displayed and played in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel until 2017. As of late 2018, it was being rebuilt, after which it will reside, temporarily, at the New-York Historical Society. Porter is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame  and Great American Songbook Hall of Fame, which recognized his “musically complex [songs] with witty, urbane lyrics”. In 2014, Porter was honored with a plaque on the Legacy Walk in Chicago, which celebrates LGBT achievers.

Lyrics


James Taylor

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

James Vernon Taylor (born March 12, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. A five-time Grammy Award winner, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

Taylor achieved his breakthrough in 1970 with the No. 3 single “Fire and Rain” and had his first No. 1 hit in 1971 with his recording of “You’ve Got a Friend”, written by Carole King in the same year. His 1976 Greatest Hits album was certified Diamond and has sold 12 million US copies. Following his 1977 album, JT he has retained a large audience over the decades. Every album that he released from 1977 to 2007 sold over 1 million copies. He enjoyed a resurgence in chart performance during the late 1990s and 2000s, when he recorded some of his most-awarded work (including Hourglass, October Road, and Covers). He achieved his first number-one album in the US in 2015 with his recording Before This World.

He is known for his covers, such as “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and “Handy Man”, as well as originals such as “Sweet Baby James”.

Early years

James Vernon Taylor was born at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where his father, Isaac M. Taylor, worked as a resident physician. His father came from a wealthy family from the South. Aside from having ancestry in Scotland, part of Taylor’s roots are deep in Massachusetts Bay Colony and include Edmund Rice, one of the founders of Sudbury, Massachusetts. His mother, the former Gertrude Woodard (1921–2015), studied singing with Marie Sundelius at the New England Conservatory of Music and was an aspiring opera singer before the couple’s marriage in 1946. James was the second of five children, the others being Alex (1947–1993), Kate (born 1949), Livingston (born 1950), and Hugh (born 1952).

In 1951, his family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina[10] when Isaac took a job as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. They built a house in the Morgan Creek area off the present Morgan Creek Road, which was sparsely populated. James would later say, “Chapel Hill, the Piedmont, the outlying hills, were tranquil, rural, beautiful, but quiet. Thinking of the red soil, the seasons, the way things smelled down there, I feel as though my experience of coming of age there was more a matter of landscape and climate than people.” James attended a public primary school in Chapel Hill. Isaac’s career prospered, but he was frequently away from home on military service at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, or as part of Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica in 1955 and 1956. Isaac Taylor later rose to become dean of the UNC School of Medicine from 1964 to 1971. Beginning in 1953, the Taylors spent summers on Martha’s Vineyard.

James took cello lessons as a child in North Carolina, before learning the guitar in 1960. His guitar style evolved, influenced by hymns, carols, and the music of Woody Guthrie, and his technique derived from his bass clef-oriented cello training and from experimenting on his sister Kate’s keyboards: “My style was a finger-picking style that was meant to be like a piano, as if my thumb were my left hand, and my first, second, and third fingers were my right hand.” Spending summer holidays with his family on Martha’s Vineyard, he met Danny Kortchmar, an aspiring teenage guitarist from Larchmont, New York. The two began listening to and playing blues and folk music together, and Kortchmar felt that Taylor’s singing had a “natural sense of phrasing, every syllable beautifully in time. I knew James had that thing.”[19] Taylor wrote his first song on guitar at 14, and he continued to learn the instrument effortlessly. By the summer of 1963, he and Kortchmar were playing coffeehouses around the Vineyard, billed as “Jamie & Kootch”.

James went to Milton Academy, a preparatory boarding school in Massachusetts in 1961. He faltered during his junior year, feeling uneasy in the high-pressure college prep environment despite having a good scholastic performance. The Milton headmaster would later say, “James was more sensitive and less goal-oriented than most students of his day.” He returned home to North Carolina to finish out the semester at Chapel Hill High School.  There he joined a band formed by his brother Alex called The Corsayers (later The Fabulous Corsairs), playing electric guitar; in 1964, they cut a single in Raleigh that featured James’s song “Cha Cha Blues” on the B-side. Having lost touch with his former school friends in North Carolina, Taylor returned to Milton for his senior year, where he started applying to colleges to complete his education. But he felt part of a “life that [he was] unable to lead”, and he became depressed; he slept 20 hours each day, and his grades collapsed. n late 1965 he committed himself to McLean, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, where he was treated with chlorpromazine, and where the organized days began to give him a sense of time and structure. As the Vietnam War escalated, Taylor received a psychological rejection from Selective Service System when he appeared before them with two white-suited McLean assistants and was uncommunicative. Taylor earned a high school diploma in 1966 from the hospital’s associated Arlington School. He would later view his nine-month stay at McLean as “a lifesaver… like a pardon or like a reprieve,” and both his brother Livingston and sister Kate would later be patients and students there as well. As for his mental health struggles, Taylor would think of them as innate and say: “It’s an inseparable part of my personality that I have these feelings.”

Career

1966–1969: Early career

At Kortchmar’s urging, Taylor checked himself out of McLean and moved to New York City to form a band. They recruited Joel O’Brien, formerly of Kortchmar’s old band King Bees to play drums, and Taylor’s childhood friend Zachary Wiesner (son of noted academic Jerome Wiesner) to play bass. After Taylor rejected the notion of naming the group after him, they called themselves the Flying Machine. They played songs that Taylor had written at and about McLean, such as “Knocking ‘Round the Zoo”, “Don’t Talk Now”, and “The Blues Is Just a Bad Dream”. In some other songs, Taylor romanticized his life, but he was plagued by self-doubt. By summer 1966, they were performing regularly at the high-visibility Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village, alongside acts such as the Turtles and Lothar and the Hand People.

Taylor associated with a motley group of people and began using heroin, to Kortchmar’s dismay, and wrote the “Paint It Black”–influenced “Rainy Day Man” to depict his drug experience. In a late 1966 hasty recording session, the group cut a single, Taylor’s “Night Owl”, backed with his “Brighten Your Night with My Day”. Released on Jay Gee Records, a subsidiary of Jubilee Records, it received some radio airplay in the Northeast, but only charted at No. 102 nationally. Other songs had been recorded during the same session, but Jubilee declined to go forward with an album. After a series of poorly-chosen appearances outside New York, culminating with a three-week stay at a failing nightspot in Freeport, Bahamas for which they were never paid, the Flying Machine broke up. (A UK band with the same name emerged in 1969 with the hit song “Smile a Little Smile for Me”. The New York band’s recordings were later released in 1971 as James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine.)

Taylor would later say of this New York period, “I learned a lot about music and too much about drugs.” Indeed, his drug use had developed into full-blown heroin addiction during the final Flying Machine period: “I just fell into it, since it was as easy to get high in the Village as get a drink.” He hung out in Washington Square Park, playing guitar to ward off depression and then passing out, letting runaways and criminals stay at his apartment. Finally out of money and abandoned by his manager, he made a desperate call one night to his father. Isaac Taylor flew to New York and staged a rescue, renting a car and driving all night back to North Carolina with James and his possessions. Taylor spent six months getting treatment and making a tentative recovery; he also required a throat operation to fix vocal cords damaged from singing too harshly.

Taylor decided to try being a solo act with a change of scenery. In late 1967, funded by a small family inheritance, he moved to London, living in various areas: Notting Hill, Belgravia, and Chelsea. After recording some demos in Soho, his friend Kortchmar gave him his next big break. Kortchmar used his association with the King Bees (who once opened for Peter and Gordon), to connect Taylor to Peter Asher. Asher was A&R head for the Beatles’ newly formed label Apple Records. Taylor gave a demo tape of songs, including “Something in the Way She Moves”, to Asher, who then played the demo for Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison. McCartney remembers his first impression: “I just heard his voice and his guitar and I thought he was great … and he came and played live, so it was just like, ‘Wow, he’s great.’” Taylor became the first non-British act signed to Apple, and he credits Asher for “opening the door” to his singing career. Taylor said of Asher, who later became his manager, “I knew from the first time that we met that he was the right person to steer my career. He had this determination in his eye that I had never seen in anybody before.” Living chaotically in various places with various women, Taylor wrote additional material, including “Carolina in My Mind”, and rehearsed with a new backing band. Taylor recorded what would become his first album from July to October 1968, at Trident Studios, at the same time the Beatles were recording The White Album. McCartney and an uncredited George Harrison guested on “Carolina in My Mind”, whose lyric “holy host of others standing around me” referred to the Beatles, and the title phrase of Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves” provided the lyrical starting point for Harrison’s classic “Something”.[ McCartney and Asher brought in arranger Richard Anthony Hewson to add both orchestrations to several of the songs and unusual “link” passages between them; they would receive a mixed reception, at best.

During the recording sessions, Taylor fell back into his drug habit by using heroin and methedrine. He underwent physeptone treatment in a British program, returned to New York and was hospitalized there, and then finally committed himself to the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which emphasized cultural and historical factors in trying to treat difficult psychiatric disorders. Meanwhile, Apple released his debut album, James Taylor, in December 1968 in the UK and February 1969 in the US. Critical reception was generally positive, including a complimentary review in Rolling Stone by Jon Landau, who said that “this album is the coolest breath of fresh air I’ve inhaled in a good long while. It knocks me out.” The record’s commercial potential suffered from Taylor’s inability to promote it because of his hospitalization, and it sold poorly; “Carolina in My Mind” was released as a single but failed to chart in the UK and only reached No. 118 on the U.S. charts.

In July 1969, Taylor headlined a six-night stand at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. On July 20, he performed at the Newport Folk Festival as the last act and was cheered by thousands of fans who stayed in the rain to hear him. Shortly thereafter, he broke both hands and both feet in a motorcycle accident on Martha’s Vineyard and was forced to stop playing for several months. However, while recovering, he continued to write songs and in October 1969 signed a new deal with Warner Bros. Records.

1970–1972: Fame and commercial succes

Once he had recovered, Taylor moved to California, keeping Asher as his manager and record producer. In December 1969, he held the recording sessions for his second album there. Titled Sweet Baby James, and featuring the participation of Carole King, the album was released in February 1970 and was Taylor’s critical and popular triumph, buoyed by the single “Fire and Rain”, a song about both Taylor’s experiences attempting to break his drug habit by undergoing treatment in psychiatric institutions and the suicide of his friend, Suzanne Schnerr. Both the album and the single reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts, with Sweet Baby James selling more than 1.5 million copies in its first year[22] and eventually more than 3 million in the United States alone. Sweet Baby James was received at its time as a folk-rock masterpiece, an album that effectively showcased Taylor’s talents to the mainstream public, marking a direction he would take in following years. It earned several Grammy Award nominations including one for Album of the Year. It went on to be listed at No. 103 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003, with “Fire and Rain” listed as No. 227 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.

During the time that Sweet Baby James was released, Taylor appeared with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys in a Monte Hellman film, Two-Lane Blacktop. In October 1970, he performed with Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, and the Canadian band Chilliwack at a Vancouver benefit concert that funded Greenpeace’s protests of 1971 nuclear weapons tests by the US Atomic Energy Commission at Amchitka, Alaska; this performance was released in album format in 2009 as Amchitka, The 1970 Concert That Launched Greenpeace. In January 1971, sessions for Taylor’s next album began.

He appeared on The Johnny Cash Show, singing “Sweet Baby James”, “Fire and Rain”, and “Country Road”, on February 17, 1971. His career success at this point and appeal to female fans of various ages piqued tremendous interest in him, prompting a March 1, 1971, Time magazine cover story of him as “the face of new rock”. It compared his strong-but-brooding persona to that of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff and to The Sorrows of Young Werther, and said, “Taylor’s use of elemental imagery—darkness and sunlight, references to roads traveled and untraveled, to fears spoken and left unsaid—reaches a level both of intimacy and controlled emotion rarely achieved in purely pop music.” One of the writers described his look as “a cowboy Jesus”, to which Taylor later replied, “I thought I was trying to look like George Harrison.” Released in April, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon also gained critical acclaim and contained Taylor’s biggest hit single in the US, a version of Carole King’s new “You’ve Got a Friend” (featuring backing vocals by Joni Mitchell), which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late July. The follow-up single, “Long Ago and Far Away”, also made the Top 40 and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The album itself reached No. 2 on the album charts, which would be Taylor’s highest position ever until the release of his 2015 album, Before This World, which went to No. 1 superseding Taylor Swift.

In early 1972, Taylor won his first Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, for “You’ve Got a Friend”; King also won Song of the Year for the same song in that ceremony. The album went on to sell 2.5 million copies in the United States.

November 1972 heralded the release of Taylor’s fourth album, One Man Dog. A concept album primarily recorded in his home recording studio, it featured a cameo by Linda Ronstadt along with Carole King, Carly Simon, and John McLaughlin. The album consisted of eighteen short pieces of music put together. Reception was generally lukewarm and, despite making the Top 10 of the Billboard Album Charts, its overall sales were disappointing. The lead single, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”, peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100, and the follow-up, “One Man Parade”, barely reached the Top 75. Almost simultaneously, Taylor married fellow singer-songwriter Carly Simon on November 3, in a small ceremony at her Murray Hill, Manhattan apartment. A post-concert party following a Taylor performance at Radio City Music Hall turned into a large-scale wedding party, and the Simon-Taylor marriage would find much public attention over the following years. They had two children, Sarah Maria “Sally” Taylor, born January 7, 1974, and Benjamin Simon “Ben” Taylor, born January 22, 1977. During their marriage, the couple would guest on each other’s albums and have two hit singles as duet partners: a cover of Inez & Charlie Foxx’s “Mockingbird” and a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Devoted to You”.

1973–1976: Career ups and downs

Taylor spent most of 1973 enjoying his new life as a married man and did not return to the recording studio until January 1974, when sessions for his fifth album began. Walking Man was released in June and featured appearances of Paul and Linda McCartney and guitarist David Spinozza. The album was a critical and commercial disaster and was his first album to miss the Top 5 since his contract with Warner. It received poor reviews and sold only 300,000 copies in the United States. The title track failed to appear on the Top 100.

However, James Taylor’s artistic fortunes spiked again in 1975 when the Gold album Gorilla reached No. 6 and provided one of his biggest hit singles, a cover version of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”, featuring wife Carly on backing vocals and reached No. 5 in America and No. 1 in Canada. On the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, the track also reached the top, and the follow-up single, the feelgood “Mexico”, featuring a guest appearance by Crosby & Nash, also reached the Top 5 of that list. A well-received album, Gorilla showcased Taylor’s electric, lighter side that was evident on Walking Man. However, it was arguably a more consistent and fresher-sounding Taylor, with classics such as “Mexico”, “Wandering” and “Angry Blues”. It also featured a song about his daughter Sally, “Sarah Maria”.

Gorilla was followed in 1976 by In the Pocket, Taylor’s last studio album to be released under Warner Bros. Records. The album found him with many colleagues and friends, including Art Garfunkel, David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Wonder (who co-wrote a song with Taylor and contributed a harmonica solo). A melodic album, it was highlighted with the single “Shower the People”, an enduring classic that hit No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and almost hit the Top 20 of the Pop Charts. However, the album was not well received, reaching No. 16 and being criticized, particularly by Rolling Stone. Still, In The Pocket went on to be certified gold.

With the close of Taylor’s contract with Warner, in November, the label released Greatest Hits, the album that comprised most of his best work between 1970 and 1976. With time, it became his best-selling album ever. It was certified 11× Platinum in the US, earned a Diamond certification by the RIAA, and eventually sold close to 20 million copies worldwide.

1977–1981: Move to Columbia and continued success

In 1977 Taylor signed with Columbia Records. Between March and April, he quickly recorded his first album for the label. JT, released that June, gave Taylor his best reviews since Sweet Baby James, earning a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year in 1978. Peter Herbst of Rolling Stone was particularly favorable to the album, of which he wrote in its August 11, 1977 issue, “JT is the least stiff and by far the most various album Taylor has done. That’s not meant to criticize Taylor’s earlier efforts. … But it’s nice to hear him sounding so healthy.” JT reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts and sold more than 3 million copies in the United States alone. The album’s Triple Platinum status ties it with Sweet Baby James as Taylor’s all-time biggest selling studio album. It was propelled by the successful cover of Jimmy Jones’s and Otis Blackwell’s “Handy Man”, which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and reached No. 4 on the Hot 100, earning Taylor another Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his cover version. The song also topped the Canadian charts. The success of the album propelled the release of two further singles; the up-tempo pop “Your Smiling Face”, an enduring live favorite, reached the American Top 20; however, “Honey Don’t Leave L.A.”, which Danny Kortchmar wrote and composed for Taylor, did not enjoy much success, reaching only No. 61.

Back in the forefront of popular music, Taylor guested with Paul Simon on Art Garfunkel’s recording of a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World”, which reached the Top 20 in the U.S. and topped the AC charts in early 1978. After briefly working on Broadway, he took a one-year break, reappearing in the summer of 1979, with the cover-studded Platinum album titled Flag, featuring a Top 30 version of Gerry Goffin’s and Carole King’s “Up on the Roof”. (Two selections from Flag, “Millworker” and “Brother Trucker” were featured on the PBS production of the Broadway musical based on Studs Terkel’s non-fiction book Working, which Terkel himself hosted. Taylor himself appeared in that production as a trucker; he performed “Brother Trucker” in character.) Taylor also appeared on the No Nukes concert in Madison Square Garden, where he made a memorable live performance of “Mockingbird” with his wife Carly. The concert appeared on both the No Nukes album and film.

On December 7, 1980, Taylor had an encounter with Mark David Chapman who would assassinate John Lennon just one day later. Taylor told the BBC in 2010: “The guy had sort of pinned me to the wall and was glistening with maniacal sweat and talking some freak speak about what he was going to do and his stuff with how John was interested, and he was going to get in touch with John Lennon. And it was surreal to actually have contact with the guy 24 hours before he shot John.” The next night, Taylor, who lived in a building next-door to Lennon heard the assassination occur. Taylor commented: “I heard him shoot—five, just as quick as you could pull the trigger, about five explosions.”

In March 1981, Taylor released the album Dad Loves His Work whose themes concerned his relationship with his father, the course his ancestors had taken, and the effect that he and Simon had on each other. The album was another Platinum success, reaching No. 10 and providing Taylor’s final real hit single in a duet with J. D. Souther, “Her Town Too”, which reached No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1981–1996: Troubled times and new beginnings

Simon announced her separation from Taylor in September 1981 saying, “Our needs are different; it seem impossible to stay together” and their divorce finalized in 1983. Their breakup was highly publicized. At the time, Taylor was living on West End Avenue in Manhattan and on a methadone maintenance program to cure him of his drug addiction.  Over the course of four months starting in September 1983, spurred on in part by the deaths of his friends John Belushi and Dennis Wilson and in part by the desire to be a better father to his children Sally and Ben, he discontinued methadone and overcame his heroin habit.

Taylor had thoughts of retiring by the time he played the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro in January 1985. He was encouraged by the nascent democracy in Brazil at the time, buoyed by the positive reception he got from the large crowd and other musicians, and musically energized by the sounds and nature of Brazilian music. “I had … sort of bottomed-out in a drug habit, my marriage with Carly had dissolved, and I had basically been depressed and lost for a while”, he recalled in 1995:

I sort of hit a low spot. I was asked to go down to Rio de Janeiro to play in this festival down there. We put the band together and went down and it was just an amazing response. I played to 300,000 people. They not only knew my music, they knew things about it and were interested in aspects of it that to that point had only interested me. To have that kind of validation right about then was really what I needed. It helped get me back on track.

The song “Only a Dream in Rio” was written in tribute to that night, with lines like I was there that very day and my heart came back alive. The October 1985 album, That’s Why I’m Here, from which that song came, started a series of studio recordings that, while spaced further apart than his previous records, showed a more consistent level of quality and fewer covers, most notably the Buddy Holly song “Everyday”, released as a single reached No. 61. On the album track “Only One”, the backing vocals were performed by an all star duo of Joni Mitchell and Don Henley.

Taylor’s next albums were partially successful; in 1988, he released Never Die Young, highlighted with the charting title track, and in 1991, the platinum New Moon Shine provided Taylor some popular songs with the melancholic “Copperline” and the upbeat “(I’ve Got to) Stop Thinkin’ About That”, both hit singles on Adult Contemporary radio. In the late 1980s, he began touring regularly, especially on the summer amphitheater circuit. His later concerts feature songs spanning his career and are marked by the musicianship of his band and backup singers. The 1993 two-disc Live album captures this, with a highlight being Arnold McCuller’s descants in the codas of “Shower the People” and “I Will Follow”. He provided a guest voice to The Simpsons episode “Deep Space Homer”, and also appeared later on in the series when the family put together a jigsaw puzzle with his face as the missing final piece. In 1995, Taylor performed the role of the Lord in Randy Newman’s Faust.

1997–present: Comeback

In 1997, after six years since his last studio album, Taylor released Hourglass, an introspective album that gave him the best critical reviews in almost twenty years. The album had much of its focus on Taylor’s troubled past and family. “Jump Up Behind Me” paid tribute to his father’s rescue of him after The Flying Machine days, and the long drive from New York City back to his home in Chapel Hill. “Enough To Be on Your Way” was inspired by the alcoholism-related death of his brother Alex earlier in the decade. The themes were also inspired by Taylor and Walker’s divorce, which took place in 1996. Rolling Stone Magazine found that “one of the themes of this record is disbelief”, while Taylor told the magazine that it was “spirituals for agnostics”. Critics embraced the dark themes on the album, and Hourglass was a commercial success, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard 200 (Taylor’s first Top 10 album in sixteen years) and also provided a big adult contemporary hit on “Little More Time With You”. The album also gave Taylor his first Grammy since JT, when he was honored with Best Pop Album in 1998.

Flanked by two greatest hit releases, Taylor’s Platinum-certified October Road appeared in 2002 to a receptive audience. It featured a number of quiet instrumental accompaniments and passages. Overall, it found Taylor in a more peaceful frame of mind; rather than facing a crisis now, Taylor said in an interview that “I thought I’d passed the midpoint of my life when I was 17.” The album appeared in two versions, a single-disc version and a “limited edition” two-disc version which contained three extra songs including a duet with Mark Knopfler, “Sailing to Philadelphia”, which also appeared on Knopfler’s album by the same name. Also in 2002, Taylor teamed with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss in singing “The Boxer” at the Kennedy Center Honors Tribute to Paul Simon. They later recorded the Louvin Brothers duet, “How’s the World Treating You?” In 2004, after he chose not to renew his record contract with Columbia/Sony, he released James Taylor: A Christmas Album with distribution through Hallmark Cards.

Always visibly active in environmental and liberal causes, in October 2004, Taylor joined the Vote for Change tour playing a series of concerts in American swing states. These concerts were organized by MoveOn.org with the goal of mobilizing people to vote for John Kerry and against George W. Bush in that year’s presidential campaign. Taylor’s appearances were joint performances with the Dixie Chicks.

Taylor performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Game 2 of the World Series in Boston on October 24, 2004, on October 25, 2007, both the anthem and “America” for the game on October 24, 2013, and Game 1 on October 23, 2018. He also performed at Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals in Boston on June 5, 2008, and at the NHL’s Winter Classic game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins.

In December 2004, he appeared as himself in an episode of The West Wing entitled “A Change Is Gonna Come”. He sang Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” at an event honoring an artist played by Taylor’s wife Caroline. Later on, he appeared on CMT’s Crossroads alongside the Dixie Chicks. In early 2006, MusiCares honored Taylor with performances of his songs by an array of notable musicians. Before a performance by the Dixie Chicks, lead singer Natalie Maines acknowledged that he had always been one of their musical heroes and had, for them, lived up to their once-imagined reputation of him.[64] They performed his song, “Shower the People”, with a surprise appearance by Arnold McCuller, who has sung backing vocals on Taylor’s live tours and albums for many years.

In the fall of 2006, Taylor released a repackaged and slightly different version of his Hallmark Christmas album, now entitled James Taylor at Christmas, and distributed by Columbia/Sony. In 2006, Taylor performed Randy Newman’s song “Our Town” for the Disney animated film Cars. The song was nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for the Best Original Song. On January 1, 2007, Taylor headlined the inaugural concert at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York honoring newly sworn in Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer.

Taylor’s next album, One Man Band was released on CD and DVD in November 2007 on Starbucks’ Hear Music Label, where he joined with Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell. The introspective album grew out of a three-year tour of the United States and Europe called the One Man Band Tour, featuring some of Taylor’s most beloved songs and anecdotes about their creative origins—accompanied solely by the “one man band” of his longtime pianist/keyboardist, Larry Goldings. The digital discrete 5.1 surround sound mix of One Man Band won a TEC Award for best surround sound recording in 2008.

On November 28–30, 2007, Taylor accompanied by his original band and Carole King, headlined a series of six shows at the Troubadour. The appearances marked the 50th anniversary of the venue, where Taylor, King and many others, such as Tom Waits, Neil Diamond, and Elton John, performed early in their music careers. Proceeds from the concert went to benefit the Natural Resources Defense Council, MusiCares, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, a member of America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s Food Bank Network. Parts of the performance shown on CBS Sunday Morning in the December 23, 2007, broadcast showed Taylor alluding to his early drug problems by saying, “I played here a number of times in the 70s, allegedly”. Taylor has used versions of this joke on other occasions, and it appears as part of his One Man Band DVD and tour performances.

In December 2007, James Taylor at Christmas was nominated for a Grammy Award. In January 2008, Taylor recorded approximately 20 songs by others for a new album with a band including Luis Conte, Michael Landau, Lou Marini, Arnold McCuller, Jimmy Johnson, David Lasley, Walt Fowler, Andrea Zonn, Kate Markowitz, Steve Gadd and Larry Goldings. The resulting live-in-studio album, named Covers, was released in September 2008. The album forays into country and soul while being the latest proof that Taylor is a more versatile singer than his best known hits might suggest. The Covers sessions stretched to include “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”, from the musical Oklahoma!, a song that his grandmother had caught him singing over and over at the top of his lungs when he was seven years old. Meanwhile, in summer 2008, Taylor and this band toured 34 North American cities with a tour entitled James Taylor and His Band of Legends. An additional album, called Other Covers, came out in April 2009, containing songs that were recorded during the same sessions as the original Covers but had not been put out to the full public yet.

During October 19–21, 2008, Taylor performed a series of free concerts in five North Carolina cities in support of Barack Obama’s presidential bid.  On Sunday, January 18, 2009, he performed at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial, singing “Shower the People” with John Legend and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.  On May 29, 2009, Taylor performed on the final episode of the original 17-year run of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

On September 8, 2009, Taylor made an appearance at the 24th-season premiere block party of The Oprah Winfrey Show on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

Taylor appeared briefly in the 2009 movie Funny People, where he played “Carolina in My Mind” for a MySpace corporate event as the opening act for the main character.

On January 1, 2010, Taylor sang the American national anthem at the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, while Daniel Powter sang the Canadian national anthem.

On March 7, 2010, Taylor sang the Beatles’ “In My Life” in tribute to deceased artists at the 82nd Academy Awards.

In March 2010, he commenced the Troubadour Reunion Tour with Carole King and members of his original band, including Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, and Danny Kortchmar. They played shows in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and North America with the final night being at the Honda Center, in Anaheim, California. The tour was a major commercial success and in some locations found Taylor playing arenas instead of his usual theaters or amphitheaters. Ticket sales amounted to over 700,000 and the tour grossed over $59 million. It was one of the most successful tours of the year.

He appeared in 2011 in the ABC comedy Mr. Sunshine as the ex-husband of the character played by Allison Janney, and he performs a duet of sorts on Leon Russell’s 1970 classic “A Song for You”.

On September 11, 2011, Taylor performed “You Can Close Your Eyes” in New York City at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

On November 22, 2011, Taylor performed “Fire and Rain” with Taylor Swift who was named after him,  at the last concert of her Speak Now World Tour in Madison Square Garden. They also sang Swift’s song, “Fifteen”. Then, on July 2, 2012 Swift appeared as Taylor’s special guest in a concert at Tanglewood.

He was active in support of Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and opened the 2012 Democratic National Convention singing three songs. He performed “America the Beautiful” at the President’s second inauguration.

He appeared on the final of Star Académie, the Quebec version of American Idol, on April 13, 2009.

On April 24, 2013, Taylor performed at the memorial service for slain MIT police officer Sean Collier who was killed by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the men responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. Taylor was accompanied by the MIT Symphony Orchestra and three MIT a cappella groups while performing his songs “The Water is Wide” and “Shower the People”.

On September 6 and 7, 2013, he performed with the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the Thirtieth Anniversary O.C. Tanner Gift of Music Gala Concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. He called the choir “a national treasure” In addition to the symphony and choir he was backed by some of his touring band pianist Charles Floyd, bassist Jimmy Johnson and percussionist Nick Halley.

After a 45-year wait, James earned his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart with Before This World. The album which was released on June 16 through Concord Records, arrived on top the chart of July 4, 2015, more than 45 years after Taylor arrived on the list with Sweet Baby James (on the March 14, 1970 list). The album launched atop the Billboard 200 with 97,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending June 21, 2015 according to Nielsen Music. Of its start, pure album sales were 96,000 copies sold, Taylor’s best debut week for an album since 2002’s October Road.

Taylor cancelled his 2016 concert in Manila as a protest to the extrajudicial killings of suspects in the Philippine Drug War.

Taylor’s album American Standard was released on February 28, 2020. American Standard debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, making Taylor the first act to earn a top 10 album in each of the last six decades. In May 2020, James Taylor and Jackson Browne cancelled their 2020 tour dates due to the COVID-19 crisis, and rescheduled them to 2021. On November 24, 2020, the album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album”.

Family and personal life

Taylor’s four siblings (Alex, Livingston, Hugh, and Kate) have also been musicians with recorded albums. Livingston is still an active musician; Kate was active in the 1970s but did not record another album until 2003; Hugh operates a bed-and-breakfast with his wife, The Outermost Inn in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard; and Alex died in 1993 on James’s birthday.

Taylor and Carly Simon were married in November 1972. His children with Simon, Sally and Ben, are also musicians. After Taylor and Simon divorced in 1983, he married actress Kathryn Walker on December 14, 1985, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. She had helped him get off heroin, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1996.

On February 18, 2001, at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Boston, Taylor wed for the third time marrying Caroline (“Kim”) Smedvig, the director of public relations and marketing for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. They had begun dating in 1995 when they met as he appeared with John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Part of their relationship was worked into the album October Road, on the songs “On The 4th Of July” and “Caroline I See You”.[90] Following the birth of their twin boys, Rufus and Henry in April 2001, Taylor moved with his family to Lenox, Massachusetts.

Awards and recognition

Grammy Awards

  • 1972: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, “You’ve Got a Friend
  • 1977: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, “Handy Man”
  • 1998: Best Pop Album, Hourglass
  • 2001: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”
  • 2003: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals, “How’s the World Treating You” with Alison Krauss
  • 2006: Grammy Award-sponsored MusiCares Person of the Year. At a black tie ceremony held in Los Angeles, musicians from several eras paid tribute to Taylor by performing his songs, often prefacing them with remarks on his influence on their decisions to become musicians. Artists include Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Sheryl Crow, India.Arie, the Dixie Chicks, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and Keith Urban. Paul Simon performed as well, although he was not included in the televised program; Taylor’s brother Livingston appeared on stage as a “backup singer” for the finale, along with Taylor’s twin boys, Rufus and Henry.

Other recognition

  • 1995: Honorary doctorate of music from the Berklee College of Music, Boston, 1995.
  • 2000: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2000.
  • 2000: Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2000.
  • 2003: The Chapel Hill Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina opened a permanent exhibit dedicated to Taylor. At the same occasion the US-15-501 highway bridge over Morgan Creek, near the site of the Taylor family home and mentioned in Taylor’s song “Copperline”, was named in honor of Taylor.
  • 2004: George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing.
  • 2004: Ranked 84th in Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
  • 2009: Honorary Doctorate of Music from Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts.
  • 2009: Inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
  • 2010: Inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame
  • 2012: Received the Montréal Jazz Spirit Award
  • 2012: Named “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the Ministry of Culture & Communication of France.
  • 2014: Emmy Award for The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Presents an Evening with James Taylor
  • 2015: Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • 2016: Kennedy Center Honors

Lyrics


Les Misérables

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Les Misérables (/l ˌmɪzəˈrɑːbəl, –blə/, French: [le mizeʁabl(ə)]) is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.

In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. However, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims and The Dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.

Examining the nature of law and grace, the novel elaborates upon the history of France, the architecture and urban design of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. Les Misérables has been popularized through numerous adaptations for film, television and the stage, including a musical.

Novel form

Upton Sinclair described the novel as “one of the half-dozen greatest novels of the world”, and remarked that Hugo set forth the purpose of Les Misérables in the Preface:

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Towards the end of the novel, Hugo explains the work’s overarching structure:

The book which the reader has before him at this moment is, from one end to the other, in its entirety and details … a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God. The starting point: matter, destination: the soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end.

The novel contains various subplots, but the main thread is the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean, who becomes a force for good in the world but cannot escape his criminal past. The novel is divided into five volumes, each volume divided into several books, and subdivided into chapters, for a total of 48 books and 365 chapters. Each chapter is relatively short, commonly no longer than a few pages.

The novel as a whole is one of the longest ever written, with 655,478 words in the original French. Hugo explained his ambitions for the novel to his Italian publisher:

I don’t know whether it will be read by everyone, but it is meant for everyone. It addresses England as well as Spain, Italy as well as France, Germany as well as Ireland, the republics that harbour slaves as well as empires that have serfs. Social problems go beyond frontiers. Humankind’s wounds, those huge sores that litter the world, do not stop at the blue and red lines drawn on maps. Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: “open up, I am here for you”.

Digressions

More than a quarter of the novel—by one count 955 of 2,783 pages—is devoted to essays that argue a moral point or display Hugo’s encyclopedic knowledge but do not advance the plot, nor even a subplot, a method Hugo used in such other works as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Toilers of the Sea. One biographer noted that “the digressions of genius are easily pardoned”. The topics Hugo addresses include cloistered religious orders, the construction of the Paris sewers, argot, and the street urchins of Paris. The one about convents he titles “Parenthesis” to alert the reader to its irrelevance to the story line.

Hugo devotes another 19 chapters (Volume II, Book I) to an account of—and a meditation on the place in history of—the Battle of Waterloo, the battlefield which Hugo visited in 1861 and where he finished writing the novel. It opens volume 2 with such a change of subject as to seem the beginning of an entirely different work. The fact that this ‘digression’ occupies such a large part of the text demands that it be read in the context of the ‘overarching structure’ discussed above. Hugo draws his own personal conclusions, taking Waterloo to be a pivot-point in history, but definitely not a victory for the forces of reaction.

Waterloo, by cutting short the demolition of European thrones by the sword, had no other effect than to cause the revolutionary work to be continued in another direction. The slashers have finished; it was the turn of the thinkers. The century that Waterloo was intended to arrest has pursued its march. That sinister victory was vanquished by liberty.

One critic has called this “the spiritual gateway” to the novel, as its chance encounter of Thénardier and Colonel Pontmercy foreshadows so many of the novel’s encounters “blending chance and necessity”, a “confrontation of heroism and villainy”.

Even when not turning to other subjects outside his narrative, Hugo sometimes interrupts the straightforward recitation of events, his voice and control of the story line unconstrained by time and sequence. The novel opens with a statement about the bishop of Digne in 1815 and immediately shifts: “Although these details in no way essentially concern that which we have to tell…” Only after 14 chapters does Hugo pick up the opening thread again, “In the early days of the month of October, 1815…”, to introduce Jean Valjean.

Hugo’s sources

An incident Hugo witnessed in 1829 involved three strangers and a police officer. One of the strangers was a man who had stolen a loaf of bread, similar to Jean Valjean. The officer was taking him to the coach. The thief also saw the mother and daughter playing with each other which would be an inspiration for Fantine and Cosette. Hugo imagined the life of the man in jail and the mother and daughter taken away from each other.

Valjean’s character is loosely based on the life of the ex-convict Eugène François Vidocq. Vidocq became the head of an undercover police unit and later founded France’s first private detective agency. He was also a businessman and was widely noted for his social engagement and philanthropy. Vidocq also inspired Hugo’s “Claude Gueux” and Le Dernier jour d’un condamné (The Last Day of a Condemned Man).

In 1828, Vidocq, already pardoned, saved one of the workers in his paper factory by lifting a heavy cart on his shoulders as Valjean does. Hugo’s description of Valjean rescuing a sailor on the Orion drew almost word for word on a Baron La Roncière’s letter describing such an incident. Hugo used Bienvenu de Miollis (1753–1843), the Bishop of Digne during the time in which Valjean encounters Myriel, as the model for Myriel.

Hugo had used the departure of prisoners from the Bagne of Toulon in one of his early stories, Le Dernier Jour d’un Condamné. He went to Toulon to visit the Bagne in 1839 and took extensive notes, though he did not start writing the book until 1845. On one of the pages of his notes about the prison, he wrote in large block letters a possible name for his hero: “JEAN TRÉJEAN”. When the book was finally written, Tréjean became Valjean.

In 1841, Hugo saved a prostitute from arrest for assault. He used a short part of his dialogue with the police when recounting Valjean’s rescue of Fantine in the novel. On 22 February 1846, when he had begun work on the novel, Hugo witnessed the arrest of a bread thief while a duchess and her child watched the scene pitilessly from their coach. He spent several vacations in Montreuil-sur-Mer.

During the 1832 revolt, Hugo walked the streets of Paris, saw the barricades blocking his way at points, and had to take shelter from gunfire. He participated more directly in the 1848 Paris insurrection, helping to smash barricades and suppress both the popular revolt and its monarchist allies.

Victor Hugo drew his inspiration from everything he heard and saw, writing it down in his diary. In December 1846, he witnessed an altercation between an old woman scavenging through rubbish and a street urchin who might have been Gavroche. He also informed himself by personal inspection of the Paris Conciergerie in 1846 and Waterloo in 1861, by gathering information on some industries, and on working-class people’s wages and living standards. He asked his mistresses, Léonie d’Aunet and Juliette Drouet, to tell him about life in convents. He also slipped personal anecdotes into the plot. For instance Marius and Cosette’s wedding night (Part V, Book 6, Chapter 1) takes place on 16 February 1833, which is also the date when Hugo and his lifelong mistress Juliette Drouet made love for the first time.

Plot

Volume I: Fantine

The story begins in 1815 in Digne, as the peasant Jean Valjean, just released from 19 years’ imprisonment in the Bagne of Toulon—five for stealing bread for his starving sister and her family and fourteen more for numerous escape attempts—is turned away by innkeepers because his yellow passport marks him as a former convict. He sleeps on the street, angry and bitter.

Digne’s benevolent Bishop Myriel gives him shelter. At night, Valjean runs off with Myriel’s silverware. When the police capture Valjean, Myriel pretends that he has given the silverware to Valjean and presses him to take two silver candlesticks as well, as if he had forgotten to take them. The police accept his explanation and leave. Myriel tells Valjean that his life has been spared for God, and that he should use money from the silver candlesticks to make an honest man of himself.

Valjean broods over Myriel’s words. When opportunity presents itself, purely out of habit, he steals a 40-sous coin from 12-year-old Petit Gervais and chases the boy away. He quickly repents and searches the city in panic for Gervais. At the same time, his theft is reported to the authorities. Valjean hides as they search for him, because if apprehended he will be returned to the galleys for life as a repeat offender.

Six years pass and Valjean, using the alias Monsieur Madeleine, has become a wealthy factory owner and is appointed mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Walking down the street, he sees a man named Fauchelevent pinned under the wheels of a cart. When no one volunteers to lift the cart, even for pay, he decides to rescue Fauchelevent himself. He crawls underneath the cart, manages to lift it, and frees him. The town’s police inspector, Inspector Javert, who was an adjutant guard at the Bagne of Toulon during Valjean’s incarceration, becomes suspicious of the mayor after witnessing this remarkable feat of strength. He has known only one other man, a convict named Jean Valjean, who could accomplish it.

Years earlier in Paris, a grisette named Fantine was very much in love with Félix Tholomyès. His friends, Listolier, Fameuil, and Blachevelle were also paired with Fantine’s friends Dahlia, Zéphine, and Favourite. The men abandon the women, treating their relationships as youthful amusements. Fantine must draw on her own resources to care for her and Tholomyès’ daughter, Cosette. When Fantine arrives at Montfermeil, she leaves Cosette in the care of the Thénardiers, a corrupt innkeeper and his selfish, cruel wife.

Fantine is unaware that they are abusing her daughter and using her as forced labor for their inn, and continues to try to meet their growing, extortionate and fictitious demands. She is later fired from her job at Jean Valjean’s factory, because of the discovery of her daughter, who was born out of wedlock. Meanwhile, the Thénardiers’ monetary demands continue to grow. In desperation, Fantine sells her hair and two front teeth, and she resorts to prostitution to pay the Thénardiers. Fantine is slowly dying from an unspecified disease.

A dandy named Bamatabois harasses Fantine in the street, and she reacts by striking him. Javert arrests Fantine. She begs to be released so that she can provide for her daughter, but Javert sentences her to six months in prison. Valjean (Mayor Madeleine) intervenes and orders Javert to release her. Javert resists but Valjean prevails. Valjean, feeling responsible because his factory turned her away, promises Fantine that he will bring Cosette to her. He takes her to a hospital.

Javert comes to see Valjean again. Javert admits that after being forced to free Fantine, he reported him as Valjean to the French authorities. He tells Valjean he realizes he was wrong, because the authorities have identified someone else as the real Jean Valjean, have him in custody, and plan to try him the next day. Valjean is torn, but decides to reveal himself to save the innocent man, whose real name is Champmathieu. He travels to attend the trial and there reveals his true identity. Valjean returns to Montreuil to see Fantine, followed by Javert, who confronts him in her hospital room.

After Javert grabs Valjean, Valjean asks for three days to bring Cosette to Fantine, but Javert refuses. Fantine discovers that Cosette is not at the hospital and fretfully asks where she is. Javert orders her to be quiet, and then reveals to her Valjean’s real identity. Weakened by the severity of her illness, she falls back in shock and dies. Valjean goes to Fantine, speaks to her in an inaudible whisper, kisses her hand, and then leaves with Javert. Later, Fantine’s body is unceremoniously thrown into a public grave.

Volume II: Cosette

Valjean escapes, is recaptured, and is sentenced to death. The king commutes his sentence to penal servitude for life. While imprisoned in the Bagne of Toulon, Valjean, at great personal risk, rescues a sailor caught in the ship’s rigging. Spectators call for his release. Valjean fakes his own death by allowing himself to fall into the ocean. Authorities report him dead and his body lost.

Valjean arrives at Montfermeil on Christmas Eve. He finds Cosette fetching water in the woods alone and walks with her to the inn. He orders a meal and observes how the Thénardiers abuse her, while pampering their own daughters Éponine and Azelma, who mistreat Cosette for playing with their doll. Valjean leaves and returns to make Cosette a present of an expensive new doll which, after some hesitation, she happily accepts. Éponine and Azelma are envious. Madame Thénardier is furious with Valjean, while her husband makes light of Valjean’s behaviour, caring only that he pay for his food and lodging.

The next morning, Valjean informs the Thénardiers that he wants to take Cosette with him. Madame Thénardier immediately accepts, while Thénardier pretends to love Cosette and be concerned for her welfare, reluctant to give her up. Valjean pays the Thénardiers 1,500 francs, and he and Cosette leave the inn. Thénardier, hoping to swindle more out of Valjean, runs after them, holding the 1,500 francs, and tells Valjean he wants Cosette back. He informs Valjean that he cannot release Cosette without a note from the child’s mother. Valjean hands Thénardier Fantine’s letter authorizing the bearer to take Cosette. Thénardier then demands that Valjean pay a thousand crowns, but Valjean and Cosette leave. Thénardier regrets that he did not bring his gun and turns back toward home.

Valjean and Cosette flee to Paris. Valjean rents new lodgings at Gorbeau House, where he and Cosette live happily. However, Javert discovers Valjean’s lodgings there a few months later. Valjean takes Cosette and they try to escape from Javert. They soon find shelter in the Petit-Picpus convent with the help of Fauchelevent, the man whom Valjean once rescued from being crushed under a cart and who has become the convent’s gardener. Valjean also becomes a gardener and Cosette becomes a student at the convent school.

Volume III: Marius

Eight years later, the Friends of the ABC, led by Enjolras, are preparing an act of anti-Orléanist civil unrest (i.e. the Paris uprising on 5–6 June 1832, following the death of General Lamarque, the only French leader who had sympathy towards the working class. Lamarque was a victim of a major cholera epidemic that had ravaged the city, particularly its poor neighborhoods, arousing suspicion that the government had been poisoning wells). The Friends of the ABC are joined by the poor of the Cour des miracles, including the Thénardiers’ eldest son Gavroche, who is a street urchin.

One of the students, Marius Pontmercy, has become alienated from his family (especially his royalist grandfather M. Gillenormand) because of his Bonapartism views. After the death of his father, Colonel Georges Pontmercy, Marius discovers a note from him instructing his son to provide help to a sergeant named Thénardier who saved his life at Waterloo—in reality Thénardier was looting corpses and only saved Pontmercy’s life by accident; he had called himself a sergeant under Napoleon to avoid exposing himself as a robber.

At the Luxembourg Garden, Marius falls in love with the now grown and beautiful Cosette. The Thénardiers have also moved to Paris and now live in poverty after losing their inn. They live under the surname “Jondrette” at Gorbeau House (coincidentally, the same building Valjean and Cosette briefly lived in after leaving the Thénardiers’ inn). Marius lives there as well, next door to the Thénardiers.

Éponine, now ragged and emaciated, visits Marius at his apartment to beg for money. To impress him, she tries to prove her literacy by reading aloud from a book and by writing “The Cops Are Here” on a sheet of paper. Marius pities her and gives her some money. After Éponine leaves, Marius observes the “Jondrettes” in their apartment through a crack in the wall. Éponine comes in and announces that a philanthropist and his daughter are arriving to visit them. In order to look poorer, Thénardier puts out the fire and breaks a chair. He also orders Azelma to punch out a window pane, which she does, resulting in cutting her hand (as Thénardier had hoped).

The philanthropist and his daughter enter—actually Valjean and Cosette. Marius immediately recognizes Cosette. After seeing them, Valjean promises them he will return with rent money for them. After he and Cosette leave, Marius asks Éponine to retrieve her address for him. Éponine, who is in love with Marius herself, reluctantly agrees to do so. The Thénardiers have also recognized Valjean and Cosette, and vow their revenge. Thénardier enlists the aid of the Patron-Minette, a well-known and feared gang of murderers and robbers.

Marius overhears Thénardier’s plan and goes to Javert to report the crime. Javert gives Marius two pistols and instructs him to fire one into the air if things get dangerous. Marius returns home and waits for Javert and the police to arrive. Thénardier sends Éponine and Azelma outside to look out for the police. When Valjean returns with rent money, Thénardier, with Patron-Minette, ambushes him and he reveals his real identity to Valjean. Marius recognizes Thénardier as the man who saved his father’s life at Waterloo and is caught in a dilemma.

He tries to find a way to save Valjean while not betraying Thénardier. Valjean denies knowing Thénardier and tells him that they have never met. Valjean tries to escape through a window but is subdued and tied up. Thénardier orders Valjean to pay him 200,000 francs. He also orders Valjean to write a letter to Cosette to return to the apartment, and they would keep her with them until he delivers the money. After Valjean writes the letter and informs Thénardier of his address, Thénardier sends out Mme. Thénardier to get Cosette. Mme. Thénardier comes back alone, and announces the address is a fake.

It is during this time that Valjean manages to free himself. Thénardier decides to kill Valjean. While he and Patron-Minette are about to do so, Marius remembers the scrap of paper that Éponine wrote on earlier. He throws it into the Thénardiers’ apartment through the wall crack. Thénardier reads it and thinks Éponine threw it inside. He, Mme. Thénardier and Patron-Minette try to escape, only to be stopped by Javert.

He arrests all the Thénardiers and Patron-Minette (except Claquesous, who escapes during his transportation to prison, and Montparnasse, who stops to run off with Éponine instead of joining in on the robbery). Valjean manages to escape the scene before Javert sees him.

Volume IV: The Idyll in the Rue Plumet and the Epic in the Rue St. Denis

After Éponine’s release from prison, she finds Marius at “The Field of the Lark” and sadly tells him that she found Cosette’s address. She leads him to Valjean’s and Cosette’s house on Rue Plumet, and Marius watches the house for a few days. He and Cosette then finally meet and declare their love for one another. Thénardier, Patron-Minette and Brujon manage to escape from prison with the aid of Gavroche (a rare case of Gavroche helping his family in their criminal activities). One night, during one of Marius’s visits with Cosette, the six men attempt to raid Valjean’s and Cosette’s house. However, Éponine, who has been sitting by the gates of the house, threatens to scream and awaken the whole neighbourhood if the thieves do not leave. Hearing this, they reluctantly retire. Meanwhile, Cosette informs Marius that she and Valjean will be leaving for England in a week’s time, which greatly troubles the pair.

The next day, Valjean is sitting in the Champ de Mars. He is feeling troubled about seeing Thénardier in the neighbourhood several times. Unexpectedly, a note lands in his lap, which says “Move Out.” He sees a figure running away in the dim light. He goes back to his house, tells Cosette they will be staying at their other house on Rue de l’Homme Arme, and reconfirms to her that they will be moving to England. Marius tries to get permission from M. Gillenormand to marry Cosette. His grandfather seems stern and angry, but has been longing for Marius’s return. When tempers flare, he refuses his assent to the marriage, telling Marius to make Cosette his mistress instead. Insulted, Marius leaves.

The following day, the students revolt and erect barricades in the narrow streets of Paris. Gavroche spots Javert and informs Enjolras that Javert is a spy. When Enjolras confronts him about this, he admits his identity and his orders to spy on the students. Enjolras and the other students tie him up to a pole in the Corinth restaurant. Later that evening, Marius goes back to Valjean’s and Cosette’s house on Rue Plumet, but finds the house no longer occupied. He then hears a voice telling him that his friends are waiting for him at the barricade. Distraught to find Cosette gone, he heeds the voice and goes.

When Marius arrives at the barricade, the revolution has already started. When he stoops down to pick up a powder keg, a soldier comes up to shoot Marius. However, a man covers the muzzle of the soldier’s gun with his hand. The soldier fires, fatally wounding the man, while missing Marius. Meanwhile, the soldiers are closing in. Marius climbs to the top of the barricade, holding a torch in one hand, a powder keg in the other, and threatens to the soldiers that he will blow up the barricade. After confirming this, the soldiers retreat from the barricade.

Marius decides to go to the smaller barricade, which he finds empty. As he turns back, the man who took the fatal shot for Marius earlier calls Marius by his name. Marius discovers this man is Éponine, dressed in men’s clothes. As she lies dying on his knees, she confesses that she was the one who told him to go to the barricade, hoping they would die together. She also confesses to saving his life because she wanted to die before he did.

The author also states to the reader that Éponine anonymously threw the note to Valjean. Éponine then tells Marius that she has a letter for him. She also confesses to have obtained the letter the day before, originally not planning to give it to him, but decides to do so in fear he would be angry at her about it in the afterlife. After Marius takes the letter, Éponine then asks him to kiss her on the forehead when she is dead, which he promises to do. With her last breath, she confesses that she was “a little bit in love” with him, and dies.

Marius fulfills her request and goes into a tavern to read the letter. It is written by Cosette. He learns Cosette’s whereabouts and he writes a farewell letter to her. He sends Gavroche to deliver it to her, but Gavroche leaves it with Valjean. Valjean, learning that Cosette’s lover is fighting, is at first relieved, but an hour later, he puts on a National Guard uniform, arms himself with a gun and ammunition, and leaves his home.

Volume V: Jean Valjean

Valjean arrives at the barricade and immediately saves a man’s life. He is still not certain if he wants to protect Marius or kill him. Marius recognizes Valjean at first sight. Enjolras announces that they are almost out of cartridges. When Gavroche goes outside the barricade to collect more ammunition from the dead National Guardsmen, he is shot dead.

Valjean volunteers to execute Javert himself, and Enjolras grants permission. Valjean takes Javert out of sight, and then shoots into the air while letting him go. Marius mistakenly believes that Valjean has killed Javert. As the barricade falls, Valjean carries off the injured and unconscious Marius. All the other students are killed. Valjean escapes through the sewers, carrying Marius’s body. He evades a police patrol, and reaches an exit gate but finds it locked. Thénardier emerges from the darkness. Valjean recognizes Thénardier, but Thénardier does not recognize Valjean. Thinking Valjean a murderer lugging his victim’s corpse, Thénardier offers to open the gate for money. As he searches Valjean and Marius’s pockets, he surreptitiously tears off a piece of Marius’s coat so he can later find out his identity. Thénardier takes the thirty francs he finds, opens the gate, and allows Valjean to leave, expecting Valjean’s emergence from the sewer will distract the police who have been pursuing him.

Upon exiting, Valjean encounters Javert and requests time to return Marius to his family before surrendering to him. Surprisingly Javert agrees, assuming that Marius will be dead within minutes. After leaving Marius at his grandfather’s house, Valjean asks to be allowed a brief visit to his own home, and Javert agrees. There, Javert tells Valjean he will wait for him in the street, but when Valjean scans the street from the landing window he finds Javert has gone. Javert walks down the street, realizing that he is caught between his strict belief in the law and the mercy Valjean has shown him. He feels he can no longer give Valjean up to the authorities but also cannot ignore his duty to the law. Unable to cope with this dilemma, Javert commits suicide by throwing himself into the Seine.

Marius slowly recovers from his injuries. As he and Cosette make wedding preparations, Valjean endows them with a fortune of nearly 600,000 francs. As their wedding party winds through Paris during Mardi Gras festivities, Valjean is spotted by Thénardier, who then orders Azelma to follow him. After the wedding, Valjean confesses to Marius that he is an ex-convict. Marius is horrified, assumes the worst about Valjean’s moral character, and contrives to limit Valjean’s time with Cosette. Valjean accedes to Marius’ judgment and his separation from Cosette. Valjean loses the will to live and retires to his bed.

Thénardier approaches Marius in disguise, but Marius recognizes him. Thénardier attempts to blackmail Marius with what he knows of Valjean, but in doing so, he inadvertently corrects Marius’s misconceptions about Valjean and reveals all of the good he has done. He tries to convince Marius that Valjean is actually a murderer, and presents the piece of coat he tore off as evidence. Stunned, Marius recognizes the fabric as part of his own coat and realizes that it was Valjean who rescued him from the barricade. Marius pulls out a fistful of notes and flings it at Thénardier’s face. He then confronts Thénardier with his crimes and offers him an immense sum to depart and never return. Thénardier accepts the offer, and he and Azelma travel to America where he becomes a slave trader.

As they rush to Valjean’s house, Marius tells Cosette that Valjean saved his life at the barricade. They arrive to find Valjean near death and reconcile with him. Valjean tells Cosette her mother’s story and name. He dies content and is buried beneath a blank slab in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Characters

Major

  • Jean Valjean (also known as Monsieur Madeleine, Ultime Fauchelevent, Monsieur Leblanc, and Urbain Fabre) – The protagonist of the novel. Convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s seven starving children and sent to prison for five years, he is paroled from prison nineteen years later (after four unsuccessful escape attempts added twelve years and fighting back during the second escape attempt added two extra years). Rejected by society for being a former convict, he encounters Bishop Myriel, who turns his life around by showing him mercy and encouraging him to become a new man. While sitting and pondering what Bishop Myriel had said, he puts his shoe on a forty-sou piece dropped by a young wanderer. Valjean threatens the boy with his stick when the boy attempts to rouse Valjean from his reverie and recover his money. He tells a passing priest his name, and the name of the boy, and this allows the police to charge him with armed robbery – a sentence that, if he were caught again, would return him to prison for life. He assumes a new identity (Monsieur Madeleine) in order to pursue an honest life. He introduces new manufacturing techniques and eventually builds two factories and becomes one of the richest men in the area. By popular acclaim, he is made mayor. He confronts Javert over Fantine’s punishment, turns himself in to the police to save another man from prison for life, and rescues Cosette from the Thénardiers. Discovered by Javert in Paris because of his generosity to the poor, he evades capture for the next several years in a convent. He saves Marius from imprisonment and probable death at the barricade, reveals his true identity to Marius and Cosette after their wedding, and is reunited with them just before his death, having kept his promise to the bishop and to Fantine, the image of whom is the last thing he sees before dying.
  • Javert – A fanatic police inspector in pursuit to recapture Valjean. Born in the prisons to a convict father and a fortune teller mother, he renounces both of them and starts working as a guard in the prison, including one stint as the overseer for the chain gang of which Valjean is part (and here witnesses firsthand Valjean’s enormous strength and just what he looks like). Eventually he joins the police force in Montreuil-sur-Mer. He arrests Fantine and comes into conflict with Valjean/Madeleine, who orders him to release Fantine. Valjean dismisses Javert in front of his squad and Javert, seeking revenge, reports to the Police Inspector that he has discovered Jean Valjean. He is told that he must be incorrect, as a man mistakenly believed to be Jean Valjean was just arrested. He requests of M. Madeline that he be dismissed in disgrace, for he cannot be less harsh on himself than on others. When the real Jean Valjean turns himself in, Javert is promoted to the Paris police force where he arrests Valjean and sends him back to prison. After Valjean escapes again, Javert attempts one more arrest in vain. He then almost recaptures Valjean at Gorbeau house when he arrests the Thénardiers and Patron-Minette. Later, while working undercover behind the barricade, his identity is discovered. Valjean pretends to execute Javert, but releases him. When Javert next encounters Valjean emerging from the sewers, he allows him to make a brief visit home and then walks off instead of arresting him. Javert cannot reconcile his devotion to the law with his recognition that the lawful course is immoral. After composing a letter to the prefect of police outlining the squalid conditions that occur in prisons and the abuses that prisoners are subjected to, he takes his own life by jumping into the Seine.
  • Fantine – A beautiful Parisian grisette abandoned with a small child by her lover Félix Tholomyès. Fantine leaves her daughter Cosette in the care of the Thénardiers, innkeepers in the village of Montfermeil. Mme. Thénardier spoils her own daughters and abuses Cosette. Fantine finds work at Monsieur Madeleine’s factory. Illiterate, she has others write letters to the Thénardiers on her behalf. A female supervisor discovers that she is an unwed mother and dismisses her. To meet the Thénardiers’ repeated demands for money, she sells her hair and two front teeth, and turns to prostitution. She becomes ill. Valjean learns of her plight when Javert arrests her for attacking a man who called her insulting names and threw snow down her back, and sends her to a hospital. As Javert confronts Valjean in her hospital room, because her illness has made her so weak, she dies of shock after Javert reveals that Valjean is a convict and hasn’t brought her daughter Cosette to her (after the doctor encouraged that incorrect belief that Jean Valjean’s recent absence was because he was bringing her daughter to her).
  • Cosette (formally Euphrasie, also known as “the Lark”, Mademoiselle Lanoire, Ursula) – The illegitimate daughter of Fantine and Tholomyès. From approximately the age of three to the age of eight, she is beaten and forced to work as a drudge for the Thénardiers. After her mother Fantine dies, Valjean ransoms Cosette from the Thénardiers and cares for her as if she were his daughter. Nuns in a Paris convent educate her. She grows up to become very beautiful. She falls in love with Marius Pontmercy and marries him near the novel’s conclusion.
  • Marius Pontmercy – A young law student loosely associated with the Friends of the ABC. He shares the political principles of his father and has a tempestuous relationship with his royalist grandfather, Monsieur Gillenormand. He falls in love with Cosette and fights on the barricades when he believes Valjean has taken her to London. After he and Cosette marry, he recognizes Thénardier as a swindler and pays him to leave France.
  • Éponine (the Jondrette girl) – The Thénardiers’ elder daughter. As a child, she is pampered and spoiled by her parents, but ends up a street urchin when she reaches adolescence. She participates in her father’s crimes and begging schemes to obtain money. She is blindly in love with Marius. At Marius’ request, she finds Valjean and Cosette’s house for him and sadly leads him there. She also prevents her father, Patron-Minette, and Brujon from robbing the house during one of Marius’ visits there to see Cosette. After disguising herself as a boy, she manipulates Marius into going to the barricades, hoping that she and Marius will die there together. Wanting to die before Marius, she reaches out her hand to stop a soldier from shooting at him; she is mortally wounded as the bullet goes through her hand and her back. As she is dying, she confesses all this to Marius, and gives him a letter from Cosette. Her final request to Marius is that once she has passed, he will kiss her on the forehead. He fulfills her request not because of romantic feelings on his part, but out of pity for her hard life.
  • Monsieur Thénardier and Madame Thénardier (also known as the Jondrettes, M. Fabantou, M. Thénard. Some translations identify her as the Thenardiess) – Husband and wife, parents of five children: two daughters, Éponine and Azelma, and three sons, Gavroche and two unnamed younger sons. As innkeepers, they abuse Cosette as a child and extort payment from Fantine for her support, until Valjean takes Cosette away. They become bankrupt and relocate under the name Jondrette to a house in Paris called the Gorbeau house, living in the room next to Marius. The husband associates with a criminal group called “the Patron-Minette”, and conspires to rob Valjean until he is thwarted by Marius. Javert arrests the couple. The wife dies in prison. Her husband attempts to blackmail Marius with his knowledge of Valjean’s past, but Marius pays him to leave the country and he becomes a slave trader in the United States.
  • Enjolras – The leader of Les Amis de l’ABC (Friends of the ABC) in the Paris uprising. He is passionately committed to republican principles and the idea of progress. He and Grantaire are executed by the National Guards after the barricade falls.
  • Gavroche – The unloved middle child and eldest son of the Thénardiers. He lives on his own as a street urchin and sleeps inside an elephant statue outside the Bastille. He briefly takes care of his two younger brothers, unaware they are related to him. He takes part in the barricades and is killed while collecting bullets from dead National Guardsmen.
  • Bishop Myriel – The Bishop of Digne (full name Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel, also called Monseigneur Bienvenu) – A kindly old priest promoted to bishop after a chance encounter with Napoleon. After Valjean steals some silver from him, he saves Valjean from being arrested and inspires Valjean to change his ways.
  • Grantaire – Grantaire (Also known as “R”) was a student revolutionary with little interest in the cause. He reveres Enjolras, and his admiration is the main reason that Grantaire spends time with Les Amis de l’ABC (Friends of the ABC), despite Enjolras’s occasional scorn for him. Grantaire is often drunk and is unconscious for the majority of the June Rebellion. He and Enjolras are executed by the National Guards after the barricade falls.

Friends of the ABC

A revolutionary student club. In French, the letters “ABC” are pronounced identically to the French word abaissés, “the abased”.

  • Bahorel – A dandy and an idler from a peasant background, who is known well around the student cafés of Paris.
  • Combeferre – A medical student who is described as representing the philosophy of the revolution.
  • Courfeyrac – A law student who is described as the centre of the group of Friends. He is honorable and warm and is Marius’ closest companion.
  • Enjolras – The leader of the Friends. A resolute and charismatic youth, devoted to progress.
  • Feuilly – An orphaned fan maker and passionate Polonophile who taught himself to read and write. He is the only member of the Friends who is not a student.
  • Grantaire – A drunk with little interest in revolution. Despite his pessimism, he eventually declares himself a believer in the Republic, and dies alongside Enjolras.
  • Jean Prouvaire (also Jehan) – A Romantic with knowledge of Italian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and an interest in the Middle Ages.
  • Joly – A medical student who has unusual theories about health. He is a hypochondriac and is described as the happiest of the Friends.
  • Lesgle (also Lègle, Laigle, L’Aigle [The Eagle] or Bossuet) – The oldest member of the group. Considered notoriously unlucky, Lesgle begins balding at the age of twenty-five. It is Lesgle who introduces Marius to the Friends.

Minor

  • Azelma – The younger daughter of the Thénardiers. Like her sister Éponine, she is spoiled as a child, impoverished when older. She abets her father’s failed robbery of Valjean. On Marius and Cosette’s wedding day, she tails Valjean on her father’s orders. She travels to America with her father at the end of the novel.
  • Bamatabois – An idler who harasses Fantine. Later a juror at Champmathieu’s trial.
  • (Mlle) Baptistine Myriel – Bishop Myriel’s sister. She loves and venerates her brother.
  • Blachevelle – A wealthy student in Paris originally from Montauban. He is a friend of Félix Tholomyès and becomes romantically involved with Fantine’s friend Favourite.
  • Bougon, Madame (called Ma’am Burgon) – Housekeeper of Gorbeau House.
  • Brevet – An ex-convict from Toulon who knew Valjean there; released one year after Valjean. In 1823, he is serving time in the prison in Arras for an unknown crime. He is the first to claim that Champmathieu is really Valjean. He used to wear knitted, checkered suspenders.
  • Brujon – A robber and criminal. He participates in crimes with M. Thénardier and the Patron-Minette gang (such as the Gorbeau Robbery and the attempted robbery at the Rue Plumet). The author describes Brujon as being “a sprightly young fellow, very cunning and very adroit, with a flurried and plaintive appearance.”
  • Champmathieu – A vagabond who is misidentified as Valjean after being caught stealing apples.
  • Chenildieu – A lifer from Toulon. He and Valjean were chain mates for five years. He once tried to unsuccessfully remove his lifer’s brand TFP (“travaux forcés à perpetuité”, “forced labour for life”) by putting his shoulder on a chafing dish full of embers. He is described as a small, wiry but energetic man.
  • Cochepaille – Another lifer from Toulon. He used to be a shepherd from the Pyrenees who became a smuggler. He is described as stupid and has a tattoo on his arm, 1 Mars 1815.
  • Colonel Georges Pontmercy – Marius’s father and an officer in Napoleon’s army. Wounded at Waterloo, Pontmercy erroneously believes M. Thénardier saved his life. He tells Marius of this great debt. He loves Marius and although M. Gillenormand does not allow him to visit, he continually hid behind a pillar in the church on Sunday so that he could at least look at Marius from a distance. Napoleon made him a baron, but the next regime refused to recognize his barony or his status as a colonel, instead referring to him only as a commandant. The book usually calls him “The colonel”.
  • Dahlia – A young grisette in Paris and member of Fantine’s group of seamstress friends along with Favourite and Zéphine. She becomes romantically involved with Félix Tholomyès’ friend Listolier.
  • Fameuil – A wealthy student in Paris originally from Limoges. He is a friend of Félix Tholomyès and becomes romantically involved with Fantine’s friend Zéphine.
  • Fauchelevent – A failed businessman whom Valjean (as M. Madeleine) saves from being crushed under a carriage. Valjean gets him a position as gardener at a Paris convent, where Fauchelevent later provides sanctuary for Valjean and Cosette and allows Valjean to pose as his brother.
  • Favourite – A young grisette in Paris and leader of Fantine’s group of seamstress friends (including Zéphine and Dahlia). She is independent and well versed in the ways of the world and had previously been in England. Although she cannot stand Félix Tholomyès’ friend Blachevelle and is in love with someone else, she endures a relationship with him so she can enjoy the perks of courting a wealthy man.
  • Listolier – A wealthy student in Paris originally from Cahors. He is a friend of Félix Tholomyès and becomes romantically involved with Fantine’s friend Dahlia.
  • Mabeuf – An elderly churchwarden, friend of Colonel Pontmercy, who after the Colonel’s death befriends his son Marius and helps Marius realize his father loved him. Mabeuf loves plants and books, but sells his books and prints in order to pay for a friend’s medical care. When Mabeuf finds a purse in his yard, he takes it to the police. After selling his last book, he joins the students in the insurrection. He is shot dead raising the flag atop the barricade.
  • Mademoiselle Gillenormand – Daughter of M. Gillenormand, with whom she lives. Her late half-sister (M. Gillenormand’s daughter from another marriage), was Marius’ mother.
  • Madame Magloire – Domestic servant to Bishop Myriel and his sister.
  • Magnon – Former servant of M. Gillenormand and friend of the Thénardiers. She had been receiving child support payments from M. Gillenormand for her two illegitimate sons, who she claimed were fathered by him. When her sons died in an epidemic, she had them replaced with the Thénardiers’ two youngest sons so that she could protect her income. The Thénardiers get a portion of the payments. She is incorrectly arrested for involvement in the Gorbeau robbery.
  • Monsieur Gillenormand – Marius’ grandfather. A monarchist, he disagrees sharply with Marius on political issues, and they have several arguments. He attempts to keep Marius from being influenced by his father, Colonel Georges Pontmercy. While in perpetual conflict over ideas, he holds his grandson in affection.
  • Mother Innocente (a.k.a. Marguerite de Blemeur) – The prioress of the Petit-Picpus convent.
  • Patron-Minette – A quartet of bandits who assist in the Thénardiers’ ambush of Valjean at Gorbeau House and the attempted robbery at the Rue Plumet. The gang consists of Montparnasse, Claquesous, Babet, and Gueulemer. Claquesous, who escaped from the carriage transporting him to prison after the Gorbeau Robbery, joins the revolution under the guise of “Le Cabuc” and is executed by Enjolras for firing on civilians.
  • Petit Gervais – A travelling Savoyard boy who drops a coin. Valjean, still a man of criminal mind, places his foot on the coin and refuses to return it.
  • Sister Simplice – A famously truthful nun who cares for Fantine on her sickbed and lies to Javert to protect Valjean.
  • Félix Tholomyès – Fantine’s lover and Cosette’s biological father. A wealthy, self-centered student in Paris originally from Toulouse, he eventually abandons Fantine when their daughter is two years old.
  • Toussaint – Valjean and Cosette’s servant in Paris. She has a slight stutter.
  • Two little boys – The two unnamed youngest sons of the Thénardiers, whom they send to Magnon to replace her two dead sons. Living on the streets, they encounter Gavroche, who is unaware they are his siblings but treats them like they are his brothers. After Gavroche’s death, they retrieve bread tossed by a bourgeois man to geese in a fountain at the Luxembourg Garden.
  • Zéphine – A young grisette in Paris and member of Fantine’s group of seamstress friends along with Favourite and Dahlia. She becomes romantically involved with Félix Tholomyès’ friend Fameuil.

The narrator

Hugo does not give the narrator a name and allows the reader to identify the narrator with the novel’s author. The narrator occasionally injects himself into the narrative or reports facts outside the time of the narrative to emphasize that he is recounting historical events, not entirely fiction. He introduces his recounting of Waterloo with several paragraphs describing the narrator’s recent approach to the battlefield: “Last year (1861), on a beautiful May morning, a traveller, the person who is telling this story, was coming from Nivelles …” The narrator describes how “[a]n observer, a dreamer, the author of this book” during the 1832 street fighting was caught in crossfire: “All that he had to protect him from the bullets was the swell of the two half columns which separate the shops; he remained in this delicate situation for nearly half an hour.” At one point he apologizes for intruding—”The author of this book, who regrets the necessity of mentioning himself”—to ask the reader’s understanding when he describes “the Paris of his youth … as though it still existed.” This introduces a meditation on memories of past places that his contemporary readers would recognize as a self-portrait written from exile: “you have left a part of your heart, of your blood, of your soul, in those pavements.” He describes another occasion when a bullet shot “pierced a brass shaving-dish suspended … over a hairdresser’s shop. This pierced shaving-dish was still to be seen in 1848, in the Rue du Contrat-Social, at the corner of the pillars of the market.” As evidence of police double agents at the barricades, he writes: “The author of this book had in his hands, in 1848, the special report on this subject made to the Prefect of Police in 1832.”

Contemporary reception

The appearance of the novel was a highly anticipated event as Victor Hugo was considered one of France’s foremost poets in the middle of the nineteenth century. The New York Times announced its forthcoming publication as early as April 1860. Hugo forbade his publishers from summarizing his story and refused to authorize the publication of excerpts in advance of publication. He instructed them to build on his earlier success and suggested this approach: “What Victor H. did for the Gothic world in Notre-Dame of Paris [The Hunchback of Notre Dame], he accomplishes for the modern world in Les Miserables”. A massive advertising campaign preceded the release of the first two volumes of Les Misérables in Brussels on 30 or 31 March and in Paris on 3 April 1862. The remaining volumes appeared on 15 May 1862.

Critical reactions were wide-ranging and often negative. Some critics found the subject matter immoral, others complained of its excessive sentimentality, and others were disquieted by its apparent sympathy with the revolutionaries. L. Gauthier wrote in Le Monde of 17 August 1862: “One cannot read without an unconquerable disgust all the details Monsieur Hugo gives regarding the successful planning of riots.” The Goncourt brothers judged the novel artificial and disappointing. Flaubert found “neither truth nor greatness” in it. He complained that the characters were crude stereotypes who all “speak very well – but all in the same way”. He deemed it an “infantile” effort and brought an end to Hugo’s career like “the fall of a god”. In a newspaper review, Charles Baudelaire praised Hugo’s success in focusing public attention on social problems, though he believed that such propaganda was the opposite of art. In private he castigated it as “repulsive and inept” (“immonde et inepte”). The Catholic Church placed it on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

The work was a commercial success and has been a popular book ever since it was published. Translated the same year it appeared into several foreign languages, including Italian, Greek, and Portuguese, it proved popular not only in France, but across Europe and abroad.

English translations

  • Charles E. Wilbour. New York: Carleton Publishing Company, June 1862. The first English translation. The first volume was available for purchase in New York beginning 7 June 1862.[39] Also New York and London: George Routledge and Sons, 1879.
  • Lascelles Wraxall. London: Hurst and Blackett, October 1862. The first British translation.
  • Translator identified as “A.F.” Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Published by West and Johnston publishers. The Editor’s Preface announces its intention of correcting errors in Wilbour’s translation. It said that some passages “exclusively intended for the French readers of the book” were being omitted, as well as “[a] few scattered sentences reflecting on slavery” because “the absence of a few antislavery paragraphs will hardly be complained of by Southern readers.” Because of paper shortages in wartime, the passages omitted became longer with each successive volume.
  • Isabel Florence Hapgood. Published 1887, this translation is available at Project Gutenberg.
  • Norman Denny. Folio Press, 1976. A modern British translation later re-published in paperback by Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-044430-0. The translator explains in an introduction that he has placed two of the novel’s longer digressive passages into appendices and made some minor abridgements in the text.
  • Lee Fahnestock and Norman McAfee. Signet Classics. 3 March 1987. An unabridged edition based on the Wilbour translation with its language modernized. Paperback ISBN 0-451-52526-4
  • Julie Rose. 2007. Vintage Classics, 3 July 2008. A new translation of the full work, with a detailed biographical sketch of Victor Hugo’s life, a chronology, and notes. ISBN 978-0-09-951113-7
  • Christine Donougher. Penguin Classics, 7 November 2013. A new translation of the full work, with a detailed biographical sketch of Victor Hugo’s life, a chronology, and notes. ISBN 978-0141393599

Adaptations

Since its original publication, Les Misérables has been the subject of a large number of adaptations in numerous types of media, such as books, films, musicals, plays and games.

Notable examples of these adaptations include:

  • The 1934 film, 4½-hour French version directed by Raymond Bernard and starring Harry Baur, Charles Vanel, Florelle, Josseline Gaël and Jean Servais.
  • The 1935 film directed by Richard Boleslawski, starring Fredric March and Charles Laughton, nominated for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Assistant Director at 8th Academy Awards.
  • The 1937 radio adaptation by Orson Welles.
  • The 1952 film adaptation directed by Lewis Milestone, starring Michael Rennie and Robert Newton.
  • The 1958 film adaptation directed by Jean-Paul Le Chanois, with an international cast starring Jean Gabin, Bernard Blier, and Bourvil. Called “the most memorable film version”, it was filmed in East Germany and was overtly political.
  • The 1978 television film adaptation, starring Richard Jordan and Anthony Perkins.
  • The 1980 musical, by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.
  • The 1982 film adaptation, directed by Robert Hossein, starring Lino Ventura and Michel Bouquet.
  • The 1995 film, by Claude Lelouch, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo
  • The 1998 film, starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush.
  • The 2000 TV miniseries, starring Gérard Depardieu and John Malkovich.
  • The 2007 TV anime adaptation, by Studio Nippon Animation.
  • The 2012 film of the musical, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.
  • A 2018 TV miniseries by Andrew Davies, starring Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins.

Sequels

  • Laura Kalpakian’s Cosette: The Sequel to Les Misérables was published in 1995. It continues the story of Cosette and Marius, but is more a sequel to the musical than to the original novel.
  • In 2001, two French novels by François Cérésa [fr] that continue Hugo’s story appeared: Cosette ou le temps des illusions and Marius ou le fugitif. The former has been published in an English translation. Javert appears as a hero who survived his suicide attempt and becomes religious; Thénardier returns from America; Marius is unjustly imprisoned. The works were the subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit, Société Plon et autres v. Pierre Hugo et autres brought by Hugo’s great-great-grandson.

Lyrics


Harry Ruby

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Harry Rubenstein (January 27, 1895 – February 23, 1974), known professionally as Harry Ruby, was an American composer and screenwriter, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. He was married to silent film actress Eileen Percy.

Biography

Ruby was born in New York City, United States. After failing at his early ambition to become a professional baseball player, he toured the vaudeville circuit as a pianist with the Bootblack Trio and the Messenger Boys Trio, until meeting the man who would become his longtime partner, lyricist Bert Kalmar. Kalmar and Ruby were a successful songwriting team for nearly three decades until Kalmar’s death in 1947, a partnership portrayed in the 1950 MGM musical Three Little Words, starring Fred Astaire as Kalmar and Red Skelton as Ruby.

A good friend of Groucho Marx, Ruby appeared several times on his television program, You Bet Your Life. In his 1972 concert at Carnegie Hall, Marx gave the following introduction before performing a song of Ruby’s: “I have a friend in Hollywood … I think I do, I’m not so sure. [laughter] His name is Harry Ruby [applause] and he wrote a lot of songs that I’ve sung over the years …”

Today, Father, is Father’s Day
And we’re giving you a tie
It’s not much we know
It is just our way of showing you
We think you’re a regular guy
You say that it was nice of us to bother
But it really was a pleasure to fuss
For according to our mother
You’re our father
And that’s good enough for us
Yes, that’s good enough for us

In The Dick Cavett Show, recorded June 13, 1969, Marx also sang a second stanza, and introduced it with, “Isn’t that a beautiful melody? And a beautiful sentiment: … Today, father, is father’s day. … 16 men in that orchestra: nine of them are illegitimate children [laughter]. Nine and a half including the director.”

The tie that you got
Didn’t cost such a lot
And we’ll give you the same tie next year.
You tell us it was nice of us to bother
But it really was a pleasure to fuss
For they say, a child can only have one father
And you are the one for us.
And you are the one for us.

Selected film scores

 

  • Animal Crackers (1930)
  • Horse Feathers (1932)
  • Duck Soup (1933)
  • Bright Lights (1935)
  • Walking on Air (1936)
  • Three Little Words (1950)

Selected screenplays

  • The Kid from Spain (1932)
  • Horse Feathers (1932)
  • Duck Soup (1933)
  • Bright Lights (1935)
  • Walking on Air (1936)
  • The Life of the Party (1937)
  • Lovely to Look At (1952)

Selected Broadway scores

  • Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 (1918) – revue – featured songwriter
  • Helen of Troy, New York (1923) – musical – co-composer and co-lyricist
  • No Other Girl (1924) – musical – co-composer and co-lyricist
  • Holka Polka (1925) – musical – co-book-editor
  • The Ramblers (1926) – musical – co-composer, co-lyricist and co-bookwriter
  • Lucky (1927) – musical – co-bookwriter
  • The Five O’Clock Girl (1927) – musical – composer
  • She’s My Baby (1928) – musical – co-bookwriter
  • Good Boy (1928) – musical – co-composer and co-lyricist
  • Animal Crackers (1928) – musical – co-composer and co-lyricist
  • Top Speed (1929) – musical – co-producer and co-bookwriter
  • High Kickers (1941) – musical – co-composer, co-lyricist and co-bookwriter
  • Fosse (1998) – revue – featured songwriter for “Who’s Sorry Now?” from All That Jazz 1979

Notable songs

  • “Rebecca Came Back From Mecca” (1921)
  • “The Sheik of Avenue B” (1922)
  • “Who’s Sorry Now?” (1923), Kalmar and Ruby’s first big hit
  • I Wanna Be Loved by You” (1928), a hit for Helen Kane, known as the “Boop-boop-a-doop girl”, and sung by Marilyn Monroe in the film Some Like It Hot
  • “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” from Animal Crackers (1928): became Groucho Marx’s signature tune.
  • “I Love You So Much” (1928)
  • “Three Little Words” (1930), their biggest hit.
  • “Nevertheless” (1931), a hit for both Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallée, later done by The Mills Brothers and Frank Sinatra
  • “I’m Against It”, “I Always Get My Man” and “Everyone Says I Love You” from Horse Feathers (1932)
  • “Hail, Hail Freedonia” from Duck Soup (1933)
  • “What a Perfect Combination” (1932), lyrics by Kalmar and Irving Caesar, music by Ruby and Harry Akst, written for the Broadway show The Kid, starring Eddie Cantor
  • A Kiss to Build a Dream On” (1935), their last hit
  • “The Real McCoys” (1957-1963), television theme

Selected bibliography

  • The Kalmar-Ruby Song Book Random House (1936) B009X7KK6K Introduction by Ben Hecht with contributions by Groucho Marx,
    Robert Benchley, Moss Hart, Irving Berlin, Marc Connelly, James Kevin McGuinness, Franklin P. Adams and Nunnally Johnson.
  • Songs My Mother Never Sang Random House (1943) B002B9VFCA
  • The Four Marx Brothers in Monkey Business and Duck Soup Simon & Schuster (1973) 978-0671212735 S.J. Perelman; Will B. Johnstone; Bert Kalmar; and Harry Ruby

Death

Ruby died on February 23, 1974 in Woodland Hills, California, and was interred at the Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles.

Lyrics


Judy Kuhn

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Judy Kuhn (born May 20, 1958) is an American actress and singer, known for her work in musical theatre. A four-time Tony Award nominee, she has released four studio albums and sang the title role in the 1995 film Pocahontas, including her rendition of the song “Colors of the Wind“, which won its composers the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Kuhn made her professional stage debut in 1981 and her Broadway debut in the 1985 original production of the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Subsequent Broadway roles include Cosette in Les Misérables (1987), Florence Vassy in Chess (1988) and Amalia Balash in She Loves Me (1993). For all three, she received Tony Award nominations. She also received an Olivier Award nomination for her 1989 West End debut playing Maria/Futura in Metropolis. Other musical roles include Betty Schaeffer in the 1993 US premiere production of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and her Obie Award winning role as Emmie in the 2001 Off-Broadway production of Eli’s Comin. She received a fourth Tony nomination in 2015 for her role as Helen Bechdel in the original Broadway production of Fun Home, and a second Olivier nomination in 2020 for her role as Golde in a London revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

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Early life

Kuhn (pronounced kyoon) was born in New York City to Jewish parents and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. She attended Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. She entered Oberlin College.  After taking voice lessons with Frank Farina, Kuhn transferred into the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.  Kuhn was also interested in musical theater and other types of music, in addition to classical music for which the Conservatory is best known. She trained as an “operatic soprano” at Oberlin, and graduated in 1981.

After college, she moved to Boston, where she waited tables and studied acting. After appearing in summer stock, Kuhn moved back to New York.

Stage career

1985–1989

Her Broadway debut was in Drood, a Rupert Holmes musical based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel, in 1985. She played the roles of “Alice / Miss Isabel Yearsley/ Succubae” and understudied the title role played by Betty Buckley. Her next appearance on Broadway was in the ill-fated Rags, which opened on August 21, 1986 and closed after four performances.

Her next role of Cosette in the 1987 multiple award-winning Broadway production of Les Misérables brought her the first Tony Award nomination, as Best Featured Actress in a Musical (1987),[ and the Drama Desk Award (1987) nomination as Outstanding Featured Actress in A Musical.

Kuhn appeared in the Trevor Nunn-directed Chess, with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tim Rice in the 1988 Broadway transfer from the West End, playing one of the main roles (Florence Vassy). Despite the show’s success in London, Trevor Nunn decided to rework it for Broadway from a pop/rock opera as staged in London into a more conventional musical theater piece with a new book by Richard Nelson. As a result, the new show was greeted with mostly negative reviews and closed after less than a two-month run, on June 25, 1988.[10] Kuhn’s performance in the musical received praise from the critics. “Her beautiful pop-soprano voice is the show’s chief pleasure. She acts the sympathetic, gutsy role with spirit and heart”, wrote Variety. The Village Voice noted that “she pours a river of feeling and lush vocal tone into…the role”. She garnered her second Tony Award nomination, this time as Best Actress in a Musical (1988), and a 1988 Drama Desk Award nomination as Outstanding Actress in a Musical. In addition, The Original Broadway Cast recording of the musical was nominated for a Grammy Award.

She reprised her role of Florence Vassy later in January 1989 in a Carnegie Hall concert performance with the rest of the Broadway cast, which was a benefit for the Emergency Shelter Inc. She also performed in a Chess concert versionin 1989 in Skellefteå, Sweden, during a chess World Cup final tournament, where she joined with Tommy Körberg and Murray Head, two principal actors from 1986 West End production of the musical.

Kuhn made her London debut in 1989, when she starred in the West End production of Metropolis, with Jeremy Kingston, reviewing for The Times (London) writing “I greatly enjoyed Kuhn’s edgy, angular performance.” She received an Olivier Award nomination as Best Actress in a Musical.

1990–1996

Kuhn’s next major Broadway project, Two Shakespearean Actors (1992), despite a cast that included Brian Bedford, Frances Conroy, Hope Davis, Victor Garber, Laura Innes and Eric Stoltz,[16] was commercially unsuccessful, closing after 29 regular performances.

In 1993, Kuhn played in the Roundabout Theater Company revival of She Loves Me, portraying Amalia Balash, a young Budapest shopgirl who is unaware that the co-worker she despises is the young man with whom she’s been sharing an anonymous correspondence. Her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination as Best Actress in a Musical. The 1993 Broadway recording of this revival does not feature Kuhn, who left the production before the album was produced.

In December 1993, Kuhn played the role of Betty Schaefer in the U.S premiere production of Sunset Boulevard at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles. The L.A production recorded a cast album, which is the only unabridged cast recording of the show with the original London recording being cut by thirty minutes.

Regional theatre credits in the early 1990s include The Glass Menagerie at the McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey, in 1991 as “Laura” and Martin Guerre, at the Hartford Stage Company, Hartford, Connecticut in 1993. Kuhn reprised her role as Cosette in 1995, for the 10th anniversary concert performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was released on DVD as Les Miserables: The Dream Cast in Concert.

1997–2006

Kuhn appeared in the Broadway concert King David which was a 1997 Disney project with a book and lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Alan Menken and directed by Mike Ockrent. It played for a nine-performance limited run at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Kuhn sang in the second annual benefit concert for The Actors’ Fund of Funny Girl in September 2002 at the New Amsterdam theatre, with different actresses taking on the role of Fanny Brice. She sang “Who Are You Now?” and “People” of which Andrew Gans of Playbill wrote: she “provided an intense, moving, full-voiced ‘People,’ sensationally belting ‘are the luckiest peeeeeeople (wow!) in the wooorld’.”

Kuhn’s Off-Broadway and regional theater credits in this period include: As Thousands Cheer (1998) Off-Broadway at the Drama Dept., Greenwich House Theater;[25]Strike up the Band (1998) Off-Broadway Encores! Concerts at New York City Center; the title role in The Ballad of Little Jo (2000) at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago; Eli’s Comin (2001) Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre Company (for which she won an Obie Award); The Highest Yellow (2004) at the Signature Theater in Virginia; and Three Sisters (2005) In a new adaption by Craig Lucas at the Intiman Theater in Seattle, Washington.

2007–present

On October 23, 2007, Kuhn returned to the Broadway production of Les Misérables after 20 years, this time assuming the role of Fantine. She succeeded Lea Salonga and remained with the show until the revival ended on January 6, 2008.

Kuhn portrayed Fosca in the Off-Broadway Classic Stage Company revival of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical Passion from its opening in February 2013 through its scheduled closing in April 2013. Kuhn has previously played Fosca, in the Stephen Sondheim celebration production in 2002 at the Kennedy Center.

In 2013, Kuhn originated the role of Helen Bechdel in the off-Broadway Public Theater production of the musical Fun Home, which began its run September 30, 2013 and opened officially on October 22, 2013. The run was extended multiple times and closed on January 12, 2014. She played the same role in the Broadway production, which ran from April 2015 to September 10, 2016 at the Circle in the Square.

Kuhn played the role of “Golde” in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, starting on November 22, 2016. She plays Golde in the Menier Chocolate Factory (London) production of Fiddler on the Roof which began on November 23, 2018 and ran to March 9, 2019.

Career outside theatre

Her television credits include Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU, All My Children and two PBS shows: My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies (recorded 1998, released 1999) and In Performance at the White House: A Tribute to Broadway – The Shows in March 1988.

Kuhn sang the title role in the 1995 Disney animated film Pocahontas. The film’s score won an Academy Award, and the soundtrack reached #1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 2.5 million copies. The film included Kuhn’s rendition of the song “Colors of the Wind”, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award.

Kuhn also sang as Pocahontas in the straight-to-video sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World and in “If You Can Dream”, a Disney Princess song. Kuhn briefly appeared in the film Long Time Since (1998) and supplied the vocals for the movie’s soundtrack, which includes a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

She has performed in concert at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall in Manhattan, and at the Royal Albert Hall in London. She has performed in a solo cabaret/nightclub act at, for example, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in October 2007 and the Iridium in New York in January 2008. She performed her solo concert at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency in March 2012.

Her first solo album Just in Time: Judy Kuhn Sings Jule Styne was released on January 31, 1995. Kuhn’s second solo album Serious Playground: The Songs of Laura Nyro was released on October 2, 2007. In 2013, she released her third album All This Happiness, which contains pop, jazz, cabaret, and blues songs, along with the title song of the album, from the Stephen Sondheim musical Passion.

Kuhn also teaches a song interpretation class at Michael Howard Studios in New York City, where she studied earlier in her career. Andrew Gans of Playbill wrote that Kuhn “possesses one of the richest and most exciting instruments around; it is also an extremely versatile and rangy voice” and that Kuhn has “remarkable interpretive skills”.

Personal life

Kuhn lives with her husband, David Schwab, and daughter Anna in New York City.

 

Lyrics


Beyonce Knowles

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter (/bˈjɒns/ bee-YON-say; born September 4, 1981) is an American singer, actress and record producer. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Beyoncé performed in various singing and dancing competitions as a child. She rose to fame in the late 1990s as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. Beyoncé is often cited as an influence by other artists.

During Destiny’s Child’s hiatus, Beyoncé made her theatrical film debut with a role in the US box-office number-one Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) and began her solo music career. She became the first music act to debut at number one with their first six solo studio albums on the Billboard 200. Her debut album Dangerously in Love (2003) featured four Billboard Hot 100 top five songs, including the number-one singles “Crazy in Love” featuring rapper Jay-Z and “Baby Boy” featuring singer-rapper Sean Paul. Following the disbandment of Destiny’s Child in 2006, she released her second solo album, B’Day, which contained her first US number-one solo single “Irreplaceable”, and “Beautiful Liar”, which topped the charts in most countries. Beyoncé continued her acting career with starring roles in The Pink Panther (2006), Dreamgirls (2006), and Obsessed (2009). Her marriage to Jay-Z and her portrayal of Etta James in Cadillac Records (2008) influenced her third album, I Am… Sasha Fierce (2008), which earned a record-setting six Grammy Awards in 2010. It spawned the UK number-one single “If I Were a Boy”, the US number-one single “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and the top five single “Halo”.

After splitting from her manager and father Mathew Knowles in 2010, Beyoncé released the album 4 (2011); it was influenced by 1970s funk, 1980s pop, and 1990s soul. She achieved back-to-back widespread critical acclaim for her sonically experimental visual albums, Beyoncé (2013) and Lemonade (2016); the latter was the world’s best-selling album of 2016 and the most acclaimed album of her career, exploring themes of infidelity and womanism. In 2018, she released Everything Is Love, a collaborative album with her husband, Jay-Z, as the Carters. As a featured artist, Beyoncé topped the Billboard Hot 100 with the remixes of “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran in 2017 and “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion in 2020. The same year, she made her directorial and screenwriting debut with the musical film and visual album Black Is King, which received widespread critical acclaim after premiering on Disney+.

Beyoncé is one of the world’s best-selling recording artists, having sold 118 million records worldwide. Her success during the 2000s was recognized with the Recording Industry Association of America’s Top Certified Artist of the Decade, as well as Billboard magazine’s Top Radio Songs Artist and the Top Female Artist of the Decade. Beyoncé is the most nominated woman in the Grammy Award’s history and has the second most wins for a woman with a total of 24. She is also the most awarded artist at the MTV Video Music Awards, with 24 wins, including the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. In 2014, she became the highest-earning Black musician in history and was listed among Time’s 100 most influential people in the world for a second year in a row. Forbes ranked her as the most powerful female in entertainment on their 2015 and 2017 lists. She occupied the sixth place for Time’s Person of the Year in 2016, and in 2020, was named one of the 100 women who defined the last century by the same publication. Beyoncé was also included on Encyclopædia Britannica’s 100 Women list in 2019, for her contributions to the entertainment industry.

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Life and career

1981–1996: Early life

Beyonce Giselle Knowles was born in Houston, Texas, to Celestine “Tina” Knowles (née Beyonce), a hairdresser and salon owner, and Mathew Knowles, a Xerox sales manager. Her younger sister Solange Knowles is also a singer and a former backup dancer for Destiny’s Child. Solange and Beyoncé are the first sisters to have both had No. 1 albums. Mathew is African American, and Tina is of Louisiana Creole descent (French, Native American, and African), and distant Jewish, Spanish, Chinese and Indonesian ancestry. Through her mother, Beyoncé is a descendant of Acadian leader Joseph Broussard,[20] as well as a descendant of Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin. In 2018, Beyoncé researched her ancestry and found out that she is descended from a slaveowner.

Beyoncé attended St. Mary’s Montessori School in Houston, where she enrolled in dance classes. Her singing talent was discovered when dance instructor Darlette Johnson began humming a song and she finished it, able to hit the high-pitched notes. Beyoncé’s interest in music and performing continued after winning a school talent show at age seven, singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” to beat 15/16-year-olds. In the fall of 1990, Beyoncé enrolled in Parker Elementary School, a music magnet school in Houston, where she would perform with the school’s choir.  She also attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts[31] and later Alief Elsik High School. Beyoncé was also a member of the choir at St. John’s United Methodist Church as a soloist for two years.

When Beyoncé was eight, she and childhood friend Kelly Rowland met LaTavia Roberson while at an audition for an all-girl entertainment group. They were placed into a group called Girl’s Tyme with three other girls, and rapped and danced on the talent show circuit in Houston. After seeing the group, R&B producer Arne Frager brought them to his Northern California studio and placed them in Star Search, the largest talent show on national TV at the time. Girl’s Tyme failed to win, and Beyoncé later said the song they performed was not good. In 1995 Beyoncé’s father resigned from his job to manage the group. The move reduced Beyoncé’s family’s income by half, and her parents were forced to move into separated apartments. Mathew cut the original line-up to four and the group continued performing as an opening act for other established R&B girl groups. The girls auditioned before record labels and were finally signed to Elektra Records, moving to Atlanta Records briefly to work on their first recording, only to be cut by the company. This put further strain on the family, and Beyoncé’s parents separated. On October 5, 1995, Dwayne Wiggins’s Grass Roots Entertainment signed the group. In 1996, the girls began recording their debut album under an agreement with Sony Music, the Knowles family reunited, and shortly after, the group got a contract with Columbia Records.

1997–2002: Destiny’s Child

The group changed their name to Destiny’s Child in 1996, based upon a passage in the Book of Isaiah. In 1997, Destiny’s Child released their major label debut song “Killing Time” on the soundtrack to the 1997 film Men in Black. In November, the group released their debut single and first major hit, “No, No, No”. They released their self-titled debut album in February 1998, which established the group as a viable act in the music industry, with moderate sales and winning the group three Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards for Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year, Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist, and Best R&B/Soul Single for “No, No, No”. The group released their Multi-Platinum second album The Writing’s on the Wall in 1999. The record features some of the group’s most widely known songs such as “Bills, Bills, Bills”, the group’s first number-one single, “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” and “Say My Name”, which became their most successful song at the time, and would remain one of their signature songs. “Say My Name” won the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and the Best R&B Song at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards. The Writing’s on the Wall sold more than eight million copies worldwide. During this time, Beyoncé recorded a duet with Marc Nelson, an original member of Boyz II Men, on the song “After All Is Said and Done” for the soundtrack to the 1999 film, The Best Man.

LeToya Luckett and Roberson became unhappy with Mathew’s managing of the band and eventually were replaced by Farrah Franklin and Michelle Williams. Beyoncé experienced depression following the split with Luckett and Roberson after being publicly blamed by the media, critics, and blogs for its cause. Her long-standing boyfriend left her at this time. The depression was so severe it lasted for a couple of years, during which she occasionally kept herself in her bedroom for days and refused to eat anything. Beyoncé stated that she struggled to speak about her depression because Destiny’s Child had just won their first Grammy Award, and she feared no one would take her seriously. Beyoncé would later speak of her mother as the person who helped her fight it. Franklin was then dismissed, leaving just Beyoncé, Rowland, and Williams.

The remaining band members recorded “Independent Women Part I”, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 2000 film Charlie’s Angels. It became their best-charting single, topping the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for eleven consecutive weeks. In early 2001, while Destiny’s Child was completing their third album, Beyoncé landed a major role in the MTV made-for-television film, Carmen: A Hip Hopera, starring alongside American actor Mekhi Phifer. Set in Philadelphia, the film is a modern interpretation of the 19th-century opera Carmen by French composer Georges Bizet. When the third album Survivor was released in May 2001, Luckett and Roberson filed a lawsuit claiming that the songs were aimed at them. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 663,000 copies sold. The album spawned other number-one hits, “Bootylicious” and the title track, “Survivor”, the latter of which earned the group a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. After releasing their holiday album 8 Days of Christmas in October 2001, the group announced a hiatus to further pursue solo careers.

In July 2002, Beyoncé made her theatrical film debut, playing Foxxy Cleopatra alongside Mike Myers in the comedy film Austin Powers in Goldmember, which spent its first weekend atop the US box office and grossed $73 million. Beyoncé released “Work It Out” as the lead single from its soundtrack album which entered the top ten in the UK, Norway, and Belgium. In 2003, Beyoncé starred opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the musical comedy The Fighting Temptations as Lilly, a single mother with whom Gooding’s character falls in love. The film received mixed reviews from critics but grossed $30 million in the U.S. Beyoncé released “Fighting Temptation” as the lead single from the film’s soundtrack album, with Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, and Free which was also used to promote the film. Another of Beyoncé’s contributions to the soundtrack, “Summertime”, fared better on the US charts.

2003–2005: Dangerously in Love and Destiny Fulfilled

Beyoncé’s first solo recording was a feature on Jay-Z’s song “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” that was released in October 2002, peaking at number four on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.[58] On June 14, 2003, Beyoncé premiered songs from her first solo album Dangerously in Love during her first solo concert and the pay-per-view television special, “Ford Presents Beyoncé Knowles, Friends & Family, Live From Ford’s 100th Anniversary Celebration in Dearborn, Michigan.”[59] The album was released on June 24, 2003, after Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland had released their solo efforts. The album sold 317,000 copies in its first week, debuted atop the Billboard 200,[61] and has since sold 11 million copies worldwide. The album’s lead single, “Crazy in Love”, featuring Jay-Z, became Beyoncé’s first number-one single as a solo artist in the US. The single “Baby Boy” also reached number one,  and singles, “Me, Myself and I” and “Naughty Girl”, both reached the top-five. The album earned Beyoncé a then record-tying five awards at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards; Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Dangerously in Love 2”, Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Crazy in Love”, and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for “The Closer I Get to You” with Luther Vandross. During the ceremony, she performed with Prince.

In November 2003, she embarked on the Dangerously in Love Tour in Europe and later toured alongside Missy Elliott and Alicia Keys for the Verizon Ladies First Tour in North America. On February 1, 2004, Beyoncé performed the American national anthem at Super Bowl XXXVIII, at the Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. After the release of Dangerously in Love, Beyoncé had planned to produce a follow-up album using several of the left-over tracks. However, this was put on hold so she could concentrate on recording Destiny Fulfilled, the final studio album by Destiny’s Child.[68] Released on November 15, 2004, in the US and peaking at number two on the Billboard 200, Destiny Fulfilled included the singles “Lose My Breath” and “Soldier”, which reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[ Destiny’s Child embarked on a worldwide concert tour, Destiny Fulfilled… and Lovin’ It sponsored by McDonald’s Corporation, and performed hits such as “No, No, No”, “Survivor”, “Say My Name”, “Independent Women” and “Lose My Breath”. In addition to renditions of the group’s recorded material, they also performed songs from each singer’s solo careers, most notably numbers from Dangerously in Love. and during the last stop of their European tour, in Barcelona on June 11, 2005, Rowland announced that Destiny’s Child would disband following the North American leg of the tour. The group released their first compilation album Number 1’s on October 25, 2005, in the US and accepted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in March 2006. The group has sold 60 million records worldwide.

2006–2007: B’Day and Dreamgirls

Beyoncé’s second solo album B’Day was released on September 4, 2006, in the US, to coincide with her twenty-fifth birthday. It sold 541,000 copies in its first week and debuted atop the Billboard 200, becoming Beyoncé’s second consecutive number-one album in the United States.[80] The album’s lead single “Déjà Vu”, featuring Jay-Z, reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The second international single “Irreplaceable” was a commercial success worldwide, reaching number one in Australia, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States. B’Day also produced three other singles; “Ring the Alarm”, “Get Me Bodied”, and “Green Light” (released in the United Kingdom only).

At the 49th Annual Grammy Awards (2007), B’Day was nominated for five Grammy Awards, including Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Ring the Alarm” and Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration”for “Déjà Vu”; the Freemasons club mix of “Déjà Vu” without the rap was put forward in the Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical category. B’Day won the award for Best Contemporary R&B Album. The following year, B’Day received two nominations – for Record of the Year for “Irreplaceable” and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for “Beautiful Liar” (with Shakira), also receiving a nomination for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Pictures, Television or Other Visual Media for her appearance on Dreamgirls: Music from the Motion Picture (2006).

Her first acting role of 2006 was in the comedy film The Pink Panther starring opposite Steve Martin, grossing $158.8 million at the box office worldwide.[88] Her second film Dreamgirls, the film version of the 1981 Broadway musical loosely based on The Supremes, received acclaim from critics and grossed $154 million internationally. In it, she starred opposite Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy playing a pop singer based on Diana Ross. To promote the film, Beyoncé released “Listen” as the lead single from the soundtrack album. In April 2007, Beyoncé embarked on The Beyoncé Experience, her first worldwide concert tour, visiting 97 venues  and grossed over $24 million.[note 1] Beyoncé conducted pre-concert food donation drives during six major stops in conjunction with her pastor at St. John’s and America’s Second Harvest. At the same time, B’Day was re-released with five additional songs, including her duet with Shakira “Beautiful Liar”.

2008–2010: I Am… Sasha Fierce

I Am… Sasha Fierce was released on November 18, 2008, in the United States. The album formally introduces Beyoncé’s alter ego Sasha Fierce, conceived during the making of her 2003 single “Crazy in Love”. It was met with generally mediocre reviews from critics, but sold 482,000 copies in its first week, debuting atop the Billboard 200, and giving Beyoncé her third consecutive number-one album in the US. The album featured the number-one song “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”  and the top-five songs “If I Were a Boy” and “Halo”. Achieving the accomplishment of becoming her longest-running Hot 100 single in her career, “Halo”‘s success in the US helped Beyoncé attain more top-ten singles on the list than any other woman during the 2000s. It also included the successful “Sweet Dreams”, and singles “Diva”, “Ego”, “Broken-Hearted Girl” and “Video Phone”. The music video for “Single Ladies” has been parodied and imitated around the world, spawning the “first major dance craze” of the Internet age according to the Toronto Star. The video has won several awards, including Best Video at the 2009 MTV Europe Music Awards, the 2009 Scottish MOBO Awards, and the 2009 BET Awards. At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, the video was nominated for nine awards, ultimately winning three including Video of the Year. Its failure to win the Best Female Video category, which went to American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me”, led to Kanye West interrupting the ceremony and Beyoncé improvising a re-presentation of Swift’s award during her own acceptance speech. In March 2009, Beyoncé embarked on the I Am… World Tour, her second headlining worldwide concert tour, consisting of 108 shows, grossing $119.5 million.

Beyoncé further expanded her acting career, starring as blues singer Etta James in the 2008 musical biopic Cadillac Records. Her performance in the film received praise from critics, and she garnered several nominations for her portrayal of James, including a Satellite Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress. Beyoncé donated her entire salary from the film to Phoenix House, an organization of rehabilitation centers for heroin addicts around the country. On January 20, 2009, Beyoncé performed James’ “At Last” at First Couple Barack and Michelle Obama’s first inaugural ball. Beyoncé starred opposite Ali Larter and Idris Elba in the thriller, Obsessed. She played Sharon Charles, a mother and wife whose family is threatened by her husband’s stalker. Although the film received negative reviews from critics,  the movie did well at the US box office, grossing $68 million—$60 million more than Cadillac Records —on a budget of $20 million. The fight scene finale between Sharon and the character played by Ali Larter also won the 2010 MTV Movie Award for Best Fight.

At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, Beyoncé received ten nominations, including Album of the Year for I Am… Sasha Fierce, Record of the Year for “Halo”, and Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, among others.  She tied with Lauryn Hill for most Grammy nominations in a single year by a female artist. Beyoncé went on to win six of those nominations, breaking a record she previously tied in 2004 for the most Grammy awards won in a single night by a female artist with six. In 2010, Beyoncé was featured on Lady Gaga’s single “Telephone” and appeared in its music video. The song topped the US Pop Songs chart, becoming the sixth number-one for both Beyoncé and Gaga, tying them with Mariah Carey for most number-ones since the Nielsen Top 40 airplay chart launched in 1992. “Telephone” received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

Beyoncé announced a hiatus from her music career in January 2010, heeding her mother’s advice, “to live life, to be inspired by things again”. During the break she and her father parted ways as business partners.[ Beyoncé’s musical break lasted nine months and saw her visit multiple European cities, the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, Australia, English music festivals and various museums and ballet performances.

2011–2013: 4 and documentary film

On June 26, 2011, she became the first solo female artist to headline the main Pyramid stage at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival in over twenty years. Her fourth studio album 4 was released two days later in the US. 4 sold 310,000 copies in its first week and debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, giving Beyoncé her fourth consecutive number-one album in the US. The album was preceded by two of its singles “Run the World (Girls)” and “Best Thing I Never Had”. The fourth single “Love on Top” spent seven consecutive weeks at number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while peaking at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest peak from the album. 4 also produced four other singles; “Party”, “Countdown”, “I Care” and “End of Time”. “Eat, Play, Love”, a cover story written by Beyoncé for Essence that detailed her 2010 career break, won her a writing award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. In late 2011, she took the stage at New York’s Roseland Ballroom for four nights of special performances: the 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé concerts saw the performance of her 4 album to a standing room only. On August 1, 2011, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), having shipped 1 million copies to retail stores. By December 2015, it reached sales of 1.5 million copies in the US. The album reached one billion Spotify streams on February 5, 2018, making Beyoncé the first female artist to have three of their albums surpass one billion streams on the platform.

In June 2012, she performed for four nights at Revel Atlantic City’s Ovation Hall to celebrate the resort’s opening, her first performances since giving birth to her daughter.

In January 2013, Destiny’s Child released Love Songs, a compilation album of the romance-themed songs from their previous albums and a newly recorded track, “Nuclear”. Beyoncé performed the American national anthem singing along with a pre-recorded track at President Obama’s second inauguration in Washington, D.C. The following month, Beyoncé performed at the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show, held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The performance stands as the second most tweeted about moment in history at 268,000 tweets per minute. At the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, Beyoncé won for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Love on Top”. Her feature-length documentary film, Life Is But a Dream, first aired on HBO on February 16, 2013.  The film was co-directed by Beyoncé herself.

2013–2015: Beyoncé

Beyoncé embarked on The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour on April 15 in Belgrade, Serbia; the tour included 132 dates that ran through to March 2014. It became the most successful tour of her career and one of the most successful tours of all time. In May, Beyoncé’s cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” with André 3000 on The Great Gatsby soundtrack was released. Beyoncé voiced Queen Tara in the 3D CGI animated film, Epic, released by 20th Century Fox on May 24,  and recorded an original song for the film, “Rise Up”, co-written with Sia.

On December 13, 2013, Beyoncé unexpectedly released her eponymous fifth studio album on the iTunes Store without any prior announcement or promotion. The album debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart, giving Beyoncé her fifth consecutive number-one album in the US. This made her the first woman in the chart’s history to have her first five studio albums debut at number one. Beyoncé received critical acclaim and commercial success, selling one million digital copies worldwide in six days; Musically an electro-R&B album, it concerns darker themes previously unexplored in her work, such as “bulimia, postnatal depression [and] the fears and insecurities of marriage and motherhood”. The single “Drunk in Love”, featuring Jay-Z, peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

In April 2014, after much speculation,[162] Beyoncé and Jay-Z officially announced their On the Run Tour. It served as the couple’s first co-headlining stadium tour together. On August 24, 2014, she received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. Beyoncé also won home three competitive awards: Best Video with a Social Message and Best Cinematography for “Pretty Hurts”, as well as best collaboration for “Drunk in Love”. In November, Forbes reported that Beyoncé was the top-earning woman in music for the second year in a row—earning $115 million in the year, more than double her earnings in 2013. Beyoncé was reissued with new material in three forms: as an extended play, a box set, as well as a full platinum edition. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), in the last 19 days of 2013, the album sold 2.3 million units worldwide, becoming the tenth best-selling album of 2013. The album also went on to become the twentieth best-selling album of 2014. As of November 2014, Beyoncé has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and has generated over 1 billion streams, as of March 2015.

At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2015, Beyoncé was nominated for six awards, ultimately winning three: Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for “Drunk in Love”, and Best Surround Sound Album for Beyoncé. She was nominated for Album of the Year, but the award went to Beck for his album Morning Phase.

2016–2018: Lemonade and Everything Is Love

On February 6, 2016, Beyoncé released “Formation” and its accompanying music video exclusively on the music streaming platform Tidal; the song was made available to download for free. She performed “Formation” live for the first time during the NFL Super Bowl 50 halftime show. The appearance was considered controversial as it appeared to reference the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party and the NFL forbids political statements in its performances. Immediately following the performance, Beyoncé announced The Formation World Tour, which highlighted stops in both North America, and Europe. It ended on October 7, with Beyoncé bringing out her husband Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Serena Williams for the last show. The tour went on to win Tour of the Year at the 44th American Music Awards.

On April 16, 2016, Beyoncé released a teaser clip for a project called Lemonade. It turned out to be a one-hour film which aired on HBO exactly a week later; a corresponding album with the same title was released on the same day exclusively on Tidal. Lemonade debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, making Beyoncé the first act in Billboard history to have their first six studio albums debut atop the chart; she broke a record previously tied with DMX in 2013. With all 12 tracks of Lemonade debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, Beyoncé also became the first female act to chart 12 or more songs at the same time. Additionally, Lemonade was streamed 115 million times through Tidal, setting a record for the most-streamed album in a single week by a female artist in history. It was 2016’s third highest-selling album in the US with 1.554 million copies sold in that time period within the country as well as the best-selling album worldwide with global sales of 2.5 million throughout the year. In June 2019, Lemonade was certified 3× Platinum, having sold up to 3 million album-equivalent units in the United States alone.

Lemonade became her most critically acclaimed work to date, receiving universal acclaim according to Metacritic, a website collecting reviews from professional music critics. Several music publications included the album among the best of 2016, including Rolling Stone, which listed Lemonade at number one. The album’s visuals were nominated in 11 categories at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, the most ever received by Beyoncé in a single year, and went on to win 8 awards, including Video of the Year for “Formation”.  The eight wins made Beyoncé the most awarded artist in the history of the VMAs (24), surpassing Madonna (20). Beyoncé occupied the sixth place for Time magazine’s 2016 Person of the Year.

In January 2017, it was announced that Beyoncé would headline the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. This would make Beyoncé only the second female headliner of the festival since it was founded in 1999. It was later announced on February 23, 2017 that Beyoncé would no longer be able to perform at the festival due to doctor’s concerns regarding her pregnancy. The festival owners announced that she will instead headline the 2018 festival. Upon the announcement of Beyoncé’s departure from the festival lineup, ticket prices dropped by 12%.

At the 59th Grammy Awards in February 2017, Lemonade led the nominations with nine, including Album, Record, and Song of the Year for Lemonade and “Formation” respectively. and ultimately won two, Best Urban Contemporary Album for Lemonade and Best Music Video for “Formation”.[196] Adele, upon winning her Grammy for Album of the Year, stated Lemonade was monumental and more deserving.

In September 2017, Beyoncé collaborated with J Balvin and Willy William, to release a remix of the song “Mi Gente”. Beyoncé donated all proceeds from the song to hurricane charities for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean Islands.

On November 10, Eminem released “Walk on Water” featuring Beyoncé as the lead single from his album Revival. On November 30, Ed Sheeran announced that Beyoncé would feature on the remix to his song “Perfect”. “Perfect Duet” was released on December 1, 2017. The song reached number-one in the United States, becoming Beyoncé’s sixth song of her solo career to do so.

On January 4, 2018, the music video of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s 4:44 collaboration, “Family Feud” was released. It was directed by Ava DuVernay. On March 1, 2018, DJ Khaled released “Top Off” as the first single from his forthcoming album Father of Asahd featuring Beyoncé, husband Jay-Z, and Future. On March 5, 2018, a joint tour with Knowles’ husband Jay-Z, was leaked on Facebook. Information about the tour was later taken down. The couple announced the joint tour officially as On the Run II Tour on March 12 and simultaneously released a trailer for the tour on YouTube. On March 20, 2018, the couple traveled to Jamaica to film a music video directed by Melina Matsoukas.

On April 14, 2018, Beyoncé played the first of two weekends as the headlining act of the Coachella Music Festival. Her performance of April 14, attended by 125,000 festival-goers, was immediately praised, with multiple media outlets describing it as historic. The performance became the most-tweeted-about performance of weekend one, as well as the most-watched live Coachella performance and the most-watched live performance on YouTube of all time. The show paid tribute to black culture, specifically historically black colleges and universities and featured a live band with over 100 dancers. Destiny’s Child also reunited during the show.

On June 6, 2018, Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z kicked-off the On the Run II Tour in Cardiff, United Kingdom. Ten days later, at their final London performance, the pair unveiled Everything Is Love, their joint studio album, credited under the name The Carters, and initially available exclusively on Tidal. The pair also released the video for the album’s lead single, “Apeshit”, on Beyoncé’s official YouTube channel. Everything Is Love received generally positive reviews, and debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, with 123,000 album-equivalent units, of which 70,000 were pure album sales. On December 2, 2018, Beyoncé alongside Jay-Z headlined the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 which was held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. Their 2-hour performance had concepts similar to the On the Run II Tour and Beyoncé was praised for her outfits, which paid tribute to Africa’s diversity.

2019–present: Homecoming, The Lion King and Black Is King

 

Homecoming, a documentary and concert film focusing on Beyoncé’s historic 2018 Coachella performances, was released by Netflix on April 17, 2019. The film was accompanied by the surprise live album Homecoming: The Live Album. It was later reported that Beyoncé and Netflix had signed a $60 million deal to produce three different projects, one of which is Homecoming. Homecoming received six nominations at the 71st Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

Beyoncé starred as the voice of Nala in the remake The Lion King, which was released on July 19, 2019. Beyoncé is featured on the film’s soundtrack, released on July 11, 2019, with a remake of the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” alongside Donald Glover, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, which was originally composed by Elton John. Additionally, an original song from the film by Beyoncé, “Spirit”, was released as the lead single from both the soundtrack and The Lion King: The Gift – a companion album released alongside the film, produced and curated by Beyoncé. Beyoncé called The Lion King: The Gift a “sonic cinema.” She also stated that the album is influenced by everything from R&B, pop, hip hop and Afro Beat. The songs were additionally produced by African producers, which Beyoncé said was because “authenticity and heart were important to [her],” since the film is set in Africa. In September of the same year, a documentary chronicling the development, production and early music video filming of The Lion King: The Gift entitled “Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift” was aired on ABC.

During an interview for The Wall Street Journal, published in February 2020, Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles, revealed that the singer had borrowed some of her art pieces for a new project already in development. On April 29, 2020, Beyoncé was featured on the remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Savage”, marking her first material of music for the year, the song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Beyoncé’s eleventh song to do so across all acts.  On June 19, 2020, Beyoncé released the nonprofit charity single “Black Parade”. On June 23, she followed up the release of its studio version with an a capella version exclusively on Tidal.  Black Is King, a visual album based on the music of The Lion King: The Gift, premiered globally on Disney+ on July 31, 2020. Produced by Disney and Parkwood Entertainment, the film was written, directed and executive produced by Beyoncé. The film was described by Disney as “a celebratory memoir for the world on the Black experience”.

Artistry

Voice and musical style

Jody Rosen highlights her tone and timbre as particularly distinctive, describing her voice as “one of the most compelling instruments in popular music”. Her vocal abilities mean she is identified as the centerpiece of Destiny’s Child. Jon Pareles of The New York Times commented that her voice is “velvety yet tart, with an insistent flutter and reserves of soul belting”. Rosen notes that the hip hop era highly influenced Beyoncé’s unique rhythmic vocal style, but also finds her quite traditionalist in her use of balladry, gospel and falsetto. Other critics praise her range and power, with Chris Richards of The Washington Post saying she was “capable of punctuating any beat with goose-bump-inducing whispers or full-bore diva-roars.”

Beyoncé’s music is generally R&B,[ and hip hop but she also incorporates soul and funk into her songs. 4 demonstrated Beyoncé’s exploration of 1990s-style R&B, as well as further use of soul and hip hop than compared to previous releases. While she almost exclusively releases English songs, Beyoncé recorded several Spanish songs for Irreemplazable (re-recordings of songs from B’Day for a Spanish-language audience), and the re-release of B’Day. To record these, Beyoncé was coached phonetically by American record producer Rudy Perez.

Songwriting credits

Beyoncé has received co-writing credits for most of the songs recorded with Destiny’s Child and nearly all the original songs she has recorded solo, but no sole writing credit. Her early songs were personally driven and female-empowerment themed compositions like “Independent Women” and “Survivor”, but after the start of her relationship with Jay-Z, she transitioned to more man-tending anthems such as “Cater 2 U”. Beyoncé also received co-producing credits for Dangerously in Love, although she did not formulate beats herself and instead came up with melodies and ideas during production, sharing them with producers.

In 2001, she became the first Black woman and second female lyricist to win the Pop Songwriter of the Year award at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards. Beyoncé was the third woman to have writing credits on three number-one songs (“Irreplaceable”, “Grillz” and “Check on It”) in the same year, after Carole King in 1971 and Mariah Carey in 1991. She is tied with American lyricist Diane Warren at third with nine songwriting credits on number-one singles. (The latter wrote her 9/11-motivated song “I Was Here” for 4. ) In May 2011, Billboard magazine listed Beyoncé at number 17 on their list of the Top 20 Hot 100 Songwriters for having co-written eight singles that hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She was one of only three women on that list, along with Alicia Keys and Taylor Swift.

Beyoncé has long received criticism, including from journalists and musicians, for the extensive writing credits on her songs. The controversy surrounding her songwriting credits began with interviews in which she attributed herself as the songwriter for songs in which she was a co-writer or for which her contributions were marginal. In a cover story for Vanity Fair in 2005, she claimed to have “written” several number-one songs for Destiny’s Child, contrary to the credits, which list her as a co-writer among others. In a 2007 interview with Barbara Walters, she claimed to have conceived the musical idea for the Destiny’s Child hit “Bootylicious”, which provoked the song’s producer Rob Fusari to call her father and then-manager Mathew Knowles in protest over the claim. As Fusari tells Billboard, “[Knowles] explained to me, in a nice way, he said, ‘People don’t want to hear about Rob Fusari, producer from Livingston, N.J. No offense, but that’s not what sells records. What sells records is people believing that the artist is everything.’” However, in an interview for Entertainment Weekly in 2016, Fusari said Beyoncé “had the ‘Bootylicious’ concept in her head. That was totally her. She knew what she wanted to say. It was very urban pop angle that they were taking on the record.”

In 2007, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ruled out Beyoncé as a songwriter on “Listen” (from Dreamgirls) for its Oscar nomination in the Best Original Song category. Responding to a then-new three-writer limit, the Academy deemed her contribution the least significant for inclusion. In 2009, Ryan Tedder’s original demo for “Halo” leaked on the Internet, revealing an identical resemblance to Beyoncé’s recording, for which she received a writing credit. When interviewed by The Guardian, Tedder explained that Beyoncé had edited the bridge of the song vocally and thus earned the credit, although he vaguely questioned the ethics of her possible “demand” for a writing credit in other instances. Tedder elaborated when speaking to Gigwise that “She does stuff on any given song that, when you go from the demo to the final version, takes it to another level that you never would have thought of as the writer. For instance, on ‘Halo,’ that bridge on her version is completely different to my original one. Basically, she came in, ditched that, edited it, did her vocal thing on it, and now it’s become one of my favorite parts of the song. The whole melody, she wrote it spontaneously in the studio. So her credit on that song stems from that.”  In 2014, the popular industry songwriter Linda Perry responded to a question about Beyoncé receiving a co-writing credit for changing one lyric to a song: “Well haha um that’s not songwriting but some of these artists believe if it wasn’t for them your song would never get out there so they take a cut just because they are who they are. But everyone knows the real truth about Beyoncé. She is talented but in a completely different way.” Perry’s remarks were echoed by Frank Ocean, who acknowledged the trend of recording artists forcing writing credits while jokingly suggesting Beyoncé had an exceptional status.

Reflecting on the controversy, Sunday Independent columnist Alexis Kritselis wrote in 2014, “It seems as though our love for all things Beyoncé has blinded us to the very real claims of theft and plagiarism that have plagued her career for years”, and that, “because of her power and influence in the music industry, it may be hard for some songwriters to ‘just say no’ to Beyoncé.” While reporting on her controversial writing record, pop culture critics such as Roger Friedman and The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon said the trend has redefined popular conceptions of songwriting, with Fallon saying, “the village of authors and composers that populate Lemonade, [Kanye West’]s Life of Pablo, [Rihanna’s] Anti, or [Drake’s] Views—all of which are still reflective of an artist’s voice and vision … speaks to the truth of the way the industry’s top artists create their music today: by committee.” James S. Murphy of Vanity Fair suggests Beyoncé is among the major artists like Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday who are “celebrated [not] because [they] write such good parts, but because [they] create them out of the words that are given”.

Meanwhile, Everything Is Love producers Cool & Dre stated that Beyoncé is “100 percent involved” in writing her own songs, with Dre saying that “She put her mind to the music and did her thing. If she had a melody idea, she came up with the words. If we had the words, she came up with the melody. She’s a beast,” when speaking on the writing process of Everything Is Love. Ne-Yo, when asked about his collaborative writing experience with Beyoncé on “Irreplaceable,” said that they both wrote “two damn totally different songs […] So, yeah, I gave her writer’s credit. Because that counts. That’s writing…. She put her spin on it.”

Influences

Beyoncé names Michael Jackson as her major musical influence.  Aged five, Beyoncé attended her first ever concert where Jackson performed and she claims to have realized her purpose. When she presented him with a tribute award at the World Music Awards in 2006, Beyoncé said, “if it wasn’t for Michael Jackson, I would never ever have performed.” She admires Diana Ross as an “all-around entertainer”. Beyoncé was heavily influenced by Tina Turner, who she said “Tina Turner is someone that I admire, because she made her strength feminine and sexy”. and Whitney Houston, who she said “inspired me to get up there and do what she did.” She credits Mariah Carey’s singing and her song “Vision of Love” as influencing her to begin practicing vocal runs as a child. Her other musical influences include Prince, Lauryn Hill, Sade Adu, Donna Summer, Mary J. Blige, Anita Baker, and Rachelle Ferrell.

The feminism and female empowerment themes on Beyoncé’s second solo album B’Day were inspired by her role in Dreamgirls and by singer Josephine Baker. Beyoncé paid homage to Baker by performing “Déjà Vu” at the 2006 Fashion Rocks concert wearing Baker’s trademark mini-hula skirt embellished with fake bananas. Beyoncé’s third solo album, I Am… Sasha Fierce, was inspired by Jay-Z and especially by Etta James, whose “boldness” inspired Beyoncé to explore other musical genres and styles.  Her fourth solo album, 4, was inspired by Fela Kuti, 1990s R&B, Earth, Wind & Fire, DeBarge, Lionel Richie, Teena Marie, The Jackson 5, New Edition, Adele, Florence and the Machine, and Prince.

Beyoncé has stated that she is personally inspired by Michelle Obama (the 44th First Lady of the United States), saying “she proves you can do it all,” and has described Oprah Winfrey as “the definition of inspiration and a strong woman.” She has also discussed how Jay-Z is a continuing inspiration to her, both with what she describes as his lyrical genius and in the obstacles he has overcome in his life. Beyoncé has expressed admiration for the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, posting in a letter “what I find in the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, I search for in every day in music … he is lyrical and raw”. In February 2013, Beyoncé said that Madonna inspired her to take control of her own career. She commented, “I think about Madonna and how she took all of the great things she achieved and started the label and developed other artists. But there are not enough of those women.” Beyoncé also cited Cher as a fashion inspiration.

Music videos and stage

In 2006, Beyoncé introduced her all-female tour band Suga Mama (also the name of a song on B’Day) which includes bassists, drummers, guitarists, horn players, keyboardists and percussionists. Her background singers, The Mamas, consist of Montina Cooper-Donnell, Crystal Collins and Tiffany Moniqué Riddick. They made their debut appearance at the 2006 BET Awards and re-appeared in the music videos for “Irreplaceable” and “Green Light”. The band have supported Beyoncé in most subsequent live performances, including her 2007 concert tour The Beyoncé Experience, I Am… World Tour (2009–2010), The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour (2013–2014) and The Formation World Tour (2016).

Beyoncé has received praise for her stage presence and voice during live performances. Jarett Wieselman of the New York Post placed her at number one on her list of the Five Best Singer/Dancers. According to Barbara Ellen of The Guardian Beyoncé is the most in-charge female artist she’s seen onstage,  while Alice Jones of The Independent wrote she “takes her role as entertainer so seriously she’s almost too good.” The ex-President of Def Jam L.A. Reid has described Beyoncé as the greatest entertainer alive. Jim Farber of the Daily News and Stephanie Classen of The StarPhoenix both praised her strong voice and her stage presence. Beyoncé’s stage outfits have been met with criticism from many countries, such as Malaysia, where she has postponed or cancelled performances due to the country’s strict laws banning revealing costumes.

Beyoncé has worked with numerous directors for her music videos throughout her career, including Melina Matsoukas, Jonas Åkerlund, and Jake Nava. Bill Condon, director of Beauty and the Beast, stated that the Lemonade visuals in particular served as inspiration for his film, commenting, “You look at Beyoncé’s brilliant movie Lemonade, this genre is taking on so many different forms … I do think that this very old-school break-out-into-song traditional musical is something that people understand again and really want.”

Alter ego

Described as being “sexy, seductive and provocative” when performing on stage, Beyoncé has said that she originally created the alter ego “Sasha Fierce” to keep that stage persona separate from who she really is. She described Sasha as being “too aggressive, too strong, too sassy [and] too sexy”, stating, “I’m not like her in real life at all.” Sasha was conceived during the making of “Crazy in Love”, and Beyoncé introduced her with the release of her 2008 album, I Am… Sasha Fierce. In February 2010, she announced in an interview with Allure magazine that she was comfortable enough with herself to no longer need Sasha Fierce. However, Beyoncé announced in May 2012 that she would bring her back for her Revel Presents: Beyoncé Live shows later that month.

Public image

Beyoncé has been described as having a wide-ranging sex appeal, with music journalist Touré writing that since the release of Dangerously in Love, she has “become a crossover sex symbol”. Offstage Beyoncé says that while she likes to dress sexily, her onstage dress “is absolutely for the stage.” Due to her curves and the term’s catchiness, in the 2000s (decade), the media often used the term “Bootylicious” (a portmanteau of the words booty and delicious) to describe Beyoncé,  the term popularized by Destiny’s Child’s single of the same name. In 2006, it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

In September 2010, Beyoncé made her runway modelling debut at Tom Ford’s Spring/Summer 2011 fashion show. She was named the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” by People[ and the “Hottest Female Singer of All Time” by Complex in 2012.  In January 2013, GQ placed her on its cover, featuring her atop its “100 Sexiest Women of the 21st Century” list. VH1 listed her at number 1 on its 100 Sexiest Artists list. Several wax figures of Beyoncé are found at Madame Tussauds Wax Museums in major cities around the world, including New York, Washington, D.C., Amsterdam, Bangkok, Hollywood and Sydney.

According to Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, Beyoncé uses different fashion styles to work with her music while performing.[304] Her mother co-wrote a book, published in 2002, titled Destiny’s Style[305] an account of how fashion affected the trio’s success. The B’Day Anthology Video Album showed many instances of fashion-oriented footage, depicting classic to contemporary wardrobe styles. In 2007, Beyoncé was featured on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, becoming the second African American woman after Tyra Banks, and People magazine recognized Beyoncé as the best-dressed celebrity.

The Beyhive is the name given to Beyoncé’s fan base. Fans were previously titled “The Beyontourage”, (a portmanteau of Beyoncé and entourage). The name Bey Hive derives from the word beehive, purposely misspelled to resemble her first name, and was penned by fans after petitions on the online social networking service Twitter and online news reports during competitions.

In 2006, the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), criticized Beyoncé for wearing and using fur in her clothing line House of Deréon. In 2011, she appeared on the cover of French fashion magazine L’Officiel, in blackface and tribal makeup that drew criticism from the media. A statement released from a spokesperson for the magazine said that Beyoncé’s look was “far from the glamorous Sasha Fierce” and that it was “a return to her African roots”.

Beyoncé’s lighter skin color and costuming has drawn criticism from some in the African-American community.  Emmett Price, a professor of music at Northeastern University, wrote in 2007 that he thinks race plays a role in many of these criticisms, saying white celebrities who dress similarly do not attract as many comments. In 2008, L’Oréal was accused of whitening her skin in their Feria hair color advertisements, responding that “it is categorically untrue”, and in 2013, Beyoncé herself criticized H&M for their proposed “retouching” of promotional images of her, and according to Vogue requested that only “natural pictures be used”.

Beyoncé has been very vocal for the Black Lives Matter movement. Her song “Formation”, which she sang at the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show, gained criticism from some politicians and police. Some police tried to get The Formation World Tour boycotted by other members. Beyoncé has said that she is against police brutality but is not anti-police.

Personal life

Marriage and children

Beyoncé started a relationship with Jay-Z after their collaboration on “’03 Bonnie & Clyde”, which appeared on his seventh album The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002).  Beyoncé appeared as Jay-Z’s girlfriend in the music video for the song, fuelling speculation about their relationship. On April 4, 2008, Beyoncé and Jay-Z married without publicity. As of April 2014, the couple had sold a combined 300 million records together. They are known for their private relationship, although they have appeared to become more relaxed in recent years. Both have acknowledged difficulty that arose in their marriage after Jay-Z had an affair.

Beyoncé miscarried around 2010 or 2011, describing it as “the saddest thing” she had ever endured She returned to the studio and wrote music to cope with the loss. In April 2011, Beyoncé and Jay-Z traveled to Paris to shoot the album cover for 4, and she unexpectedly became pregnant in Paris.  In August, the couple attended the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, at which Beyoncé performed “Love on Top” and ended the performance by revealing she was pregnant. Her appearance helped that year’s MTV Video Music Awards become the most-watched broadcast in MTV history, pulling in 12.4 million viewers; the announcement was listed in Guinness World Records for “most tweets per second recorded for a single event” on Twitter, receiving 8,868 tweets per second and “Beyonce pregnant” was the most Googled phrase the week of August 29, 2011. On January 7, 2012, Beyoncé gave birth to a daughter, Blue Ivy, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Following the release of Lemonade, which included the single “Sorry”, in 2016, speculations arose about Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity with a mistress referred to as “Becky.” Jon Pareles in The New York Times pointed out that many of the accusations were “aimed specifically and recognizably” at him. Similarly, Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine noted the lines “Suck on my balls, I’ve had enough” were an “unmistakable hint” that the lyrics revolve around Jay-Z.

On February 1, 2017, she revealed on her Instagram account that she was expecting twins. Her announcement gained over 6.3 million “likes” within eight hours, breaking the world record for the most liked image on the website at the time. On July 13, 2017, Beyoncé uploaded the first image of herself and the twins onto her Instagram account, confirming their birth date as a month prior, on June 13, 2017, with the post becoming the second most liked on Instagram, behind her own pregnancy announcement. The twins were born at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in California. She wrote of her pregnancy and its aftermath in the September 2018 issue of Vogue, in which she had full control of the cover, shot at Hammerwood Park by photographer Tyler Mitchell.

Activism

Beyoncé performed “America the Beautiful” at President Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration, as well as “At Last” during the first inaugural dance at the Neighborhood Ball two days later. The couple held a fundraiser at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in Manhattan for President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign which raised $4 million. In the 2012 presidential election, the singer voted for President Obama. She performed the American national anthem at his second inauguration in January 2013.

The Washington Post reported in May 2015, that Beyoncé attended a major celebrity fundraiser for 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.  She also headlined for Clinton in a concert held the weekend before Election Day the next year. In this performance, Beyoncé and her entourage of backup dancers wore pantsuits; a clear allusion to Clinton’s frequent dress-of-choice. The backup dancers also wore “I’m with her” tee shirts, the campaign slogan for Clinton. In a brief speech at this performance Beyoncé said, “I want my daughter to grow up seeing a woman lead our country and knowing that her possibilities are limitless.” She endorsed the bid of Beto O’Rourke during the 2018 United States Senate election in Texas.

In 2013, Beyoncé stated in an interview in Vogue that she considered herself to be “a modern-day feminist”.  She would later align herself more publicly with the movement, sampling “We should all be feminists”, a speech delivered by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TEDx talk in April 2013, in her song “Flawless”, released later that year. The next year she performed live at the MTV Video Awards in front a giant backdrop reading “Feminist.” Her self-identification incited a circulation of opinions and debate about whether her feminism is aligned with older, more established feminist ideals. Annie Lennox, celebrated artist and feminist advocate, referred to Beyoncé’s use of her word feminist as ‘feminist lite’. bell hooks critiqued Beyoncé, referring to her as a “terrorist” towards feminism, harmfully impacting her audience of young girls.  Adichie responded with “…her type of feminism is not mine, as it is the kind that, at the same time, gives quite a lot of space to the necessity of men. Adichie expands upon what ‘feminist lite’ means to her, referring that “more troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well” and “we judge powerful women more harshly than we judge powerful men. And Feminism Lite enables this.” Beyoncé responded about her intent by utilizing the definition of feminist with her platform was to “give clarity to the true meaning” behind it. She says to understand what being a feminist is, “…it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women.” She advocated to provide equal opportunities for young boys and girls, men and women must begin to understand the double standards that remain persistent in our societies and the issue must be illuminated in effort to start making changes.

She has also contributed to the Ban Bossy campaign, which uses TV and social media to encourage leadership in girls.[356] Following Beyoncé’s public identification as a feminist, the sexualized nature of her performances and the fact that she championed her marriage was questioned.

In December 2012, Beyoncé along with a variety of other celebrities teamed up and produced a video campaign for “Demand A Plan”, a bipartisan effort by a group of 950 US mayors and others designed to influence the federal government into rethinking its gun control laws, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Beyoncé publicly endorsed same-sex marriage on March 26, 2013, after the Supreme Court debate on California’s Proposition 8.  She spoke against North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, a bill passed (and later repealed) that discriminated against the LGBT community in public places in a statement during her concert in Raleigh as part of the Formation World Tour in 2016 She has also condemned police brutality against black Americans. She and Jay-Z attended a rally in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The film for her sixth album Lemonade included the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, holding pictures of their sons in the video for “Freedom” In a 2016 interview with Elle, Beyoncé responded to the controversy surrounding her song “Formation” which was perceived to be critical of the police. She clarified, “I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me”.

In February 2017, Beyoncé spoke out against the withdrawal of protections for transgender students in public schools by Donald Trump’s presidential administration. Posting a link to the 100 Days of Kindness campaign on her Facebook page, Beyoncé voiced her support for transgender youth and joined a roster of celebrities who spoke out against Trump’s decision.

In November 2017, Beyoncé presented Colin Kaepernick with the 2017 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, stating, “Thank you for your selfless heart and your conviction, thank you for your personal sacrifice,” and that “Colin took action with no fear of consequence … To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.” Muhammad Ali was heavily penalized in his career for protesting the status quo of US civil rights through opposition to the Vietnam War, by refusing to serve in the military. 40 years later, Kaepernick had already lost one professional year due to taking a much quieter and legal stand “for people that are oppressed.”

Wealth

Forbes magazine began reporting on Beyoncé’s earnings in 2008, calculating that the $80 million earned between June 2007 to June 2008, for her music, tour, films and clothing line made her the world’s best-paid music personality at the time, above Madonna and Celine Dion. It placed her fourth on the Celebrity 100 list in 2009 and ninth on the “Most Powerful Women in the World” list in 2010. The following year, the magazine placed her eighth on the “Best-Paid Celebrities Under 30” list, having earned $35 million in the past year for her clothing line and endorsement deals. In 2012, Forbes placed Beyoncé at number 16 on the Celebrity 100 list, twelve places lower than three years ago yet still having earned $40 million in the past year for her album 4, clothing line and endorsement deals. In the same year, Beyoncé and Jay-Z placed at number one on the “World’s Highest-Paid Celebrity Couples”, for collectively earning $78 million. The couple made it into the previous year’s Guinness World Records as the “highest-earning power couple” for collectively earning $122 million in 2009. For the years 2009 to 2011, Beyoncé earned an average of $70 million per year, and earned $40 million in 2012. In 2013, Beyoncé’s endorsements of Pepsi and H&M made her and Jay-Z the world’s first billion dollar couple in the music industry. That year, Beyoncé was published as the fourth most-powerful celebrity in the Forbes rankings.

MTV estimated that by the end of 2014, Beyoncé would become the highest-paid Black musician in history;  this became the case in April 2014. In June 2014, Beyoncé ranked at number one on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, earning an estimated $115 million throughout June 2013 – June 2014. This in turn was the first time she had topped the Celebrity 100 list as well as being her highest yearly earnings to date.[380] In 2016, Beyoncé ranked at number 34 on the Celebrity 100 list with earnings of $54 million. Herself and Jay-Z also topped the highest paid celebrity couple list, with combined earnings of $107.5 million. As of 2018, Forbes calculated her net worth to be $355 million, and in June of the same year, ranked her as the 35th highest earning celebrity with annual earnings of $60 million. This tied Beyoncé with Madonna as the only two female artists to earn more than $100 million within a single year twice. As a couple with Jay-Z, they have a combined net worth of $1.16 billion. In July 2017, Billboard announced that Beyoncé was the highest paid musician of 2016, with an estimated total of $62.1 million.

Legacy

Beyoncé’s success has led to her becoming a cultural icon and earning her the nickname “Queen Bey”. In The New Yorker, music critic Jody Rosen described Beyoncé as “the most important and compelling popular musician of the twenty-first century … the result, the logical end point, of a century-plus of pop.” Author James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits (2018), draws a parallel between the singer’s success and the dramatic transformations in modern society: “In the last one hundred years, we have seen the rise of the car, the airplane, the television, the personal computer, the internet, the smartphone, and Beyoncé.” When The Observer named her Artist of the Decade in 2009, Llewyn-Smith wrote:

Why Beyoncé? … Because she made not one but two of the decade’s greatest singles, with ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’, not to mention her hits with Destiny’s Child; and this was the decade when singles – particularly R&B singles – regained their status as pop’s favourite medium. … [She] and not any superannuated rock star was arguably the greatest live performer of the past 10 years.”

Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Alex Suskind noticed how Beyoncé was the decade’s (2010s) defining pop star, stating that “no one dominated music in the 2010s like Queen Bey”, explaining that her “songs, album rollouts, stage presence, social justice initiatives, and disruptive public relations strategy have influenced the way we’ve viewed music since 2010.” British publication NME also shared similar thoughts on her impact in the 2010s, including Beyoncé on their list of the “10 Artists Who Defined The Decade”, explaining: “So much more than a popstar, Beyonce has become an outspoken advocate for civil rights, feminism and self-expression, proving that it’s possible to be politically engaged and still hold down an extremely successful career in mainstream entertainment.”

In 2013, Beyoncé made the Time 100 list, with Baz Luhrmann writing:

“No one has that voice, no one moves the way she moves, no one can hold an audience the way she does … When Beyoncé does an album, when Beyoncé sings a song, when Beyoncé does anything, it’s an event, and it’s broadly influential. Right now, she is the heir-apparent diva of the USA – the reigning national voice.”

In 2014, Beyoncé was listed again on the Time 100 and also featured on the cover of the issue. In 2018, Rolling Stone included her on its Millennial 100 list and Brittany Spanos wrote: “For 20 years, she’s been a stately pop and R&B presence: Destiny’s Child countered the glaringly white bubblegum of the time with unmatchable vocals and choreography, and their success made her solo career fail-proof. It’s one reason Beyoncé may be the most universally beloved artist of the Gen Y. A figure of talent, beauty and grace, Queen Bey has developed into the most exciting artist of the millennium as well as a political figure, setting the tone for how other major stars speak about feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement with the release of her landmark Lemonade album in 2016.”

She is often credited for the cultural shift towards female pop singers rapping and for creating the staccato style of ‘rap-singing’ she used in songs like “Bug a Boo” and “Say My Name”. Uproxx stated that Beyoncé is the primary pioneer of the singsong style that dominates Hip-Hop currently, while Sheldon Pearce of Pitchfork noticed her contribution in changing the sound of pop music radio with her hip-hop assisted style, writing:

Her hip-hop fluency gave her an advantage in the pop-star arms race, helping her to become the presiding voice in an increasingly rap-dominated musical landscape. Her evolution, from rap-adjacent R&B star (appearing as early as 1998 in a Geto Boys video) to reluctant hip-hop shareholder to full-blown rapper, played a role in slowly shifting the sound of pop radio.”

Beyoncé’s releases of Beyoncé in 2013 and Lemonade in 2016, which are both concept albums and visual albums, have been credited with revolutionizing the music industry, reinventing the album and transforming how people consume music. In 2020, Billboard named her with Destiny’s Child the third Greatest Music Video artists of all time, behind Madonna and Michael Jackson

Beyoncé’s work has influenced numerous artists including Adele, Alexis Jordan, Ariana Grande,  Azealia Banks. Paul McCartney, Bebe Rexha, Bridgit Mendler, Camila Cabello, Lizzo, Cheryl,  Demi Lovato, Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran, Fifth Harmony, Florence Welch, Grimes, Hwasa, Iggy Azalea, Jessica Sanchez, Jessie J, JoJo, Kelly Rowland, Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, Little Mix, Meghan Trainor, Nicole Scherzinger, Normani, Millie Bobby Brown, Rihanna, Rita Ora,  Ryan Destiny SZA, Sam Smith, Tinashe, and Zendaya.

American indie rock band White Rabbits also cited her an inspiration for their third album Milk Famous (2012), and Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor cited her as the inspiration for the title of her tenth album I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. Friend Gwyneth Paltrow studied Beyoncé at her live concerts while learning to become a musical performer for the 2010 film Country Strong.

Beyoncé is known for coining popular phrases such as ‘put a ring on it,’ a euphemism for marriage proposal, ‘I woke up like this, which started a trend of posting morning selfies with the hashtag #iwokeuplikethis, and ‘boy, bye,’ which was used as part of the Democratic National Committee’s campaign for the 2020 election. Similarly, she also came up with the phrase “visual album” following the release of her fifth studio album, which had a video for every song. This has been recreated by many other artists since, such as Frank Ocean and Melanie Martinez. The album also popularized surprise releases, with many artists releasing songs, videos or albums with no prior announcement, such as Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Frank Ocean, Jay-Z and Drake.

The lead single of her debut album, “Crazy in Love” was named VH1’s “Greatest Song of the 2000s”, NME’s “Best Track of the 00s” and “Pop Song of the Century”,  considered by Rolling Stone to be one of the 500 greatest songs of all time, earned two Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling singles of all time at around 8 million copies. The music video for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, which achieved fame for its intricate choreography  and its deployment of jazz hands, was credited by the Toronto Star as having started the “first major dance craze of both the new millennium and the Internet”,[106] triggering a number of parodies of the dance choreography  and a legion of amateur imitators on YouTube. In 2013, Drake released a single titled “Girls Love Beyoncé”, which featured an interpolation from Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” and discussed his relationship with women. In January 2012, research scientist Bryan Lessard named Scaptia beyonceae, a species of horse fly found in Northern Queensland, Australia after Beyoncé due to the fly’s unique golden hairs on its abdomen. In July 2014, a Beyoncé exhibit was introduced into the “Legends of Rock” section of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The black leotard from the “Single Ladies” video and her outfit from the Super Bowl half time performance are among several pieces housed at the museum. Architects credit Beyoncé’s look in her “Ghost” music video as the inspiration of the design of the Premier Tower under construction in Australia.

The City of Minneapolis, Minnesota declared May 23 Beyoncé Day in the city in 2016.  In 2018, the City of Columbia, South Carolina declared August 21 Beyoncé Knowles-Carter Day in the city after presenting her with the keys to Columbia.

Beyoncé inspired the character of Catherine of Aragon in the British musical Six, a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII presented as a pop concert, with the character’s outfit bearing resemblance to Beyoncé’s from her performance at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards Additionally, Beyoncé is featured alongside other R&B and pop divas as a primary character on the popular web parody Got 2B Real.

For their first match of March 2019, the players of the United States women’s national soccer team each wore a jersey with the name of a woman they were honoring on the back; Mallory Pugh chose the name of Beyoncé.

Achievements

Beyoncé has received numerous awards. As a solo artist she has sold over 17 million albums in the US, and over 75 million worldwide (as of February 2013). Having sold over 100 million records worldwide (a further 60 million additionally with Destiny’s Child), Beyoncé is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) listed Beyoncé as the top certified artist of the 2000s decade, with a total of 64 certifications. Her songs “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, “Halo”, and “Irreplaceable” are some of the best-selling singles of all time worldwide. In 2009, The Observer named her the Artist of the Decade and Billboard named her the Top Female Artist and Top Radio Songs Artist of the Decade. In 2010, Billboard named her in their Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years list at number 15. In 2012 VH1 ranked her third on their list of the “100 Greatest Women in Music”, behind Mariah Carey and Madonna. In 2002, she received Songwriter of the Year from American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers becoming the First African American woman to win the award. In 2004 and 2019, she received NAACP Image Award for Entertainer of the Year and the Soul Train Music Award for Sammy Davis Jr. – Entertainer of the Year. In 2005, she also received APEX Award at the Trumpet Award honoring achievements of Black African Americans. In 2007, Beyoncé received the International Artist of Excellence award by the American Music Awards. She also received Honorary Otto at the Bravo Otto. The following year, she received the Legend Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts at the World Music Awards and Career Achievement Award at the LOS40 Music Awards. In 2010, she received Award of Honor for Artist of the Decade at the NRJ Music Award and at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, Beyoncé received the inaugural Billboard Millennium Award. Beyoncé received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards and was honored as Honorary Mother of the Year at the Australian Mother of the Year Award in Barnardo’s Australia for her Humanitarian Effort in the region and the Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Icon Award in 2016. In 2019, alongside Jay Z, they received GLAAD Vanguard Award that is presented to a member of the entertainment community who does not identify as LGBT but who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for LGBT people. In 2020, she was awarded the BET Humanitarian Award.

Beyoncé has won 24 Grammy Awards, both as a solo artist and member of Destiny’s Child and The Carters, making her the second most honored female artist by the Grammys, behind Alison Krauss She is also the most nominated artist in Grammy Award history with a total of 79 nominations. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” won Song of the Year in 2010 while “Say My Name”, “Crazy in Love” and “Drunk in Love” have each won Best R&B Song. Dangerously in Love, B’Day and I Am … Sasha Fierce have all won Best Contemporary R&B Album, while Lemonade has won Best Urban Contemporary Album. Beyoncé set the record for the most Grammy awards won by a female artist in one night in 2010 when she won six awards, breaking the tie she previously held with Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Alison Krauss, and Amy Winehouse, with Adele equaling this in 2012.

Beyoncé has also won 24 MTV Video Music Awards, making her the most-awarded artist in Video Music Award history. She won two awards each with The Carters and Destiny’s Child making her lifetime total of 28 VMAs. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and “Formation” won Video of the Year in 2009 and 2016 respectively. Beyoncé tied the record set by Lady Gaga in 2010 for the most VMAs won in one night for a female artist with eight in 2016. She is also the most awarded and nominated artist in BET Award history, winning 29 awards from a total of 60 nominations. and most awarded person in Soul Train Music Awards with over fifteen awards as a solo artist.

Following her role in Dreamgirls, Beyoncé was nominated for Best Original Song for “Listen” and Best Actress at the Golden Globe Awards, and Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. Beyoncé won two awards at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards 2006; Best Song for “Listen” and Best Original Soundtrack for Dreamgirls: Music from the Motion Picture. According to Fuse in 2014, Beyoncé is the second most award-winning artist of all time, after Michael Jackson. Lemonade won a Peabody Award stating “Lemonade draws from the prolific literary, musical, cinematic, and aesthetic sensibilities of black cultural producers to create a rich tapestry of poetic innovation. Defying genre and convention, Lemonade immerses viewers in the sublime worlds of black women, family, and community where we experience poignant and compelling stories about the lives of women of color and the bonds of friendship seldom seen or heard in American popular culture.”

She was named on the 2016 BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List as one of seven women judged to have had the biggest impact on women’s lives over the past 70 years, alongside Margaret Thatcher, Barbara Castle, Helen Brook, Germaine Greer, Jayaben Desai and Bridget Jones, She was named the Most Powerful Woman in Music on the same list in 2020.

Business and ventures

In 2010, Beyoncé founded her own entertainment company Parkwood Entertainment which formed as an imprint based from Columbia Records, the company began as a production unit for videos and films in 2008. Parkwood Entertainment is named after a street in Houston, Texas where Beyoncé once lived. With headquarters in New York City, the company serves as an umbrella for the entertainer’s various brands in music, movies, videos, and fashion. The staff of Parkwood Entertainment have experiences in arts and entertainment, from filmmaking and video production to web and fashion design. In addition to departments in marketing, digital, creative, publicity, fashion design and merchandising, the company houses a state-of-the-art editing suite, where Beyoncé works on content for her worldwide tours, music videos, and television specials. Parkwood Entertainment’s first production was the musical biopic Cadillac Records (2008), in which Beyoncé starred and co-produced. The company has also distributed Beyoncé’s albums such as her self-titled fifth studio album (2013), Lemonade (2016) and The Carters, Everything is Love (2018). Beyoncé has also signed other artists to Parkwood such as Chloe x Halle, who performed at Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.

Endorsements

Beyoncé has worked with Pepsi since 2002, and in 2004 appeared in a Gladiator-themed commercial with Britney Spears, Pink, and Enrique Iglesias. In 2012, Beyoncé signed a $50 million deal to endorse Pepsi. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPINET) wrote Beyoncé an open letter asking her to reconsider the deal because of the unhealthiness of the product and to donate the proceeds to a medical organisation. Nevertheless, NetBase found that Beyoncé’s campaign was the most talked about endorsement in April 2013, with a 70 percent positive audience response to the commercial and print ads.

Beyoncé has worked with Tommy Hilfiger for the fragrances True Star (singing a cover version of “Wishing on a Star”) and True Star Gold; she also promoted Emporio Armani’s Diamonds fragrance in 2007. Beyoncé launched her first official fragrance, Heat, in 2010. The commercial, which featured the 1956 song “Fever”, was shown after the water shed in the United Kingdom as it begins with an image of Beyoncé appearing to lie naked in a room. In February 2011, Beyoncé launched her second fragrance, Heat Rush. Beyoncé’s third fragrance, Pulse, was launched in September 2011. In 2013, The Mrs. Carter Show Limited Edition version of Heat was released. The six editions of Heat are the world’s best-selling celebrity fragrance line,  with sales of over $400 million.

The release of a video-game Starpower: Beyoncé was cancelled after Beyoncé pulled out of a $100 million with GateFive who alleged the cancellation meant the sacking of 70 staff and millions of pounds lost in development. It was settled out of court by her lawyers in June 2013 who said that they had cancelled because GateFive had lost its financial backers. Beyoncé also has had deals with American Express, Nintendo DS and L’Oréal since the age of 18.

In March 2015, Beyoncé became a co-owner, with other artists, of the music streaming service Tidal. The service specializes in lossless audio and high definition music videos. Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z acquired the parent company of Tidal, Aspiro, in the first quarter of 2015. Including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, sixteen artist stakeholders (such as Kanye West, Rihanna, Madonna, Chris Martin, Nicki Minaj and more) co-own Tidal, with the majority owning a 3% equity stake The idea of having an all artist owned streaming service was created by those involved to adapt to the increased demand for streaming within the current music industry.

Fashion lines

Beyoncé and her mother introduced House of Deréon, a contemporary women’s fashion line, in 2005. The concept is inspired by three generations of women in their family, with the name paying tribute to Beyoncé’s grandmother, Agnèz Deréon, a respected seamstress. According to Tina, the overall style of the line best reflects her and Beyoncé’s taste and style. Beyoncé and her mother founded their family’s company Beyond Productions, which provides the licensing and brand management for House of Deréon, and its junior collection, Deréon. House of Deréon pieces were exhibited in Destiny’s Child’s shows and tours, during their Destiny Fulfilled era. The collection features sportswear, denim offerings with fur, outerwear and accessories that include handbags and footwear, and are available at department and specialty stores across the US and Canada.

In 2005, Beyoncé teamed up with House of Brands, a shoe company, to produce a range of footwear for House of Deréon. In January 2008, Starwave Mobile launched Beyoncé Fashion Diva, a “high-style” mobile game with a social networking component, featuring the House of Deréon collection. In July 2009, Beyoncé and her mother launched a new junior apparel label, Sasha Fierce for Deréon, for back-to-school selling. The collection included sportswear, outerwear, handbags, footwear, eyewear, lingerie and jewelry. It was available at department stores including Macy’s and Dillard’s, and specialty stores Jimmy Jazz and Against All Odds. On May 27, 2010, Beyoncé teamed up with clothing store C&A to launch Deréon by Beyoncé at their stores in Brazil. The collection included tailored blazers with padded shoulders, little black dresses, embroidered tops and shirts and bandage dresses.

In October 2014, Beyoncé signed a deal to launch an activewear line of clothing with British fashion retailer Topshop. The 50–50 venture is called Ivy Park and was launched in April 2016. The brand’s name is a nod to Beyoncé’s daughter and her favourite number four (IV in roman numerals), and also references the park where she used to run in Texas. She has since bought out Topshop owner Philip Green from his 50% share after he was alleged to have sexually harassed, bullied and racially abused employees. She now owns the brand herself. On April 4, 2019, it was announced that Beyoncé would become a creative partner with Adidas and further develop her athletic brand Ivy Park with the company. Knowles will also develop new clothes and footwear for Adidas. Shares for the company rose 1.3% upon the news release. In December, 9, 2019, they announced a launch date which will be on January 18, 2020. Beyoncé uploaded a teaser on her website and Instagram. The collection was also previewed on the upcoming Elle Magazine: January 2020 issue, where Beyoncé is seen wearing several garments, accessories and footwear from the first collection.

Philanthropy

In 2002, Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Tina Knowles built the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth, a community center in Downtown Houston. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Beyoncé and Rowland founded the Survivor Foundation to provide transitional housing to displaced families and provide means for new building construction, to which Beyoncé contributed an initial $250,000. The foundation has since expanded to work with other charities in the city, and also provided relief following Hurricane Ike three years later. Beyoncé also donated $100,000 to the Gulf Coast Ike Relief Fund. In 2007, Beyoncé founded the Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments, a housing complex offering living space for 43 displaced individuals. As of 2016, Beyoncé had donated $7 million for the maintenance of the complex.

After starring in Cadillac Records in 2009 and learning about Phoenix House, a non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization, Beyoncé donated her full $4 million salary from the film to the organization. Beyoncé and her mother subsequently established the Beyoncé Cosmetology Center, which offers a seven-month cosmetology training course helping Phoenix House’s clients gain career skills during their recovery.

In January 2010, Beyoncé participated in George Clooney and Wyclef Jean’s Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief telethon donated a large sum to the organization, and was named the official face of the limited edition CFDA “Fashion For Haiti” T-shirt, made by Theory which raised a total of $1 million. In April 2011, Beyoncé joined forces with US First Lady Michelle Obama and the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation, to help boost the latter’s campaign against child obesity by reworking her single “Get Me Bodied”.  Following the death of Osama bin Laden, Beyoncé released her cover of the Lee Greenwood song “God Bless the USA”, as a charity single to help raise funds for the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund.

Beyoncé became an ambassador for the 2012 World Humanitarian Day campaign donating her song “I Was Here” and its music video, shot in the UN, to the campaign. In 2013, it was announced that Beyoncé would work with Salma Hayek and Frida Giannini on a Gucci “Chime for Change” campaign that aims to spread female empowerment. The campaign, which aired on February 28, was set to her new music. A concert for the cause took place on June 1, 2013 in London  and included other acts like Ellie Goulding, Florence and the Machine, and Rita Ora.  In advance of the concert, she appeared in a campaign video released on May 15, 2013, where she, along with Cameron Diaz, John Legend and Kylie Minogue, described inspiration from their mothers, while a number of other artists celebrated personal inspiration from other women, leading to a call for submission of photos of women of viewers’ inspiration from which a selection was shown at the concert. Beyoncé said about her mother Tina Knowles that her gift was “finding the best qualities in every human being.” With help of the crowdfunding platform Catapult, visitors of the concert could choose between several projects promoting education of women and girls. Beyoncé also took part in “Miss a Meal”, a food-donation campaign, and supported Goodwill Industries through online charity auctions at Charitybuzz that support job creation throughout Europe and the U.S.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z secretly donated tens of thousands of dollars to bail out Black Lives Matter protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson, as well as funded infrastructure for the establishment of Black Lives Matter chapters across the US. Before Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour show in Tampa, her team held a private luncheon for more than 20 community leaders to discuss how Beyoncé could support local charitable initiatives, including pledging on the spot to fund 10 scholarships to provide students with financial aid. Tampa Sports Authority board member Thomas Scott said: “I don’t know of a prior artist meeting with the community, seeing what their needs are, seeing how they can invest in the community. It says a lot to me about Beyoncé. She not only goes into a community and walks away with (money), but she also gives money back to that community.” In June 2016, Beyoncé donated over $82,000 to the United Way of Genesee County to support victims of the Flint water crisis. Beyoncé additionally donated money to support 14 students in Michigan with their college expenses. In August 2016, Beyoncé and Jay-Z donated $1.5 million to civil rights groups including Black Lives Matter, Hands Up United and Dream Defenders. After Hurricane Matthew, Beyoncé and Jay-Z donated $15 million to the Usain Bolt Foundation to support its efforts in rebuilding homes in Haiti. In December 2016, Beyoncé was named the Most Charitable Celebrity of the year.

During Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Beyoncé launched BeyGOOD Houston to support those affected by the hurricane in Houston. The organization donated necessities such as cots, blankets, pillows, baby products, feminine products and wheelchairs, and funded long-term revitalization projects. On September 8, Beyoncé visited Houston, where she sponsored a lunch for 400 survivors at her local church, visited the George R Brown Convention Center to discuss with people displaced by the flooding about their needs, served meals to those who lost their homes, and made a significant donation to local causes. Beyoncé additionally donated $75,000 worth of new mattresses to survivors of the hurricane. Later that month, Beyoncé released a remix of J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente”, with all of her proceeds being donated to disaster relief charities in Puerto Rico, Mexico, the US and the Caribbean after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the Chiapas and Puebla earthquakes.

In April 2020, Beyoncé donated $6 million to the National Alliance in Mental Health, UCLA and local community-based organizations in order to provide mental health and personal wellness services to essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. BeyGOOD also teamed up with local organizations to help provide resources to communities of color, including food, water, cleaning supplies, medicines and face masks. The same month Beyoncé released a remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage”, with all proceeds benefiting Bread of Life Houston’s COVID-19 relief efforts, which includes providing over 14 tons of food and supplies to 500 families and 100 senior citizens in Houston weekly. In May 2020, Beyoncé provided 1,000 free COVID-19 tests in Houston as part of her and her mother’s #IDidMyPart initiative, which was established due to the disproportionate deaths in African-American communities. Additionally, 1,000 gloves, masks, hot meals, essential vitamins, grocery vouchers and household items were provided. In July 2020, Beyoncé established the Black-Owned Small Business Impact Fund in partnership with the NAACP, which offers $10,000 grants to black-owned small businesses in need following the George Floyd protests. All proceeds from Beyoncé’s single “Black Parade” were donated to the fund. In September 2020, Beyoncé announced that she had donated an additional $1 million to the fund. In October 2020, Beyoncé released a statement that she has been working with the Feminist Coalition to assist supporters of the End Sars movement in Nigeria, including covering medical costs for injured protestors, covering legal fees for arrested protestors, and providing food, emergency shelter, transportation and telecommunication means to those in need. Beyoncé also showed support for those fighting against other issues in Africa, such as the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon, ShutItAllDown in Namibia, Zimbabwean Lives Matter in Zimbabwe and the Rape National Emergency in Liberia.

Lyrics


Nikki Sixx

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Nikki Sixx (born Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr.; December 11, 1958) is an American musician, songwriter, radio host, and photographer, best known as the co-founder, bassist, and primary songwriter of the band Mötley Crüe.[1] Prior to forming Mötley Crüe, Sixx was a member of Sister before going on to form London with his Sister bandmate Lizzie Grey. In 2000, he formed side project group 58 with Dave Darling, Steve Gibb and Bucket Baker issuing one album, titled Diet for a New America, the same year while, in 2002, he formed the hard rock supergroup Brides of Destruction with L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns. Formed in 2006, initially to record an audio accompaniment to Sixx’s autobiography The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, his side band Sixx:A.M. features songwriter, producer, and vocalist James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba.

Sixx has also worked with a number of artists and groups, co-writing and/or producing songs, such as Sex Pistols’s guitarist Steve Jones, Lita Ford, Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf, Marion Raven, Drowning Pool, Saliva and The Last Vegas, among others.

Sixx launched the clothing line “Royal Underground” in 2006 with Kelly Gray, formerly the co-president and house model of St. John.  Initially the label concentrated on men’s clothing[12] before expanding into women’s while in 2010, Premiere Radio Networks launched nationally syndicated Rock/alternative music radio programs “Sixx Sense” and “The Side Show Countdown” with both based in Dallas, Texas and hosted by Sixx and co-hosted by Jenn Marino.

Early life

Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna, Jr. was born on December 11, 1958 in San Jose, California. He is of Italian ancestry on his father’s side. Sixx was partially raised by his single mother, Deana Richards, and by his grandparents after his father left the family. Feranna later moved in with his grandparents after his mother abandoned him. Feranna relocated several times while living with his grandparents. Feranna’s uncle, husband of Deana’s sister Sharon, is Don Zimmerman, producer and president of Capitol Records. Feranna had one full biological sister, Lisa (born with Down syndrome; died circa 2000) and has one (half) brother Rodney Anthony Feranna (born 1966) and a half-sister Ceci.

Feranna grew up listening to Deep Purple, Harry Nilsson, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Queen, Black Sabbath and later discovered T. Rex, David Bowie, and Slade. While living in Jerome, Idaho, Feranna’s youth years turned out to be a troubled one, as he became a teenage vandal, broke into neighbors’ homes, shoplifted, and was expelled from school for selling drugs. His grandparents sent him to live with his mother, who had moved to Seattle. Feranna lived there for a short time, and learned how to play the bass guitar having bought his first instrument with money gained from selling a guitar he had stolen.

Career

Early career, Sister, London (1975–1979)

At the age of 17, Feranna moved to Los Angeles, and began various jobs such as working at a liquor store and selling vacuum cleaners over the phone while he auditioned for bands. He eventually joined the band, Sister, led by Blackie Lawless  after answering an ad in The Recycler for a bass player. Soon after recording a demo, Feranna was fired from Sister along with bandmate Lizzie Grey.

Feranna and Grey formed the band, London, soon afterwards, in 1978. During this time, Feranna legally changed his name to Nikki Sixx. After a number of lineup changes, London added former Mott the Hoople singer Nigel Benjamin to the group recording a 16-track demo in Burbank. After the departure of Benjamin, along with the failure to find a replacement, Sixx departed London. The group would go on to feature Sixx’s former Sister bandmate Blackie Lawless (later of W.A.S.P.), Izzy Stradlin (then of Hollywood Rose, later of Guns N’ Roses) and drummer Fred Coury (later of Cinderella). In 2000, a number of the London demos recorded with Sixx were included on London Daze by Spiders & Snakes, led by former London guitarist Lizzie Grey.

Mötley Crüe (1981–2015)

In 1981, Sixx founded Mötley Crüe alongside drummer Tommy Lee. They were later joined by guitarist Mick Mars through an ad in the local newspaper, and singer Vince Neil, with whom Lee had attended high school. The band self-recorded their debut album, Too Fast for Love, which was subsequently released in November 1981 on the band’s own Leathür Records label. After signing with Elektra Records, they re-released the same album. The band then went on to record and release Shout at the Devil, raising the band to national fame. They issued three more albums during the 80’s, Theatre of Pain in 1985, Girls, Girls, Girls in 1987,  and Dr. Feelgood in 1989. The latter ended up being their most successful record, staying in the charts for 114 weeks after its release.

During his time with Mötley Crüe, Sixx became addicted to heroin. He is quoted in The Heroin Diaries as saying: “Alcohol, acid, cocaine… they were just affairs. When I met heroin it was true love.” He estimates he overdosed “about half a dozen times”. On December 23, 1987, Sixx overdosed on heroin and was reportedly declared clinically dead for two minutes before a paramedic revived him with two syringes full of adrenaline.

After releasing the compilation album, Decade of Decadence, in 1991, Neil left the group, and was replaced by John Corabi, who formerly served with The Scream. They released one self titled album with Corabi, in 1994, before firing him in 1996. Afterwards, they reunited with Neil, with whom they released Generation Swine in 1997.

Sixx had become controversial for an October 30, 1997 incident at Greensboro Coliseum, in which during a Mötley Crüe concert, he used racial epithets while goading the audience to physically attack a black security guard for repeatedly attacking a female fan. In May 2001, Sixx addressed the issue, and claimed he had apologized to the victim of the incident.

In 1999, Tommy Lee left the group to form Methods of Mayhem. He was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne drummer, Randy Castillo, with whom they released the album, New Tattoo, in 2000. The group went on hiatus soon after before reuniting in 2004, during which Sixx declared himself sober. A 2001 autobiography entitled The Dirt packaged the band as “the world’s most notorious rock band”. The book made the top ten on The New York Times Best Seller list and spent ten weeks there.

In 2006, Mötley Crüe completed a reunion tour, featuring all four original members, and embarked on a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith, called The Route of All Evil. In April 2008, the band announced the first Crüe Fest, a summer tour, that featured Sixx’s side project Sixx:A.M., Buckcherry, Papa Roach and Trapt. On June 24, 2008, Mötley Crüe released their ninth and final studio album, Saints of Los Angeles, with Sixx credited as either writer or co-writer on all tracks.[citation needed] The band officially retired in 2015.

Sixx wrote most of Mötley Crüe’s material, including tracks such as “Live Wire”, “Home Sweet Home”, “Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Kickstart My Heart”, “Wild Side”, “Hooligan’s Holiday” and “Dr. Feelgood”. In the 1990s, all four members began contributing to the material on the albums.

58 (2000)

In 2000, Sixx formed the internet based side project 58 with producer Dave Darling, guitarist Steve Gibb (formerly of Black Label Society and Crowbar) and drummer Bucket Baker. They released one single, titled “Piece of Candy”, and their debut album, Diet for a New America, also in 2000 through Sixx’s Americoma label and Beyond Records. The group did not tour, and was described by Sixx as “strictly an artistic thing.”

Brides of Destruction (2002–2004)

Brides of Destruction were formed by Sixx[7] and Tracii Guns[2] in Los Angeles 2002 initially with the name Cockstar[5][29] after Mötley Crüe went on hiatus and Guns left L.A. Guns. Sixx also invited former Beautiful Creatures guitarist DJ Ashba to join the group however he declined to focus on his solo band, ASHBA. Ashba would eventually join Sixx in Sixx:A.M..[30]

After a few lineup changes, that included Sixx’s former Mötley Crüe bandmate John Corabi,  keyboardist Adam Hamilton and drummer Kris Kohls of Adema, the group was composed of Sixx, Guns, singer London LeGrand and drummer Scot Coogan formerly of Ednaswap and Annetenna.

They were advised by radio programmers that the name Cockstar would not be announced on air. They briefly adopted the moniker Motordog before settling on Brides of Destruction.

They entered the studio with producer Stevo Bruno to begin recording what would become Here Come the Brides. The Brides played their first show opening for Mudvayne and Taproot on November 14, 2002 at the Ventura Theatre in California.

After signing a deal with Sanctuary Records, the group released Here Come the Brides in 2004, with the album debuting at number 92 on the Billboard 200 selling over 13,000 copies. A tour of the US, Europe, including an appearance at Download Festival in the United Kingdom, and Australia followed.

On October 25, 2004, it was announced that the group were to go on hiatus while Sixx reunited with Mötley Crüe for a reunion tour. The group continued without Sixx, however, with Guns adding former Amen bassist Scott Sorry to the group as Sixx’s replacement. The second Brides of Destruction album, titled Runaway Brides, released in 2005 featured three songs co-written by Sixx during the Here Come the Brides sessions.

Sixx:A.M. (2006–2017)

Sixx formed his own group known as Sixx:A.M. in 2006, initially to record an audio accompaniment to his autobiography The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, with friends producer/songwriter James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba (Guns N’ Roses, formerly of Beautiful Creatures and BulletBoys). They recorded and released The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack in August 2007 through Eleven Seven. The single, “Life Is Beautiful”, received a high ratio of radio and video play peaking at number 2 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks.

The band made their live debut at the Crash Mansion on July 16, 2007. They performed five songs from the album, with former Beautiful Creatures drummer Glen Sobel filling in on the drums. On April 15, 2008, Sixx:A.M. announced they would be touring as part of Mötley Crüe’s Crüe Fest. The tour began on July 1, 2008, in West Palm Beach, Florida. During Crüe Fest, Papa Roach drummer Tony Palermo served as a touring drummer for the band. A deluxe tour edition of The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack was released on November 25, 2008, which included a bonus live EP entitled Live Is Beautiful, which features recorded performances from the band’s summer tour.

In April 2009, both Sixx and Michael confirmed that the band was in the studio, recording new material. Sixx added that the new material was “inspiring. it feels like we may have topped ourselves on this album coming up, and can’t wait for you to hear what it sounds like.”

In 2010, the group continued recording the album with plans to release it by the late 2010/early 2011 with the group bringing in Paul R. Brown to shoot the video for the album’s first single. During an interview in July, Sixx stated that the album was almost finished. This Is Gonna Hurt, the band’s second studio album, was released on May 3, 2011. A third studio album, Modern Vintage, was released in 2014. Prayers for the Damned and Prayers for the Blessed were released in 2016.

The band went on hiatus in 2017, with other members DJ Ashba and James Michael forming a new band, Pyromantic.

Other work

In 1989, Sixx was a featured guest artist on the album Fire and Gasoline by Steve Jones, formerly of the Sex Pistols. Sixx co-wrote and performed on the song, “We’re No Saints”. In 1991, Sixx played bass on “Feed My Frankenstein” on Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid album. Sixx co-wrote the track “Die For You”, along with Cooper and Mötley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars. In 2002, Sixx played on Butch Walkers first solo album “Left of Self Centered”. In 2005, he collaborated with the Norwegian singer Marion Raven on two songs, “Heads Will Roll” and “Surfing the Sun”, for Raven’s debut album, Here I Am. A new version of “Heads Will Roll” appeared on Raven’s 2006 EP Heads Will Roll and on her 2007 U.S. debut album, Set Me Free. In 2006, he was one of the songwriters for Meat Loaf’s long-awaited album, Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose.

In September 2007, Sixx released a book titled The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, a collection of his journal entries from 1986 and 1987 (when his heroin addiction was at its most dangerous). Written with British journalist Ian Gittins, it presents the present-day viewpoints of his bandmates, friends, ex-lovers, caretakers, business associates and family as they respond to specific passages. The book debuted at #7 on The New York Times Best Seller list.[54] Along with Big & Rich (John Rich and Big Kenny Alphin), and James Otto, Sixx co-wrote “Ain’t Gonna Stop” for Otto’s 2008 Sunset Man CD on Warner Bros/Raybaw Records.

Equipment

Signature basses

Sixx is most often seen playing Gibson Thunderbird basses. Between 2000 and 2003 Gibson produced the Nikki Sixx Signature Blackbird. The Gibson Blackbird was for all intents and purposes a standard Thunderbird bass, but with a satin black finish, Iron Crosses on the fretboard instead of dots, an Iron Cross behind the classic Thunderbird logo, and Nikki Sixx’s ‘opti-grab’ (a metal loop installed behind the bridge for hooking the little finger onto while playing). What also made this bass interesting was the lack of volume or tone controls, being replaced by a single on/off switch. Although subtle, this helped give this Blackbird more tone and a higher output. This model was discontinued in 2003, but has recently been put back in production as the Epiphone Nikki Sixx Blackbird. Cosmetically the Epiphone Blackbird is identical to the Gibson original, but with a bolt-on single ply neck, solid mahogany body, different pickups and lower grade parts and manufacturing. The Epiphone model still kept the ‘opti-grab,’ designed and made first by his bass technician Tim Luzzi, and single on/off switch of the Gibson original. In 2008, Gibson announced a ‘limited run’ new Nikki Sixx signature bass. Like the original it features a neck through design made of mahogany and walnut, with maple ‘wings’ to form the body. Unlike the original ‘Blackbird’ bass, a clear ‘satin black cherry’ finish is given to the instrument, with red ‘slash’ X’s on the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 12th frets. A mirror pickguard is also applied, with a red signature and two X’s (6 x’s on the whole bass) is also a new addition. Unlike the Gibson Blackbird, the new signature featured volume and tone controls, the ‘opti-grab’, and an on/off switch.

Other basses

His inspiration to use the Gibson Thunderbird came from Pete “Overend” Watts of Mott the Hoople and John Entwistle of The Who. His first Gibson Thunderbird was a white 1976 model. He would light it on fire with pyro gel during early Mötley Crüe shows, (when they were still a club band) and it finally just disintegrated. He used Fender Precision basses and Rickenbacker basses before he had his first Thunderbird.

Early on, he was sponsored by B.C. Rich, and used Mockingbird & Warlock basses. He used Hamer Firebird basses during the tour for Theatre of Pain, in either plain black or plain white, while some of them had finishes that suited his stage outfits. After that, he used Spector basses during Girls, Girls, Girls and Dr. Feelgood. These Spector basses were shaped like Thunderbirds, and usually are commonly called Spectorbirds. Sixx owned at least eight Spectorbirds. All eight had an opti-grab, designed and made by Tim Luzzi, 1 volume knob, P & J pickups, 24 frets and Spector bass “Crown” inlays. He used four during the tour for Girls, Girls, Girls, two black ones and one with a 101 Dalmatians finish, all of which had the Gibson Thunderbird Non-Reverse body type. One of the black basses had a large skull painting covering most of the body. He also used one in a buckeye burl finish with the reverse body style. It had an orange Harley-Davidson Crüe sticker where the Thunderbird logo usually is. These all had black hardware. For Dr. Feelgood he used five Spectorbirds, two in sunburst and one in a natural finish. He also used a white one with a Non-Reverse style body, covered in small black stickers and a sticker saying Dancing on Glass. He also used a plain black Spectorbird with a reversed body style, which he smashed at the Make A Difference Foundation Moscow Music Peace Festival in Moscow.

During the 1990s, Sixx started using 12-string basses made in Japan by the Hiroshigi Kids Guitar Company. He owns at least five: a black one with red lettering and white binding, a black one with gold binding, a black one with white lettering and white binding, a red one with “Helter Skelter” written on it, and a green one. The red and green ones have dragon inlays on the body. He also used four- and five-string Epiphone Non-Reverse Thunderbirds for the Generation Swine tour and would usually smash one after his bass solo. He has also used Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay 5 basses, most notably while on tour with Brides of Destruction and the two newly recorded songs for the 1998 Mötley Crüe album, Greatest Hits.

He also has used Fender Precision Basses, particularly when smashing basses at the end of a set. They are usually black Squier Precision Basses with white pickguards. He previously used Ampeg amplifiers with Ampeg 8 x 10″ loaded cabinets made with real wood, but had switched to Basson cabinets prior to their going out of business. The Basson cabinets were notoriously heavy (typically running 230–250 lbs), using medium density fiberboard covered with indoor-outdoor carpeting and loaded with Chinese Firestorm 1075 speakers (10″/75 oz magnets) and neoprene surrounds. Many of these cabinets were painted red with latex paint to match tour themes. Basson gave Sixx the cabinets in a marketing move to sell to metal-playing bassists, a very limited market. Basson went out of business in 2010. While recording The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, he used a 1959 Fender Precision, which was amplified via 1964 Fender Bassman. Sixx also uses Audiotech Guitar Products Source Selector 1X6 Rack Mount Audio Switcher.

Personal life

Sixx was engaged to Denise “Vanity” Matthews in 1987. In his autobiography, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, Sixx described his toxic relationship with Matthews. “Vanity came and went during different periods of my addiction. She was a wild black chick who had sung with Prince: she’d also been his lover for a while. At the time I thought of Vanity as a disposable human being, like a used needle. Once its purpose was fulfilled it was ready for the trash, only to be dug up if you were really desperate…We became drug buddies: sometimes, you could even just about call us boyfriend and girlfriend. Vanity also taught me how to really freebase: the first time I based was with Tommy when Mötley just started and only a few times after that. So up until then, I’d been mostly snorting or injecting. But as soon as she showed me the real ins and outs of cooking up a good rock…it was love. Not her. The drug.”

From May 1989 to November 1996, Sixx was married to his first wife, Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt; they have three children: Gunner Nicholas Sixx (born January 25, 1991), Storm Brieann Sixx (born April 14, 1994), and Decker Nilsson Sixx (born May 23, 1995).

One month after the divorce from Brandt, Sixx married his second wife, another Playboy Playmate, actress Donna D’Errico. Sixx and D’Errico have one daughter, Frankie-Jean Mary Sixx (born January 2, 2001). D’Errico has a son, Rhyan Jacob (born 1993), from a previous relationship. They separated shortly after their daughter’s birth, and reconciled months later when Sixx completed rehab. They separated again on April 27, 2006 and divorced in June 2007, with D’Errico claiming irreconcilable differences.

Sixx dated tattoo artist Kat Von D from 2008 to 2010. A few months after their breakup, Sixx and Von D were spotted back together. Sixx was featured on an episode of Von D’s reality television show LA Ink in 2008, in which Von D gave him a tattoo of Mick Mars, lead guitarist of Mötley Crüe. On August 25, 2010, Sixx issued a statement that their relationship had dissolved. It was reported on October 19, 2010 that Nikki and Kat had gotten back together. On October 27, 2010 Kat Von D confirmed to USA Today that indeed she and West Coast Choppers owner Jesse James were still together, debunking original reports that she and Sixx had reconciled. On November 4, 2010 Sixx was spotted at the Call of Duty: Black Ops Launch Party in Santa Monica, California with Courtney Bingham, whom he has been dating ever since and they now live together. On November 26, 2012, Nikki revealed to the public that he proposed to Courtney while vacationing in St. Barts. They were married on March 15, 2014.

Bingham gave birth to their first child together, Ruby Sixx on July 27, 2019. Sixx announced the birth through social media.

Sixx practices Transcendental Meditation, as he considers it an important self-help technique.

Radio shows

Launched on February 8, 2010, Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx broadcasts Monday through Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight local time on rock/alternative music stations. Each night, host Nikki Sixx discusses music and lifestyle topics as he gives listeners a backstage look at the world and mind of a rock star. Sixx was joined by co-host Kerri Kasem, from its first episode until March 28, 2014. On April 2, it was announced that radio personality Jenn Marino would be joining the show in Kasem’s place. The show is based in Dallas, Texas in a studio in the Northpark Center.

Starting on May 7, 2012, KEGL in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas moved the show to mornings, making it the only station to carry the show in the mornings at 6 to 10 AM local time instead of the evening’s time slot. The show is customized for the Dallas/Fort Worth listeners for broadcast in the mornings on KEGL. Sixx said that bringing Sixx Sense to mornings “has always been our goal. Who better to start your morning with than a rock star and a hot chick? It’s a dream come true to have a morning show on one of America’s best rock stations.” however, one year later, Sixx Sense returned to evenings at KEGL. In addition, recent episodes of “Sixx Sense” air 24/7 on its own iHeartRadio streaming page.

The Side Show with Nikki Sixx is a two-hour original weekend program. Airing Saturday or Sunday between 6 a.m. and midnight local time, Nikki Sixx will air top-charting songs, showcase new and emerging artists, and welcome guests from the worlds of music and entertainment. In October 2017 Sixx announced he would step down from Sixx Sense on December 31, 2017.

Running Wild in the Night

With the formation of Sixx:A.M. and the release of The Heroin Diaries, Nikki Sixx teamed up with an already existing charity known as the Covenant House  and created his own branch called Running Wild in the Night. In addition to partially funding the services the Covenant House provides on its own, Sixx’s division also provides a creative arts and music program.  Sixx has negotiated with people in his industry to provide the program with musical instruments and software.

A Portion of the profits from Sixx:A.M.’s album The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack and his autobiography, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star  is donated to help the Covenant House. He continues to auction off personal items to fund Running Wild in the Night. As of April 2009, he had raised over $100,000.

 

Lyrics


George Michael

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

George Michael (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou; 25 June 1963 – 25 December 2016) was an English singer, songwriter, record producer, and philanthropist who rose to fame as a member of the music duo Wham! and later embarked on a solo career. Michael sold over 80 million records worldwide making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He achieved seven number one songs on the UK Singles Chart and eight number one songs on the US Billboard Hot 100. Michael won various music awards including two Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, three American Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards and six Ivor Novello Awards. In 2008, he was ranked 40th on Billboard’s list of the Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time.

Born in East Finchley, Michael formed the duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The band’s first two albums, Fantastic (1983) and Make It Big (1984), reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200. Certifying themselves as a global act, Wham!’s tour of China in April 1985 was the first visit to China by a Western popular music act, and generated worldwide media coverage. Michael’s first solo single “Careless Whisper” reached number one in over 20 countries, including the UK and US. His debut solo album, Faith, was released in 1987, topping the UK Albums Chart and staying at number one on the Billboard 200 for 12 weeks. Four singles from the album—”Faith”, “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey”—reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Faith was awarded Album of the Year at the 1989 Grammy Awards. Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990) was a UK number-one and included the Billboard Hot 100 number-one “Praying for Time”.[5] “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, a 1991 duet with Elton John, was also a transatlantic number one. Michael went on to release the albums Older (1996), Songs from the Last Century (1999) and Patience (2004). In 2004, the Radio Academy named him the most played artist on British radio during the period 1984–2004.

Michael, who came out as gay in 1998, was an active LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser. Michael’s personal life and legal troubles made headlines during the late 1990s and 2000s, as he was arrested for public lewdness in 1998 and was arrested for multiple drug-related offences after that time. The 2005 documentary A Different Story covered his career and personal life. Michael’s first tour since 1991, the 25 Live tour, spanned three tours over the course of three years; 2006, 2007, and 2008. Four years later, he performed his final concert at London’s Earls Court in 2012. In the early hours of 25 December 2016, Michael was found dead at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire aged 53. A coroner’s report attributed his death to natural causes.

Early life

George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou (Greek: Γεώργιος Κυριάκου Παναγιώτου) on 25 June 1963 in East Finchley, London. His father, Kyriacos Panayiotou (nicknamed “Jack”), was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur who emigrated to England in the 1950s. His mother, Lesley Angold (née Harrison, died 1997), was an English dancer. In June 2008, Michael told the Los Angeles Times that his maternal grandmother was Jewish, but she married a non-Jewish man and raised her children with no knowledge of their Jewish background due to her fear during World War II. Michael spent most of his childhood in Kingsbury, London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth; he attended Roe Green Junior School and Kingsbury High School. Michael had two sisters: Melanie (1960–2019) and Yioda (born 1962).

While he was in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett. There, Michael attended Bushey Meads School in Bushey, where he befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. The two had the same career ambition of being musicians.[9] Michael busked on the London Underground, performing songs such as “’39” by Queen. His involvement in the music business began with his working as a DJ, playing at clubs and local schools around Bushey, Stanmore, and Watford. This was followed by the formation of a short-lived ska band called The Executive, with Ridgeley, Ridgeley’s brother Paul, Andrew Leaver, and David Mortimer (later known as David Austin).

Wham!

Michael formed the duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The band’s first album Fantastic reached No. 1 in the UK in 1983 and produced a series of top 10 singles including “Young Guns”, “Wham Rap!” and “Club Tropicana”. Their second album, Make It Big, reached No. 1 on the charts in the US. Singles from that album included “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (No. 1 in the UK and US), “Freedom”, “Everything She Wants”, and “Careless Whisper” which reached No. 1 in nearly 25 countries, including the UK and US, and was Michael’s first solo effort as a single. In 1985 Michael received the first of his three Ivor Novello Awards for Songwriter of the Year from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Michael sang on the original Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (which became the UK Christmas number one) and donated the profits from “Last Christmas” and “Everything She Wants” to charity. Michael sang “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with Elton John at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in London on 13 July 1985. He also contributed background vocals to David Cassidy’s 1985 hit “The Last Kiss”, as well as Elton John’s 1985 successes “Nikita” and “Wrap Her Up”. Michael cited Cassidy as a major career influence and interviewed Cassidy for David Litchfield’s Ritz Newspaper.

Wham!’s tour of China in April 1985, the first visit to China by a Western popular music act, generated worldwide media coverage, much of it centred on Michael. Before Wham!’s appearance in China, many kinds of music in the country were forbidden. The band’s manager, Simon Napier-Bell, had spent 18 months trying to convince Chinese officials to let the duo play.  The audience included members of the Chinese government, and Chinese television presenter, Kan Lijun, who was the on stage host, spoke of Wham!’s historic performance;

“No-one had ever seen anything like that before. All the young people were amazed and everybody was tapping their feet. Of course the police weren’t happy and they were scared there would be riots.”

Wham! performed their hits with scantily clad dancers and strobing disco lights. According to Napier-Bell, Michael tried to get the crowd to clap along to “Club Tropicana”, but “they hadn’t a clue – they thought he wanted applause and politely gave it”, before adding some Chinese did eventually “get the hang of clapping on the beat.” A UK embassy official in China stated “there was some lively dancing but this was almost entirely confined to younger western members of the audience.”[ The tour was documented by film director Lindsay Anderson and producer Martin Lewis in their film Wham! in China: Foreign Skies. With the success of Michael’s solo singles, “Careless Whisper” (1984) and “A Different Corner” (1986), rumours of an impending break up of Wham! intensified. The duo officially separated in 1986, after releasing a farewell single, “The Edge of Heaven” and a farewell compilation, The Final (their third album Music from the Edge of Heaven was released in North America and Japan), plus a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium that included the world premiere of the China film. The Wham! partnership ended officially with the commercially successful single “The Edge of Heaven”, which reached No. 1 on the UK chart in June 1986.

Solo career

1987–1989

During early 1987, at the beginning of his solo career, Michael released “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”, a duet with Aretha Franklin. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” was a one-off project that helped Michael achieve an ambition by singing with one of his favourite artists. It scored number one on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 upon its release. For Michael, it became his third consecutive solo number one in the UK from three releases, after 1984’s “Careless Whisper” (though the single was actually from the Wham! album Make It Big) and 1986’s “A Different Corner”. The single was also the first Michael had recorded as a solo artist which he had not written himself. The co-writer, Simon Climie, was unknown at the time; he later had success as a performer with the band Climie Fisher in 1988. Michael and Aretha Franklin won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best R&B Performance – Duo or Group with Vocal for the song.

In late 1987, Michael released his debut solo album, Faith. The first single released from the album was “I Want Your Sex”, in mid-1987. The song was banned by many radio stations in the UK and US, due to its sexually suggestive lyrics. MTV broadcast the video, featuring celebrity make-up artist Kathy Jeung in a basque and suspenders, only during the late night hours. Michael argued that the act was beautiful if the sex was monogamous, and he recorded a brief prologue for the video in which he said: “This song is not about casual sex.” One of the racier scenes involved Michael writing the words “explore monogamy” on his partner’s back in lipstick.  Some radio stations played a toned-down version of the song, “I Want Your Love”, with the word “love” replacing “sex”.

When “I Want Your Sex” reached the US charts, American Top 40 host Casey Kasem refused to say the song’s title, referring to it only as “the new single by George Michael.” In the US, the song was also sometimes listed as “I Want Your Sex (from Beverly Hills Cop II)”, since the song was featured on the soundtrack of the movie. Despite censorship and radio play problems, “I Want Your Sex” reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the UK. The second single, “Faith”, was released in October 1987, a few weeks before the album. “Faith” became one of his most popular songs. The song was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks, becoming the best-selling single of 1988 in the US. It also reached No. 1 in Australia, and No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. The video provided some definitive images of the 1980s music industry in the process—Michael in shades, leather jacket, cowboy boots, and Levi’s jeans, playing a guitar near a classic-design jukebox.

On 30 October, Faith was released in the UK and in several markets worldwide.[35] Faith topped the UK Albums Chart, and in the US, the album had 51 non-consecutive weeks in the top 10 of Billboard 200, including 12 weeks at No. 1. Faith had many successes, with four singles (“Faith”, “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey”) reaching No. 1 in the US. Faith was certified Diamond by the RIAA for sales of 10 million copies in the US. To date, global sales of Faith are more than 25 million units. The album was highly acclaimed by music critics, with AllMusic journalist Steve Huey describing it as a “superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece” and “one of the finest pop albums of the ’80s”. In a review by Rolling Stone magazine, journalist Mark Coleman commended most of the songs on the album, which he said “displays Michael’s intuitive understanding of pop music and his increasingly intelligent use of his power to communicate to an ever-growing audience.”

In 1988, Michael embarked on a world tour. In Los Angeles, Michael was joined on stage by Aretha Franklin for “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”. It was the second highest grossing event of 1988, earning $17.7 million. At the 1988 Brit Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall on 8 February, Michael received the first of his two awards for Best British Male Solo Artist. Later that month, Faith won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 31st Grammy Awards. At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards on 6 September in Los Angeles, Michael received the Video Vanguard Award. According to Michael in his film, A Different Story, success did not make him happy and he started to think there was something wrong in being an idol for millions of teenage girls. The whole Faith process (promotion, videos, tour, awards) left him exhausted, lonely and frustrated, and far from his friends and family. In 1990, he told his record company Sony that, for his second album, he did not want to do promotions like the one for Faith.

1990s

 

Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released in September 1990. For this album, Michael tried to create a new reputation as a serious-minded artist; the title is an indication of his desire to be taken more seriously as a songwriter. Michael refused to do any promotion for this album, including no music videos for the singles released. The first single, “Praying for Time”, with lyrics concerning social ills and injustice, was released in August 1990. James Hunter of Rolling Stone magazine described the song as “a distraught look at the world’s astounding woundedness. Michael offers the healing passage of time as the only balm for physical and emotional hunger, poverty, hypocrisy and hatred.” The song was an instant success, reaching No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 in the UK. A video was released shortly thereafter, consisting of the lyrics on a dark background. Michael did not appear in this video or any subsequent videos for the album.

The second single “Waiting for That Day” was an acoustic-heavy single, released as an immediate follow-up to “Praying for Time”. It reached No. 23 in the UK and No. 27 in the US in October 1990. The album was released in Europe on 3 September 1990, and one week later in the US. It reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart[3] and peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200. It spent a total of 88 weeks on the UK Albums Chart and was certified four-times Platinum by the BPI. The album produced five UK singles, which were released quickly, within an eight-month period: “Praying for Time”, “Waiting for That Day”, “Freedom! ’90”, “Heal the Pain”, and “Cowboys and Angels” (the latter being his only single not to chart in the UK top 40).

“Freedom ’90” was the second of only two of its singles to be supported by a music video (the other being the Michael-less “Praying for Time”). The song alludes to his struggles with his artistic identity, and prophesied his efforts shortly thereafter to end his recording contract with Sony Music. As if to prove the song’s sentiment, Michael refused to appear in the video (directed by David Fincher), and instead recruited supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, and Cindy Crawford to appear in and lip sync in his stead. It also featured lyrics critical of his sex symbol status. It reached No. 8 success on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and No. 28 on the UK Singles Chart.

“Mother’s Pride” gained significant radio play in the US during the first Persian Gulf War during 1991, often with radio stations mixing in callers’ tributes to soldiers with the music.[54] It reached No. 46 on Billboard Hot 100 with only airplay. In the end, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 sold approximately 8 million copies.

At the 1991 Brit Awards, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 won the award for Best British Album. Later in 1991, Michael embarked on the Cover to Cover tour in Japan, England, the US, and Brazil, where he performed at Rock in Rio. In the audience in Rio, he saw and later met Anselmo Feleppa, who later became his partner. The tour was not a proper promotion for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Rather, it was more about Michael singing his favourite cover songs. Among his favourites was “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, a 1974 song by Elton John; Michael and John had performed the song together at the Live Aid concert in 1985, and again for Michael’s concert at London’s Wembley Arena on 25 March 1991, where the duet was recorded. The single was released at the end of 1991 and reached No. 1 in both the UK and US. In 1991, Michael released an autobiography through Penguin Books titled Bare, co-written with Tony Parsons.

An expected follow-up album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2, was scrapped due to Michael’s lawsuit with Sony. Michael complained that Sony had not completely supported the release of his second album, resulting in its poor performance in the US as compared to Faith. Sony responded that Michael’s refusal to appear in promotional videos had caused the bad response. Michael ended the idea for Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 and donated three songs to the charity project Red Hot + Dance, for the Red Hot Organization which raised money for AIDS awareness; a fourth track “Crazyman Dance” was the B-side of 1992’s “Too Funky”. Michael donated the royalties from “Too Funky” to the same cause.

“Too Funky” reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It did not appear on any George Michael studio album, but was included on his solo collections Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael in 1998 and Twenty Five in 2006. The video featured Michael (sporadically) as a director filming supermodels Linda Evangelista, Beverly Peele, Tyra Banks, Estelle Lefébure and Nadja Auermann at a fashion show.

Michael performed at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on 20 April 1992 at London’s Wembley Stadium. The concert was a tribute to the life of the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, with the proceeds going to AIDS research. In his last ever radio interview Mercury had praised Michael, adding that he loved his track “Faith”. Michael performed “’39”, “These Are the Days of Our Lives” with Lisa Stansfield and “Somebody to Love”. The performance of the latter was released on the Five Live EP.

Five Live, released in 1993 for Parlophone in the UK and Hollywood Records in the US, features five live recordings (six in several countries) performed by Michael, Queen, and Lisa Stansfield. “Somebody to Love” and “These Are the Days of Our Lives” were recorded at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. “Killer”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, and “Calling You” were recorded during his Cover to Cover Tour from 1991. Michael’s performance of “Somebody to Love” was hailed as “one of the best performances of the tribute concert”. All proceeds from the sale of the EP benefited the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Sales of the EP were strong through Europe, where it debuted at No. 1 in the UK and several European countries. Chart success in the US was less spectacular, where it reached No. 40 on the Billboard 200 (“Somebody to Love” reached No. 30 on the US Billboard Hot 100).

During November 1994, after a long period of seclusion, Michael appeared at the first MTV Europe Music Awards show, where he gave a performance of a new song, “Jesus to a Child”. The song was a melancholy tribute to his lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who had died in March 1993. The song entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 1 and No. 7 on Billboard upon release in 1996. It was Michael’s longest UK Top 40 single, at almost seven minutes long. The exact identity of the song’s subject—and the nature of Michael’s relationship with Feleppa—was shrouded in innuendo and speculation, as Michael had not confirmed he was homosexual and did not do so until 1998. The video for “Jesus to a Child” was a picture of images recalling loss, pain and suffering. Michael consistently dedicated the song to Feleppa before performing it live.

The second single, released in April 1996, was “Fastlove”, an energetic tune about wanting gratification and fulfilment without commitment. The single version was nearly five minutes long. “Fastlove” was supported by a futuristic virtual reality-related video. It reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, spending three weeks at the top spot. In the US, “Fastlove” peaked at No. 8, his most recent single to reach the top 10 in the US. Following “Fastlove”, Michael released Older, his first studio album in six years and only the third in his ten-year solo career. The album’s US and Canadian release was the first album released by David Geffen’s (now-defunct) DreamWorks Records.

Older was particularly notable for the release of its six singles. Each of them reached the UK top 3, a record for the most singles in the British top 3 released from a single album. At the time of release of the album’s fifth single, “Star People ’97”, chart specialist James Masterton noted Michael’s success on the singles charts, writing: “George Michael nonetheless makes an impressive Top 3 entry with this single. The Older album has now proved itself to be far and away his most commercially successful recording ever. Five singles now lifted and every single one has been a Top 3 hit. Compare this with the two Top 3 hits produced by Faith and Listen Without Prejudice’s scant total of one Top Tenner and one single which missed the Top 40 altogether. This sustained single success has been achieved with a little help from marketing tricks such as remixes – or in this case a new recording of the album track which gives it a much-needed transformation into a deserved commercial smash.”

In 1996, Michael was voted Best British Male, at the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Brit Awards;  and at the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Awards, he was awarded the title of Songwriter of the Year for the third time. Michael performed a concert at Three Mills Studios, London, for MTV Unplugged. It was his first long performance in years, and in the audience was Michael’s mother, who died of cancer the following year.

Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael was Michael’s first solo greatest hits collection released in 1998. The collection of 28 songs (29 songs are included on the European and Australian release) are separated into two halves, with each containing a particular theme and mood. The first CD, titled “For the Heart”, predominantly contains ballads; the second CD, “For the Feet”, consists mainly of dance tunes. It was released through Sony Music Entertainment as a condition of severing contractual ties with the label.

Ladies & Gentlemen was a success, peaking at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart for eight weeks. It spent over 200 weeks in the UK chart, and is the 38th best-selling album of all time in the UK.[80] It is certified seven-times platinum in the UK and multi-platinum in the US, and is Michael’s most commercially successful album in his homeland, having sold more than 2.8 million copies. To date, the album has reached worldwide sales of approximately 15 million copies. The first single of the album, “Outside” was a humorous song making a reference to his arrest for soliciting a policeman in a public toilet. “As”, his duet with Mary J. Blige, was released as the second single in many territories around the world. Both singles reached the top 5 in the UK Singles Chart.

Released in 1999, Songs from the Last Century is a studio album of cover tracks. The album was Michael’s penultimate album released through Virgin Records. To date, the album has achieved the lowest peak of his solo efforts. The album debuted at No. 157 on the American Billboard 200 albums chart, which was also the album’s peak position. It was also his lowest-charting album in the UK, becoming his only solo effort not to reach No. 1. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK Albums Chart. Each of the 11 tracks was co-produced by Phil Ramone and Michael.

2000s

In 2000, Michael worked on the hit single “If I Told You That” with Whitney Houston, a song which was meant to feature Michael Jackson, initially. Michael co-produced on the single along with Rodney Jerkins. Michael began working on what became his fifth studio album, spending two years in the recording studio. His first single “Freeek!”, taken from the new album, was successful in Europe going to No. 1 in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Denmark in 2002 and reaching the top 10 in the UK and the top 5 in Australia. It made 22 charts around the world. However, his next single “Shoot the Dog” proved to be controversial when released in July 2002. It was acutely critical of US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It reached No. 1 in Denmark and made the top 5 in most European charts. It peaked at No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart.

In February 2003, Michael unexpectedly recorded another song in protest against the looming Iraq war, Don McLean’s “The Grave”. The original was written by McLean in 1971 and was a protest against the Vietnam War. Michael performed the song on numerous TV shows including Top of the Pops and So Graham Norton. His performance of the song on Top of the Pops on 7 March 2003 was his first studio appearance on the programme since 1986. He ran into conflict with the show’s producers for an anti-war, anti Blair T-shirt worn by some members of his band. In response, Don McLean issued a statement, through his website, praising Michael’s recording: “I am proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity. I am delighted that he chose a song of mine to express these feelings. We must remember that the Wizard is really a cowardly old man hiding behind a curtain with a loud microphone. It takes courage and a song to pull the curtain open and expose him. Good Luck George.”

On 17 November 2003, Michael re-signed with Sony Music, the company he had left in 1995 after a legal battle. When Michael’s fifth studio album, Patience, was released in 2004, it was critically acclaimed and went to No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, and became one of the fastest selling albums in the UK, selling over 200,000 copies in the first week alone. In Australia it reached No. 2 on 22 March. It reached the Top 5 on most European charts, and peaked at No. 12 in the US, selling over 500,000 copies to earn a Gold certification from the RIAA.

“Amazing”, the third single from the album, became a No. 1 hit in Europe. When Michael appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on 26 May 2004, to promote the album, he performed “Amazing”, along with his classic songs “Father Figure” and “Faith”. On the show Michael spoke of his arrest, revealing his homosexuality, and his resumption of public performances. He allowed Oprah’s crew inside his home outside London. The fourth single taken off the album was “Flawless”, which used the sample of the Ones’ original dance hit “Flawless”. It was a dance hit in Europe as well as North America, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and became Michael’s last No. 1 single on the US Dance chart.

In November 2004, Sony released the fifth single – “Round Here”. It was the least successful single taken from Patience when it stalled the UK charts at No. 32. In 2005, “John and Elvis Are Dead” was released as the sixth and final single from the album; it was released as a download single and was therefore unable to chart in the UK. Michael told BBC Radio 1 on 10 March 2004 that future music that he puts out would be available for download, with fans encouraged to make a donation to charity.

Twenty Five is Michael’s second greatest hits album, celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career. Released in November 2006 by Sony BMG, it debuted at no.1 in the UK.[98] The album contains songs chiefly from Michael’s solo career but also from his earlier days in Wham! It comes in two formats: two CDs or a limited edition three-CD set. The 2-CD set contained 26 tracks, including four recorded with Wham! and three new songs: “An Easier Affair”; “This Is Not Real Love” (a duet with Mutya Buena, formerly of Sugababes, which peaked at No.15 in the UK Charts); and a new version of “Heal the Pain” recorded with Paul McCartney. The limited edition three-CD version contains an additional 14 lesser known tracks, including one from Wham! and one new song, “Understand”.

Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, two-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series Eli Stone)[100] in addition to many of Michael’s successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career. To commemorate the Twenty Five album, Michael toured North America for the first time in 17 years, playing large venues in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Tampa/St. Pete, Chicago and Dallas. The DVD version of Twenty Five contains 40 videos on two discs, including seven with Wham!

During the 2005 Live 8 concert at Hyde Park, London, Michael joined Paul McCartney on stage, harmonising on The Beatles classic “Drive My Car”. In 2006, Michael embarked on his first tour in 15 years, 25 Live. The tour began in Barcelona, Spain, on 23 September and finished in December at Wembley Arena in England. According to his website, the 80-show tour was seen by 1.3 million fans. On 12 May 2007 in Coimbra, Portugal, he began the European “25 Live Stadium Tour 2007”, including London and Athens, and ending on 4 August 2007 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There were 29 tour dates across Europe. On 9 June 2007 Michael became the first artist to perform live at the newly renovated Wembley Stadium in London, where he was later fined £130,000 for over-running the programme for 13 minutes.

On 25 March 2008, a third part of the 25 Live Tour was announced for North America. This part included 21 dates in the United States and Canada. This was Michael’s first tour of North America in 17 years. Following news of Michael’s North American tour, Twenty Five was released in North America on 1 April 2008 as a 29-song, 2-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series, Eli Stone) in addition to many of Michael’s successful songs from both his solo and Wham! career.

Michael made his American acting debut by playing a guardian angel to Jonny Lee Miller’s character on Eli Stone, a US TV series. In addition to performing on the show as himself and as “visions”, each episode of the show’s first season was named after a song of his. Michael appeared on the 2008 finale show of American Idol on 21 May singing “Praying for Time”. When asked what he thought Simon Cowell would say of his performance, he replied “I think he’ll probably tell me I shouldn’t have done a George Michael song. He’s told plenty of people that in the past, so I think that’d be quite funny.” On 1 December, Michael performed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as part of the 37th National Day celebrations.

On 25 December 2008, Michael released a new track “December Song” on his website for free. It was hoped that fans who downloaded the song would donate money to charity. Though the song is not available any more on his website, it remains available on file sharing networks and a remastered version of “December Song” went on sale on 13 December. The popularity of the single was boosted by a promotional appearance that Michael made on The X Factor.

2010s

In early 2010, Michael performed his first concerts in Australia since 1988. On 20 February 2010, Michael performed his first show in Perth at the Burswood Dome to an audience of 15,000. On 2 March 2011, Michael announced the release of his cover version of New Order’s 1987 hit “True Faith” in aid of the UK charity telethon Comic Relief. Michael appeared on Comic Relief itself, featuring in the first Carpool Karaoke sketch of James Corden, with the pair singing songs while Corden drove around London. On 15 April 2011, Michael released a cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1972 song, “You and I”, as an MP3 gift to Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the occasion of their wedding on 29 April 2011. Although the MP3 was released for free download, Michael appealed to those who downloaded the track to make a contribution to “The Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund”.

The Symphonica Tour began at the Prague State Opera House on 22 August 2011. In October 2011, Michael was announced as one of the final nominees for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In November, he had to cancel the remainder of the tour as he became ill with pneumonia in Vienna, Austria, ultimately slipping into a coma.

In February 2012, two months after leaving hospital, Michael made a surprise appearance at the 2012 Brit Awards at the O2 Arena in London, where he received a standing ovation, and presented Adele the award for Best British Album. In March, Michael announced that he was healthy and that the Symphonica Tour would resume in autumn. The final concert of the tour—which was also the final concert of Michael’s life–was performed at London’s Earls Court on 17 October 2012.

Symphonica was released on 17 March 2014, and became Michael’s seventh solo No. 1 album in the UK, and ninth overall including his Wham! chart-toppers. The album was produced by Phil Ramone and Michael; the album was Ramone’s last production credit. On 2 November 2016, Michael’s management team announced that a second documentary on his life, entitled Freedom, was set to be released in March 2017. A month after, English songwriter Naughty Boy confirmed plans to collaborate with Michael, for a new song and album.Naughty Boy claimed that the song, currently untitled, is “amazing but […] bittersweet”. On 7 September 2017 (months after Michael’s death), the single “Fantasy”, featuring Nile Rodgers, was released.

Personal life

Sexuality and relationships

Michael stated that his early fantasies were about women, which “led me to believe I was on the path to heterosexuality”, but at puberty he started to fantasise about men, which he later said “had something to do with my environment”. At the age of 19, Michael told Andrew Ridgeley that he was bisexual. Michael also told one of his two sisters, but he was advised not to tell his parents about his sexuality. In a 1999 interview with The Advocate, Michael told the Editor in Chief, Judy Wieder, that it was “falling in love with a man that ended his conflict over bisexuality”. “I never had a moral problem with being gay”, Michael told her. “I thought I had fallen in love with a woman a couple of times. Then I fell in love with a man, and realised that none of those things had been love.”

In 2004, Michael said, “I used to sleep with women quite a lot in the Wham! days but never felt it could develop into a relationship because I knew that, emotionally, I was a gay man. I didn’t want to commit to them but I was attracted to them. Then I became ashamed that I might be using them. I decided I had to stop, which I did when I began to worry about AIDS, which was becoming prevalent in Britain. Although I had always had safe sex, I didn’t want to sleep with a woman without telling her I was bisexual. I felt that would be irresponsible. Basically, I didn’t want to have that uncomfortable conversation that might ruin the moment, so I stopped sleeping with them.” In the same interview, he added: “If I wasn’t with Kenny [his boyfriend at the time], I would have sex with women, no question”. He said he believed that the formation of his sexuality was “a nurture thing, via the absence of my father who was always busy working. It meant I was exceptionally close to my mother”, though he stated that “there are definitely those who have a predisposition to being gay in which the environment is irrelevant.” In 2007 Michael said he had hidden the fact he was gay because of worries over what effect it might have on his mother. Two years later, he added: “My depression at the end of Wham! was because I was beginning to realise I was gay, not bisexual.”

During the late 1980s, Michael had a relationship with make-up artist Kathy Jeung, who was regarded for a time as his artistic “muse” and who appeared in the “I Want Your Sex” video. Michael later said that she had been his “only bona fide” girlfriend, and that she knew of his bisexuality. In 2016 Jeung reacted to Michael’s death by calling him a “true friend” with whom she had spent “some of the best time of [her] life”.

In 1992, Michael established a relationship with Anselmo Feleppa, a Brazilian dress designer who he had met at the Rock in Rio concert in 1991. Six months into their relationship, Feleppa discovered that he was HIV-positive. Michael later said: “It was terrifying news. I thought I could have the disease too. I couldn’t go through it with my family because I didn’t know how to share it with them – they didn’t even know I was gay.” In 1993, Feleppa died of an AIDS-related brain haemorrhage. Michael’s single, “Jesus to a Child”, is a tribute to Feleppa (Michael consistently dedicated it to him before performing it live), as is his album Older (1996). In 2008, speaking about the loss of Feleppa, Michael said: “It was a terribly depressing time. It took about three years to grieve, then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed.”

In 1996, Michael entered into a long-term relationship with Kenny Goss, a former flight attendant, cheerleading coach, and sportswear executive from Dallas. They had a home in Dallas, a 16th-century house in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire[140] and an £8 million mansion in Highgate, North London. In late November 2005, it was reported that Michael and Goss planned to register their relationship as a civil partnership in the UK, but because of negative publicity and his upcoming tour, they postponed their plans. On 22 August 2011, the opening night of his Symphonica world tour, Michael announced that he and Goss had split two years earlier.

Michael’s homosexuality became publicly known following his April 1998 arrest for public lewdness. In 2007, Michael said “that hiding his sexuality made him feel ‘fraudulent’, and his eventual outing, when he was arrested […] in 1998, was a subconsciously deliberate act.”

In 2012, Michael entered a relationship with Fadi Fawaz, a celebrity hairstylist and freelance photographer based in London. It was Fawaz who found Michael’s body on Christmas morning 2016.

Legal troubles

On 7 April 1998, Michael was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California. Michael was arrested by undercover policeman Marcelo Rodríguez in a sting operation using so-called “pretty police”. In an MTV interview, Michael stated: “I got followed into the restroom and then this cop—I didn’t know it was a cop, obviously—he started playing this game, which I think is called, ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I’m going to nick you!’”

After pleading “no contest” to the charge, Michael was fined US$810 and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. Soon afterwards, Michael made a video for his single “Outside”, which satirised the public toilet incident and featured men dressed as policemen kissing. Rodríguez claimed that this video “mocked” him, and that Michael had slandered him in interviews. In 1999, he brought a US$10 million court case in California against the singer. The court dismissed the case, but an appellate court reinstated it on 3 December 2002.  The court then ruled that Rodríguez, as a public official, could not legally recover damages for emotional distress.

On 23 July 2006, Michael was again accused of engaging in anonymous public sex, this time at London’s Hampstead Heath. The anonymous partner was incorrectly stated to be a 58-year-old unemployed van driver.  Michael stated that he cruised for anonymous sex and that this was not an issue in his relationship with partner Kenny Goss.

In February 2006, Michael was arrested for possession of Class C drugs, an incident that he described as “my own stupid fault, as usual”. He was cautioned by the police and released. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to drug–impaired driving after obstructing the road at traffic lights in Cricklewood in northwest London, and was subsequently banned from driving for two years and sentenced to community service. On 19 September 2008, Michael was arrested in a public restroom in the Hampstead Heath area for possession of Class A and C drugs. He was taken to the police station and cautioned for controlled substance possession.

In the early hours of Sunday 4 July 2010, Michael was returning from the Gay Pride parade, when he was spotted on CCTV crashing his car into the front of a Snappy Snaps store in Hampstead, north London, and was arrested on suspicion of being unfit to drive. On 12 August, London’s Metropolitan Police said he was “charged with possession of cannabis and with driving while unfit through drink or drugs”. It was reported that Michael had also been taking the prescription medication amitriptyline. On 24 August 2010, the singer pleaded guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court in London after admitting driving under the influence of drugs. On 14 September 2010, at the same court, Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, a fine, and a five-year ban from driving. Michael was released from Highpoint Prison in Suffolk on 11 October 2010, after serving four weeks.

Health

Michael struggled with substance abuse. He was arrested for drug-related offences in 2006, 2008, and 2010. In September 2007, on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Michael said that his cannabis use was a problem; he wished he could smoke less of it and was constantly trying to do so. On 5 December 2009, in an interview with The Guardian, Michael explained he had cut back on cannabis and was smoking only ‘seven or eight’ spliffs per day instead of the 25 per day he had formerly smoked. Michael also abused sleeping pills.

On 26 October 2011, Michael cancelled a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London due to a viral infection. On 21 November, Vienna General Hospital admitted Michael after he complained of chest pains while at a hotel two hours before his performance at a venue there for his Symphonica Tour. Michael appeared to be “in good spirits” and responded well to treatment following his admittance, but on 25 November hospital officials said that his condition had “worsened overnight”. This development led to cancellations and postponements of Michael’s remaining 2011 performances, which had been scheduled mainly for the United Kingdom. The singer was later confirmed to have suffered from pneumonia and, until 1 December, was in an intensive care unit; at one point, he was comatose. On 21 December the hospital discharged him. Michael told the press that the staff at the hospital had saved his life and that he would perform a free concert for them. While making the speech, he became emotional and breathless.  During the speech, he also mentioned that he had undergone a tracheotomy. After waking from the coma, Michael had a temporary West Country accent, and there was concern he had developed foreign accent syndrome.

On 16 May 2013, Michael sustained a head injury when he fell from his moving car on the M1 motorway, near St Albans in Hertfordshire, and was airlifted to hospital.

Politics

During the time of Margaret Thatcher as the Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom throughout the 1980s, Michael voted Labour. In 2000, Michael joined Melissa Etheridge, Garth Brooks, Queen Latifah, the Pet Shop Boys, and k.d. lang, to perform in Washington, D.C. as part of Equality Rocks, a concert to benefit the Human Rights Campaign,[185] an American LGBT rights group. His 2002 single “Shoot the Dog” was critical of the friendly relationship between the UK and US governments, in particular the relationship between Tony Blair and George W. Bush, with their involvement in the Iraq War. Michael voiced his concern about the lack of public consultation in the UK regarding the War on Terror: “On an issue as enormous as the possible bombing of Iraq, how can you represent us when you haven’t asked us what we think?”

In 2006, Michael performed a free concert for NHS nurses in London to thank the nurses who had cared for his late mother. He told the audience: “Thank you for everything you do — some people appreciate it. Now if we can only get the government to do the same thing.” In 2007, Michael sent the £1,450,000 piano that John Lennon used to write “Imagine” around the United States on a “peace tour”, displaying at places where notable acts of violence had taken place, such as Dallas’ Dealey Plaza, where US President John F. Kennedy had been shot. He devoted his 2007 concert in Sofia, from his “Twenty Five Tour” to the Bulgarian nurses prosecuted in the HIV trial in Libya. On 17 June 2008, Michael said he was thrilled by California’s legalisation of same-sex marriage, calling the move “way overdue”.

Philanthropy

In November 1984, Michael joined other British and Irish pop stars of the era to form Band Aid, singing on the charity song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for famine relief in Ethiopia. This single became the UK Christmas number one in December 1984, holding Michael’s own song, “Last Christmas” by Wham!, at No. 2; Michael also donated the royalties for “Last Christmas” to Ethiopia. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” sold 3.75 million copies in the UK and became the biggest selling single in UK chart history, a title it held until 1997 when it was overtaken by Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997”, released in tribute to Princess Diana following her death (Michael attended Diana’s funeral with Elton John). Michael donated the royalties from “Last Christmas” to Band Aid and subsequently sang with Elton John at Live Aid (the Band Aid charity concert) in 1985.

In 1986, Michael took part in the Prince’s Trust charity concert held at Wembley Arena, performing “Everytime You Go Away” alongside Paul Young. In 1988, Michael participated in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium in London together with many other singers (such as Annie Lennox and Sting), performing “Sexual Healing”.

A LGBT rights campaigner and HIV/AIDS charity fundraiser, the proceeds from the 1991 single “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” were divided among 10 different charities for children, AIDS and education. He was also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.[ Michael wore a red ribbon at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in 1992.

In 2003, he paired up with Ronan Keating on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and won £32,000, after having their original £64,000 winnings halved by missing the £125,000 question. The same year, Michael joined other celebrities to support a campaign to help raise £20 million for terminally ill children run by the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity of which he was a patron. He said: “Loss is such an incredibly difficult thing. I bow down to people who actually have to deal with the loss of a child.”

Following his death, many charities revealed that Michael had privately been a supporter of them for many years. Dame Esther Rantzen, the founder and president of Childline, said he had given them “millions” over the years and said that he had given the royalties from his 1996 number one single “Jesus to a Child” to the charity. He had supported the Terrence Higgins Trust “for many years” as well as Macmillan Cancer Support. Michael also donated to individuals: he reportedly called the production team of the quiz show Deal or No Deal after a contestant had revealed that she needed £15,000 to fund IVF treatment, and anonymously paid for the treatment personally; and once tipped a student nurse working as a barmaid £5,000 ($6,121) because she was in debt. On 3 January 2017, another woman came forward and (with the permission of Michael’s family) revealed he had anonymously paid for her IVF treatment after seeing her talk about her problems conceiving on an episode of This Morning in 2010. The woman gave birth to a girl in 2012.

Assets

Between 2006 and 2008, according to reports, Michael earned £48.5 million ($97 million) from the 25 Live tour alone. In July 2014, he was reported to have been a celebrity investor in a tax avoidance scheme called Liberty. According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2015 of the wealthiest British musicians, Michael was worth £105 million.

A collector of works by the Young British Artists, including those of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, in March 2019 Michael’s art collection was auctioned in England for £11.3 million. The proceeds were donated to various philanthropical organisations Michael gave to while he was alive.

Death

In the early hours of 25 December 2016, Michael died in bed at his home in Goring-on-Thames, aged 53. He was found by his partner, Fadi Fawaz.

In March 2017, a senior coroner in Oxfordshire attributed Michael’s death to dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and a fatty liver.

Owing to the delay in determining the cause of death, Michael’s funeral was held 29 March 2017. In a private ceremony, he was buried at Highgate Cemetery in north London, near his mother’s grave. That summer an informal memorial garden was created outside his former home in Highgate. The site, in a private square that Michael had owned, is tended by fans.

Tributes

Elton John was among those who paid tribute to Michael, emotionally addressing the audience in Las Vegas on 28 December, “What a singer, what a songwriter. But more than anything as a human being he was one of the kindest, sweetest, most generous people I’ve ever met.”

At the 59th Annual Grammy Awards on 12 February 2017, Adele performed a slowed-down version of “Fastlove” in tribute to Michael. On 22 February, Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin performed “A Different Corner” at the 2017 Brit Awards.[ In June, Michael’s close friend, former Spice Girls member Geri Halliwell, released a charity single, “Angels in Chains”, a tribute to him, to raise money for Childline.

In August 2020 it was announced that a London artist named Dawn Mellor had been commissioned to create a nine metre tall mural of the singer in his native borough of Brent. The artwork, which formed part of the Brent Biennial, was commissioned to pay tribute to Michael’s outstanding contribution to the fields of music and entertainment.

Awards and achievements

Michael won numerous music awards throughout his 30-year career, including three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male twice, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards (including two in the traditionally-black Soul/R&B category ), and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations.

Lyrics


Cindy Walker

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Cindy Walker (July 20, 1918 – March 23, 2006) was an American songwriter, as well as a country music singer and dancer. As a songwriter Walker was responsible for many popular and enduring songs recorded by many different artists.

She adopted a craftsman-like approach to her songwriting, often tailoring particular songs to specific recording artists. She produced a large body of songs that have been described as “direct, honest and unpretentious”. She had Top 10 hits spread over five decades.

Walker was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997 and inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in March 2011.

Early life

Cindy Walker was born on July 20, 1918 on her grandparents’ farm near Mart, Texas (near Mexia, east of Waco), the daughter of a cotton-broker. Her maternal-grandfather F.L. Eiland was a noted composer of hymns and her mother was a fine pianist. From childhood Cindy Walker was fond of poetry and wrote habitually.

Career

Beginnings

As a teenager, inspired by newspaper accounts of the dust storms on the American prairies in the mid-1930s, Walker wrote the song, “Dusty Skies” (later recorded by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. In 1936, her “Casa de Mañana” was performed by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra (as part of the Texas Centennial celebrations). By the end of the decade Cindy Walker was singing and dancing in Texas stage shows.

Move to Los Angeles

In 1940, Walker, at the age of 22, accompanied her parents on a business trip to Los Angeles. As they were driving down Sunset Boulevard she asked her father to stop the car near the Bing Crosby Enterprises building. Walker later recalled: “I had decided that if I ever got to Hollywood, I was going to try to show Bing Crosby a song I had written for him called ‘Lone Star Trail’”. Her father said “You’re crazy, girl”, but nonetheless stopped the car.[5] Walker went inside the building to pitch her song and emerged shortly afterward to ask her mother to play the piano for her. Bing Crosby’s brother Larry Crosby had agreed to listen to the song; Walker sang “Lone Star Trail” to him, accompanied by her mother. Larry Crosby was impressed and aware that his brother was looking for a new Western song to record. The next day Cindy played guitar and sang “Lone Star Trail” for Bing Crosby at Paramount Studios (where he was making a movie). Crosby arranged for her to record a demo with Dave Kapp of Decca Records, who was also impressed and offered her a recording contract. “Lone Star Trail” was recorded and became a top-ten hit for Bing Crosby.

Performances and recordings

Walker remained in Los Angeles for 13 years. In 1940 she appeared as a singer in the Gene Autry Western Ride, Tenderfoot, Ride. The Decca recording contract led to Walker recording several songs with Texas Jim Lewis and His Lone Star Cowboys, including “Seven Beers with the Wrong Man” in 1941, which was also filmed as an early “Soundie” (a precursor of music videos).  In 1944 Walker recorded a song (not her own) which became a top ten hit, “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again”.

Focus on songwriting

Walker successfully pitched her songs to Bob Wills and began to regularly contribute compositions for recordings and the movies that Wills made in the 1940s. The collaboration was extremely fruitful: Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys eventually recorded over 50 of Cindy Walker’s songs, including “Cherokee Maiden” (1941), “Dusty Skies” (1941), “Miss Molly” (1942), “Sugar Moon” (co-written with Bob Wills; 1947) and “Bubbles in My Beer” (1948). Bob Wills and his band performed Walker’s first top-ten country hit, “You’re From Texas” (1944).

Among her other 1940s hits were “Triflin’ Gal” (top-10 records for both Al Dexter and Walter Shrum, 1945);[9]:104, 314 “Warm Red Wine” (Ernest Tubb, 1949), :355 and “Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me” (Eddy Arnold, 1950).[9]:30 Some sources have erroneously attributed Johnny Bond’s 1948 “Oklahoma Waltz” to her; probably they confused it with her own 1947 composition of that name, co-written with and recorded by Spade Cooley.

During the 1950s, Walker continued her success as a writer of popular songs. In 1952 Hank Snow had a hit with her “The Gold Rush is Over” and in 1955 Webb Pierce had success with “I Don’t Care”.

Another Walker song was “Blue Canadian Rockies” recorded by Gene Autry (which featured in Autry’s 1952 movie of the same name). The song was revived in 1968 by The Byrds on their influential country-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. In 1955 Eddy Arnold pitched Walker the theme and the song-title for “You Don’t Know Me” when they met during a WSM deejay convention in Nashville. Walker then wrote the song based on Arnold’s idea. It has been described as “a beautifully symmetrical and poignant portrait of a love not to be”.

“You Don’t Know Me” has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, most successfully by Jerry Vale (1956); Lenny Welch (1960); Ray Charles (1962); and Elvis Presley (1967). “Anna Marie”, was a hit for Jim Reeves in 1957 and the beginning of another productive artist-writer association which culminated in “This is It” (1965) and “Distant Drums” (a posthumous hit for Reeves).[1] “Distant Drums” remained at No.1 on the British charts for five weeks in 1966.

Reeves recorded many of Walker’s compositions, she often wrote specifically for him and offered him the right of first refusal of her tracks. “Distant Drums” was originally recorded by Reeves as a demo, simply because he loved the song. Chet Atkins felt the time was not right for an international release. This demo, like many for Reeves, was unearthed upon his death and along with Atkins and Mary Reeves, Walker oversaw the production of the overdub which was to be released in 1966, and became a huge international hit.

In 1961 Eddy Arnold had a minor hit with Walker’s “Jim, I Wore a Tie Today”, a moving song about the death of a cowboy. Cindy Walker wrote the song “Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream) “, which was recorded by Roy Orbison (who also recorded a version of “Distant Drums”). She originally had little confidence in “Dream Baby”, but Orbison’s recording was a hit in both the US and Britain in 1962, and was a hit again in 1971 for Glen Campbell and in 1983 for Lacy J. Dalton. In 1964 Fred Foster of Monument Records “tempted her back into the studio to record an album, Words and Music by Cindy Walker.  Walker’s song “In the Misty Moonlight” was a hit for both Jerry Wallace (1964) and Dean Martin (1967) as well as being recorded by Jim Reeves. “Heaven Says Hello” (recorded by Sonny James) and “You Are My Treasure” (Jack Greene) were hits in 1968, both written by Walker.

Honors, awards and tributes

In 1970 Walker became a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1981 Mickey Gilley’s version of “You Don’t Know Me” was a hit in the country charts. A year later Walker had her last major hit with Ricky Skaggs’ reworking of “I Don’t Care”.

It has been estimated that more than 500 of Walker’s songs have been recorded  and that her songs made the Top 40 charts (country or pop) more than 400 times. In September 1997 Walker was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (together another songwriter, Harlan Howard). During her acceptance speech, Walker recited some verse she had written for the occasion:

In the 1980s, my mother bought me a dress for a BMI affair and she said “when they put you in the Hall of Fame, that’s the dress I want you to wear.” And I said “Oh Mama, the Hall of Fame? Why that will never be.” And the years went by, but my mother’s words remained in my memory. And I know tonight she’d be happy, though she’s gone now to her rest. But I think of all that she did for me, and tonight I’m wearing this dress.

Her speech was followed by a standing ovation and Walker left the stage in tears after softly blowing a kiss. During the proceedings renowned songwriter (and fellow Hall of Fame inductee) Harlan Howard described Walker as “the greatest living songwriter of country music”.

In 1998, Walker was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2002 the Country Music Television network honored the 40 Greatest Women in Country Music. The women were selected for their contribution to the genre by a survey of hundreds of American artists and music historians and Walker was ranked No. 32.

In March 2006, Willie Nelson released You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker, an album featuring 13 of Walker’s well-known songs.

Personal life

In her personal life, Walker shunned the limelight. It was often reported that she never married, though in an interview with The New York Times shortly before her death, Walker stated she once had “a very short-lived marriage”. After her stint in Los Angeles she returned to Texas in 1954, living in Mexia in a modest three-bedroom house with her widowed mother, Oree.

Walker’s custom was rise at dawn each day to write songs. She typed her lyrics on a pink-trimmed manual typewriter and Oree Walker helped work out melodies for her daughter’s words. Each year Walker and her mother would operate from an apartment in Nashville for five months or so in order to market the songs. Oree Walker died in 1991. In a 2004 interview Walker stated: “I miss Mama every day”.

Death

Walker died at age 87 near her home — at the Parkview Regional Hospital in Mexia, Texas, on March 23, 2006. She died nine days after Willie Nelson’s tribute album was released. She had been ill for several weeks prior to her death. She was buried in the Mexia City Cemetery. Her family had a custom-designed sculpture created for her gravestone to honor the songwriter and her work. The memorial sculpture is a large pink-granite guitar (in her signature color).

 

Lyrics


Alecia Moore

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Alecia Beth Moore (born September 8, 1979), known professionally as Pink (stylized as P!nk), is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, record producer, and spokesperson. She was originally a member of the girl group Choice. In 1995, LaFace Records saw potential in P!nk and offered her a solo recording contract. Her R&B-influenced debut studio album Can’t Take Me Home (2000) was certified double-platinum in the United States and spawned two Billboard Hot 100 top-ten songs: “There You Go” and “Most Girls”. She gained further recognition with the collaborative single “Lady Marmalade” from the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack, which topped many charts worldwide. Refocusing her sound to pop rock with her second studio album Missundaztood (2001), the album sold more than 13 million copies worldwide and yielded the international number-one songs “Get the Party Started”, “Don’t Let Me Get Me”, and “Just Like a Pill”.

While Pink’s third studio album, Try This (2003), sold significantly less than her previous work, it earned her the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. She returned to the top of record charts with her fourth and fifth studio albums, I’m Not Dead (2006) and Funhouse (2008), which generated the top-ten entries “Who Knew” and “U + Ur Hand”, as well as the number-one single “So What”. Pink’s sixth studio album, The Truth About Love (2012), was her first Billboard 200 number-one album and spawned her fourth US number-one single, “Just Give Me a Reason”. In 2014, Pink recorded a collaborative album, Rose Ave., with Canadian musician Dallas Green under a folk music duo named You+Me. Her next studio albums, Beautiful Trauma (2017) and Hurts 2B Human (2019), both debuted at atop the Billboard 200 chart, with the former becoming the world’s third best-selling album of the year.

Recognized for her distinctive, raspy voice and acrobatic stage presence,[1][2] Pink has sold 90 million records worldwide as of 2020,[citation needed] making her one of the world’s best-selling music artists.[3] Her career accolades include three Grammy Awards, two Brit Awards, a Daytime Emmy Award and seven MTV Video Music Awards, including the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. In 2009, Billboard named Pink the Pop Songs Artist of the Decade. Pink was also the second most-played female solo artist in the United Kingdom during the 2000s decade, behind only Madonna. VH1 ranked her number 10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Women in Music, while Billboard awarded her the Woman of the Year award in 2013. At the 63rd annual BMI Pop Awards, she received the BMI President’s Award for “her outstanding achievement in songwriting and global impact on pop culture and the entertainment industry.”

Early life and family

Alecia Beth Moore was born on September 8, 1979,[5] in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, to emergency room nurse Judith “Judy” Moore (née Kugel)[6] and insurance salesman James “Jim” Moore.[7][8][9][10] She has described herself as an “Irish-German-Lithuanian-Jew”,[11] and self-identifies as Jewish.[12][13] Although a healthy baby at birth, she quickly developed asthma that plagued her through her early years.[14] When Pink was a toddler, her parents began having marital problems and divorced before she was 10.[15]

Pink was trained as a competitive gymnast between the ages 4 and 12.[16][17] She developed her voice early in life. She attended Central Bucks High School West.[7] In high school, Pink joined her first band, Middleground, but it disbanded upon losing a Battle of the Bands competition. As a teenager, she wrote lyrics as an outlet for her feelings, and her mother commented, “Her initial writings were always very introspective. Some of it was very black, and very deep, almost worrisome.”

Career

1995–1998: Career beginnings

Pink began performing in Philadelphia clubs when she was about 14 years old. She adopted her stagename, “Pink”, around this time. She had that nickname for quite some time by that point, and initially it had been “a mean thing”.[18] She took that name from the character “Mr. Pink” in Quentin Tarantino’s film Reservoir Dogs. At 14, she was convinced to audition to become a member of the all-female group Basic Instinct, and earned a spot in the lineup. Ultimately, the group disbanded without releasing any material.[19] At 16, Pink and two other teenage girls, Sharon Flanagan[20] and Chrissy Conway, formed the R&B group Choice. A copy of their first song, “Key to My Heart”, was sent to LaFace Records in Atlanta, Georgia, where L.A. Reid overheard it and arranged for the group to fly there so he could see them perform. After that, he signed them to a record deal. Since the three girls were under 18 at the time, their parents had to cosign the contract. The group relocated to Atlanta and recorded an album, which was never released, but “Key to My Heart” appeared on the soundtrack to the 1996 film Kazaam. During a Christmas party, Reid gave Pink an ultimatum: go solo or go home. Choice disbanded in 1998.

1999–2002: Can’t Take Me Home and Missundaztood

After Choice disbanded, Pink signed a recording contract with LaFace Records and began working on her debut solo album with producers such as Babyface, Kandi Burruss and Tricky Stewart.[22] Her debut single, “There You Go”, was released in February 2000 and became her first top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it peaked at number seven.[23] Internationally, the song also charted inside the top ten in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.[24] In April, Pink’s debut album, Can’t Take Me Home, was released to commercial success. It peaked 26 on the Billboard 200 chart, and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for two million units shipped in the United States.[25][26] It also went platinum in the United Kingdom and multi-platinum in Australia and Canada, while selling over four million copies worldwide.[27][28] Critical reception to the album was mixed.[29] The album’s second single, “Most Girls”, peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100[23] and became her first chart-topping single in Australia.[30] “You Make Me Sick” was released as the final single and reached number 33 on the Hot 100.[23]

Pink won the trophy for Female New Artist of the Year at the 2000 Billboard Music Awards.[31] She was billed as a supporting act on the North American leg of NSYNC’s No Strings Attached Tour throughout the summer of 2000.[32] In 2001, Pink, alongside singers Christina Aguilera and Mýa as well as rapper Lil’ Kim, performed a cover of “Lady Marmalade” for the soundtrack of the film Moulin Rouge!. In the US it became the most successful airplay-only single in history, as well as Pink’s first #1 single.[33] The success of the single was helped by its music video, which was popular on music channels[34] and won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year.[35] The song won Pink’s first Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals[36]

Tired of being marketed as another cookie cutter pop act, as well as eager both to be seen as a more serious songwriter and musician and to perform the type of music she wanted to, Pink took her sound in a new direction and sought more artistic or creative control during the recording of her second album, Missundaztood.[37] She recruited Linda Perry, former singer of 4 Non Blondes (one of Pink’s favorite groups in her teenage years).[38] Pink moved into Perry’s Los Angeles home where the pair spent several months writing songs for the album.[39] Perry co-wrote and co-produced the album with Dallas Austin and Scott Storch, and according to VH1’s Driven program, Antonio “LA” Reid of LaFace Records was not initially content with the new music Pink was making. The album, named Missundaztood because of Pink’s belief that people had a wrong image of her,[38] was released in November 2001.[40]

“Get the Party Started” was released as the lead single and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became a worldwide hit, reaching number one in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Romania, and Spain, as well as spending four weeks at the top of the European Hot 100 Singles chart.[41] At the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, its music video won in the categories of Best Female Video and Best Dance Video. The album’s other singles—”Don’t Let Me Get Me”, “Just Like a Pill”, and “Family Portrait”—were also radio and chart successes, with “Just Like a Pill” becoming Pink’s second number-one hit in the United Kingdom. Missundaztood remains Pink’s best-selling record with over 13 million copies sold worldwide.[42][43] According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Missundaztood was the eighth best-selling album of 2002 globally.[44] Pink won a World Music Award for Best Selling American Pop/Rock Female Artist.[45] She was also nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 45th Grammy Awards. Faith Hill’s 2002 album, Cry, features a song co-written by Pink and Perry (“If You’re Gonna Fly Away”). In 2002, Pink headlined a tour of America, Europe and Australia, the Party Tour, as well as becoming a supporting act for Lenny Kravitz’s American tour. Pink was named the Top Female Billboard 200 Artist of 2002.

2003–2007: Try This and I’m Not Dead

In mid-2003, Pink contributed the song “Feel Good Time” to the soundtrack of the film Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, in which she had a cameo appearance as a motocross race ramp owner/promoter. Featuring electronic music artist William Orbit, it became Pink’s first single to miss the top 40 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, although it was a hit in Europe and in Australia. It was later included on non-U.S. editions of Pink’s third album, Try This, which was released on November 11, 2003. Eight of the 13 tracks were co-written with Tim Armstrong of the band Rancid. Linda Perry was featured on the album as a writer and musician. Despite the album reaching the top ten on album charts in the US, in Canada, in the UK, and in Australia, sales were considerably lower than those of Missundaztood. However, it did go platinum in the US. The singles “Trouble” and “God Is a DJ” did not reach the US top 40 but did reach the top ten in other countries, and “Last to Know” was released as a single outside North America. “Trouble” earned Pink the Grammy award in Best Female Rock Vocal Performance category at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, and “Feel Good Time” was nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.[36] She toured extensively on the Try This Tour through Europe and Australia, where the album was better received.

During the same period, Pink co-wrote the song “Take A Picture” with Damon Elliott which was released on Mýa’s album Moodring. In 2005, Pink collaborated with Lisa Marie Presley on the track “Shine”, released on Presley’s second album Now What. Pink took a break to write the songs for her fourth album, I’m Not Dead, which she said she titled as such because “It’s about being alive and feisty and not sitting down and shutting up even though people would like you to.”[47] Pink worked with producers Max Martin, Billy Mann, Christopher Rojas, Butch Walker, Lukasz Gottwald, and Josh Abraham on the album. The album’s release through LaFace Records in April 2006 was a substantial success throughout the world, particularly in Australia. The album reached the top ten in the US, the top five in the UK, No. 1 in Germany, and was No. 1 in Australia for two non-consecutive weeks.

The album’s lead single, “Stupid Girls”, was Pink’s biggest US hit since 2002 and earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Its music video, in which she parodies celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Mary-Kate Olsen, and Paris Hilton,[48] won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Pop Video. Subsequent singles “Who Knew” and “U + Ur Hand” were substantial hits in Australia and Europe, and they later became top ten singles in the US. in 2007. The non-US singles were “Nobody Knows”, a minor hit in the UK, Australia and Germany; “Dear Mr. President”, an open letter to the US President George W. Bush which featured the Indigo Girls and became a No. 1 hit in Belgium as well as a top five hit in Germany, Australia, and other countries; “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)”, a UK top 40 and Australian top five entry; and “‘Cuz I Can”. The album has sold over 1.3 million copies in the US, as well as over 700,000 copies in Australia. The album proved very popular in Australia, with six top five singles and a record-breaking 62 weeks in the top 10; so far the album has gone 10 times platinum.

In support of the album, Pink embarked on the world I’m Not Dead Tour, for which ticket sales in Australia were particularly high; she sold approximately 307,000 tickets in Australia, giving her the record for the biggest concert attendance for an arena tour by a female artist.[49] One of the London shows on the tour was taped and released as a DVD, Pink: Live from Wembley Arena, where she sang Linda Perry’s “Whats Up?”. In 2006, Pink was chosen to sing the theme song for NBC Sunday Night Football, “Waiting All Day for Sunday Night”, which is a take on “I Hate Myself for Loving You” by Joan Jett.[50] She contributed a cover of Rufus’s “Tell Me Something Good” to the soundtrack of the film Happy Feet, and lent her name to PlayStation to promote the PSP, a special pink edition of which was released.[51]

Pink collaborated with several other artists in 2006 and 2007, when she opened for Justin Timberlake on the American leg of his FutureSex/LoveShow Tour. She sang on the Indigo Girls album Despite Our Differences. She was featured on India.Arie’s song “I Am Not My Hair” from the Lifetime Television film Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy. She wrote a song, “I Will”, for Natalia’s third album, Everything and More. “Outside of You”, another song she co-wrote, was recorded by dance-pop singer Hilary Duff and released on her 2007 album Dignity. Pink recorded a song with Annie Lennox and twenty-two other female acts for Lennox’s fourth solo studio album, Songs of Mass Destruction; titled “Sing”, it was written as an anthem for HIV/AIDS, according to Lennox’s website.[52] In December 2007, a special edition Pink Box, which comprises her second to fourth albums and the DVD Live in Europe, was released in Australia. It reached the top twenty on the albums chart and was certified Gold, selling over 35,000 units.

2008–2011: Funhouse and Greatest Hits… So Far!!!

On August 7, 2008, Pink’s single “So What” was leaked online, and radio stations across Australia were quick to give it massive airplay. Less than six hours after the leak, “So What” was voted No.1 on Nova 100 Melbourne and shot to No.1 on the Today Network’s national radio Hot30 Countdown.[54] On August 22, Pink announced a new track, titled “Crystal Ball”. On September 18, 2008, “So What” became her second number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.[55] Pink was the guest of honor at the 2008 ARIA Music Awards, which were held in Sydney, Australia, in October 2008. There she sang “So What”. On November 3, 2008, Funhouse debuted at No. 1 on the ARIA charts. In Australia it sold over 86,000 units in its first week, and was eventually certified eleven times platinum.

On November 23, 2008, Pink performed “Sober”, the second single from Funhouse, at the American Music Awards. The third single was “Please Don’t Leave Me”, with a video directed by Dave Meyers. In Australia, “Bad Influence” was released as the album’s fourth single[57] as a promotional single for her Funhouse Tour, and “Funhouse” was later released as the fifth single. However, “Bad Influence” was not released as a single in Europe until March 2010, which was after “Funhouse” had been released. In May 2009, Pink released a four-CD box set of her first four albums; this set peaked at No. 7 in the UK Album Chart.[58] In 2009, Pink performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.[59]

Pink’s Funhouse Tour started in France on February 24, 2009, and continued through Europe until mid-May, with supporting act Raygun. Pink then performed a series of shows in Australia, all of which sold out. Between May and August 2009, she performed for a total of more than 600,000 Australian fans at 58 shows around the country.[60]

On September 13, 2009, Pink performed “Sober” while doing a trapeze act at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, where she was nominated for Best Female Video for “So What”.[61] On January 31, 2010, Pink did another circus act in the form of aerial silks at the 2010 Grammy Awards, this time performing the song “Glitter in the Air”. She received a standing ovation. In 2013, Billboard ranked the performance as the best between 2000 and 2012.[62] Billboard recognized Pink as the Pop Songs Artist of the Decade.[63] According to the BBC countdown compiled by PPL, Pink was the second most-played female solo artist in the United Kingdom during the 2000s decade, behind Madonna.[64]

Pink was a soloist in the remake of the 1985 charity single, “We Are the World”. She collaborated on the 2010 Herbie Hancock album, The Imagine Project, in which she sang Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” with John Legend and contributed vocals to John Lennon’s “Imagine” with Seal, India.Arie, Jeff Beck, Konono Nº1, Oumou Sangaré, and others.[65] The last collaboration earned Pink a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.[36] She was featured on a track titled “Won’t Back Down” for Eminem’s 2010 album Recovery; Eminem explained that he included Pink because he “felt like she would smash this record.”[66]

On July 15, 2010, during a concert in Nurnberg, Germany, Pink was preparing to end her concert with an aerial acrobatic routine when she was pulled offstage and onto a barricade below. Her left-side flywire had been activated before the right-side one had been properly attached to her harness.[67] She was taken to a local hospital where it was determined that she had not been seriously injured.[68] Pink sold a total of 3,000,000 concert tickets on her 2009–10 worldwide tour, according to a statement on behalf of UK tour promoter Marshall Arts.[69]

In the first week of October 2010, Pink released “Raise Your Glass”, the first single from her first compilation album, Greatest Hits… So Far!!!. The song celebrates a decade since Pink’s debut in 2000 and is dedicated to her fans who have been supporting her over the years. The song reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Pink’s tenth Top 10 hit, and her third number-one on the chart.[70] She released the compilation album on November 12, 2010, and almost a month later she released the album’s second single, named “Fuckin’ Perfect”. The song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100,[71] and peaked at number one on the airplay charts in Germany.[72] On the German singles chart, the song entered at number seven in March 2011.[73]

Pink voiced the character of Gloria in Happy Feet Two, which premiered on November 18, 2011 in the United States. She also sings the movie’s theme song, “Bridge of Light”.[74]

On October 7, 2011, RCA Music Group announced that it would be disbanding Jive Records, along with Arista Records and J Records. With the shutdown, Pink and all other artists previously signed to the labels would release any future material through RCA Records.

2012–2015: The Truth About Love and You+Me

In February 2012, Pink confirmed that she was in the writing process for her next studio album, The Truth About Love. She was scheduled to perform at a fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama that June, but had to cancel her performance after she was hospitalized and underwent the removal of her gallbladder.[76] The Truth About Love was preceded with the release of its lead single, “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”, in July.[77] The single peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching number one in Australia and Hungary, and the top five in Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Released in September, The Truth About Love made its debut atop the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 281,000, making it her first number-one album in the United States.[78] It also topped the charts in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland,[79] and became the world’s sixth best-selling album of 2012 according to the IFPI. The album was certified double platinum by the RIAA for two million copies shipped and has sold over seven million copies worldwide.[80] The Truth About Love received positive response from music critics and was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.[81]

“Try” was released as the second single from The Truth About Love in October 2012 and became a worldwide top-ten hit, peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. In February 2013, Pink released the fourth single, “Just Give Me a Reason”, featuring guest vocals by Nate Ruess of fun. It became the most successful single from The Truth About Love, topping the record charts in more than 20 countries worldwide and becoming Pink’s fourth number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. According to the IFPI, the song was the fourth best-selling digital single of 2013 with 9.9 million copies sold worldwide.[82] The song won the Billboard Mid-Year Award for Favorite Hot 100 No.1 Song, and garnered two nominations for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Song of the Year at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.[83] Three further singles, “True Love”, “Walk of Shame”, and “Are We All We Are”, was released throughout 2013 to less commercial success. On February 13, 2013, Pink kicked off her sixth tour, known as The Truth About Love Tour, in Phoenix, Arizona.[84] Billboard released a statement on June 14, announcing that Pink held the No. 1 spot on their Hot Tours chart, as the American leg of her Truth About Love Tour grossed over $23.6 million.[85] She still held the title a week later, as the European leg grossed $30.7 million.[86]

In addition to her work for The Truth About Love, Pink appeared on the track “Guns and Roses” on T.I.’s album Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head.[87] The song has been certified Gold by the ARIA for sales of 35,000 digital downloads shipped in Australia.[88][89] She also wrote two songs, “I Walk Alone” and “Lie to Me”, for Cher’s new album, Closer to the Truth.[90][91][92] Pink starred as a sex addict alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo in the 2013 movie Thanks for Sharing.[93] The official trailer was released on June 27 and the movie premièred on September 20, 2013.[94] Her legal name, Alecia Moore, is used for the movie credits. Her role as Dede was heavily praised by critics. rogerebert.com commented on her performance saying “Of all the cast here, the least experienced is the pop singer Pink, yet she does the best acting in the film: natural, a little harsh, a little unstable. Pink, like Macy Gray in her Lee Daniels movie roles, knows instinctively how to behave on camera by just pretending that the camera isn’t there.”

Billboard named Pink Woman of the Year 2013.[96] In December, the magazine also named The Truth About Love Tour the 3rd best selling tour of 2013 with $147.9 million in ticket sales; falling only behind Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.[97] Also in Billboard’s end of year charts, Pink was ranked the 6th top artist of 2013 and she scored her highest charting end-of-year song and album; with Just Give Me a Reason sitting at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and The Truth About Love placing at number 8 on Billboard 200.[98][99][100] In Australia, Pink has had an album placed at number one or two in the ARIA End of Year Albums Chart for six out of the past seven years as The Truth About Love topped the chart for two years in a row.[101] She was the 9th top grossing music artist of 2013, with $20,072,072.32 earned.[102] RCA Records later announced that they have signed Pink for a multi-album deal that will last for years to come. The singer was quoted about the deal saying “I am super-duper excited to continue onwards and upwards with RCA and my team there”.[103]

It was announced in September 2014, that Pink and Dallas Green, lead singer of City and Colour, worked together on a collaborative album, under the band name You+Me. The album, titled Rose Ave., was released on October 14, 2014.[104] The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and at number one on the US Folk Albums chart.[105][106]

In August 2015, Pink recorded the theme song for the 13th season of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The song, “Today’s the Day”, was performed during the show’s premiere week in New York City on September 10, 2015.

2016–present: Beautiful Trauma, Hurts 2B Human and hiatus

It was announced in February 2016 that Pink will cover a Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, for the upcoming Netflix original series Beat Bugs.[108] In the same month, it was announced that she had recorded a cover of “White Rabbit” for the movie Alice Through the Looking Glass, while in April it was revealed that she contributed the song “Just like Fire” to the soundtrack of the movie.[109][110] In Australia, it topped the ARIA Charts.[111] The following July, it was announced that Pink had written a song for French-Canadian singer Celine Dion called “Recovering” for inclusion on her upcoming English-language album.[112] Pink provided guest vocals on country singer Kenny Chesney’s single “Setting the World on Fire” which was released on August 1, 2016. The single topped on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and went platinum in the United States and Canada.[113][114][115] On March 10, 2017, Pink teamed up with Stargate and Australian star Sia on the former’s debut single, “Waterfall”.

Pink took a break to write songs for her upcoming seventh album. In June 2017, Pink confirmed that she was making her next studio album.[116] On July 17, 2017, she announced via her official Twitter account that the video shoot for the first single will take place the following week.[117] “What About Us”, the lead single from Pink’s seventh studio album, Beautiful Trauma, was released on August 10, 2017[118] and reached number one in Australia.[111] The album was released on October 13, 2017 and became the third best-selling album of the year worldwide.[119][120] On August 27, 2017, Pink received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards. She also performed a medley of some of her hits, including her new single, “What About Us”, before accepting the award, which was presented to her by Ellen DeGeneres. “What About Us” reached number one on the Adult Pop Songs chart, earning Pink her ninth leader on the chart, breaking her out of a tie with Katy Perry for the solo female artist with the most number-ones in the chart’s history and placing her in second place amongst all acts.[121] The song received one nomination at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance. “Beautiful Trauma” was released on November 21, 2017, as the second single from Beautiful Trauma to less commercial success, reaching top thirty in Australia, the United Kingdom, France, and Scotland. While it only managed to peak at number seventy-eight on the Billboard Hot 100, it topped on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.[122] On December 5, 2017, rapper Eminem revealed that Pink would be collaborating on the song “Need Me” for his ninth studio album Revival.[123] The album received the nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album erned Pink’s 20th nomination at the Annual Grammy Awards.

Although sick with influenza, Pink sang the U.S. national anthem ahead of Super Bowl LII, a dream she had had since, as a child, seeing Whitney Houston sing at Super Bowl XXV in 1991.[124] On March 1, 2018, Pink started her seventh concert tour, the Beautiful Trauma World Tour, which was scheduled to visit North America and Oceania until September 8, 2018. She later decided to extend the tour until May 2019 including Europe.[125] On April 6, 2018, she was featured on Elton John’s Revamp & Restoration, singing the song “Bennie and the Jets”, with Elton John himself and Logic.[126]

On April 17, 2018, People teased its 2018 “Most Beautiful” cover star by calling her “a performer, mother and role model whose honesty, humour, confidence and sheer star power make her one of the most beloved and fascinating entertainers on the planet.” The next day the magazine revealed the cover, which features Pink with her two kids Willow and Jameson. The magazine issue was named the “beautiful issue.” Similar covers had featured Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston.[127][128] On October 23, 2018, Pink released her version of the song “A Million Dreams” from the upcoming “The Greatest Showman – Reimagined” album, a reworking of the soundtrack with contributions from various artists including Kelly Clarkson, Kesha, Jess Glynne and Missy Elliott. Pink’s daughter, Willow Sage Hart is also featured on the album performing the song’s reprise.[129]

On February 5, 2019, Pink received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame;[130] she further announced the release of her eighth album, Hurts 2B Human, which was released on April 26, 2019. The album’s lead single, “Walk Me Home” was released on February 20, 2019.[131][132] On the release date, Pink performed the song alongside a medley of her biggest hits at the BRIT Awards, including “Try”, “Just Give Me a Reason”, with Fun. lead singer Nate Ruess, and “What About Us”. She was also awarded with the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at the ceremony.[133][134] In December 2019, Pollstar named her Artist of the Year.[135] Pink confirmed that in 2020 she will take a break from music to focus on her family.

Artistry

Influences

Pink has named Madonna and Janis Joplin as her biggest musical influences.[137] In a 2000 interview with MTV, Pink said that during her childhood she used to think that she was Madonna’s daughter, saying: “I’ve always been the type of person that followed Madonna like a lost puppy. I didn’t speak to my mother for a year, because I was sure she adopted me.”[138] She stated, “Madonna has always been an inspiration for me… I was a fan right from the first time I heard ‘Holiday’.”[139] Pink also won her first talent show singing Madonna’s “Oh Father”.[140] Of Janis Joplin, Pink said “She was so inspiring by singing blues music when it wasn’t culturally acceptable for white women, and she wore her heart on her sleeve. She was so witty and charming and intelligent, but she also battled an ugly-duckling syndrome. I would love to play her in a movie.”[139] In a tribute performance on her Try This Tour, Pink called Joplin “a woman who inspired me when everyone else … didn’t!”[141]

As a child, she admired the leader of 4 Non Blondes, Linda Perry, whom she would later track down and form a close relationship with on her second album. She said:

“Literally this woman spoke to me. Being in pain and being on drugs and being misunderstood and, yeah she spoke my language. Without having to say anything, she could sing a note and it was what I was feeling. I used to sit at three or four o’ clock in the morning, tripping on whatever, screaming 4 Non Blondes out the window until the cops were called”.

Other influences for Pink include Joan Jett, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, and Whitney Houston.

Voice and timbre

Throughout her career, Pink has received acclaim from critics for her powerful vocal prowess.[145][146][147][148] Her voice has been described as “raspy”, “husky”, and “distinctive.”[149] James Montgomery of MTV calls her “a deceptively good singer … who can out-sing almost anyone”.[148] The Guardian describes her voice as “prodigious”.[150] Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times labeled her “a powerhouse vocalist”.[151] Pink has also been noted for her “raw”, “soulful” voice and her ability to emote. The Inquirer defined her voice as “husky” and “gutsy”, further complimenting her for developing into a “powerfully emotive vocalist”, while comparing her to Janis Joplin.[152] The Star Tribune commends her by writing, “Her slightly raspy, slightly soulful voice made you feel the dysfunction in ‘Family Portrait’, the longing of ‘Who Knew’ and the empowerment in ‘Perfect’.”[153] CNN has said that Pink is known for singing “with the right level of emotion”.[154] Fellow artist Kelly Clarkson has called Pink’s voice “the best of our generation”.[155] Troy L. Smith, writing for Cleveland.com, called Pink one of her generation’s most underrated vocals, writing that she is capable of “sing[ing] anything, from rock and pop to folk and R&B.” Smith named her 2006’s second best vocalist, runner-up to Carrie Underwood.

Public image

Aside from her music, Pink has been noted for her fashion style, such the “adventurous” hairstyles she has worn, which have included fluorescent spikes to pink-streaked dreadlocks to a pitch-black skater cut.[157] Regarding her style, she told InStyle, “I’m eclectic. I’m a tomboy, but I’m kind of a hippie and kind of a gangster […] I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but it is my thing.”[157]

Pink is an animal-rights activist and a prominent campaigner for PETA, contributing her voice toward causes such as the protest against KFC.[158] In conjunction with PETA, she criticized the Australian wool industry over its use of mulesing. In January 2007, she stated that she had been misled by PETA about mulesing and that she had not done enough research before lending her name to the campaign.[159] Her campaigning led to a headlining concert called PAW (Party for Animals Worldwide) in Cardiff, Wales on August 21, 2007.[160] In 2015, she posed nude for PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur”, campaign.[161]

Pink is also outspoken about LGBT rights and supports same-sex marriage.[162] In October 2012, Pink told The Advocate that she does not define her sexual orientation saying, “I never felt the need to.”[163]

Pink is also involved with several charities, including Human Rights Campaign, ONE Campaign, Prince’s Trust, New York Restoration Project, Run for the Cure Foundation, Save the Children, Take Back the Night, UNICEF and World Animal Protection.[164] As of May 2008, Pink has been officially recognized as an advocate for the RSPCA in Australia. On February 16, 2009, Pink announced she was donating $250,000 to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal to aid the victims of the bushfires that swept through the Australian state of Victoria earlier that month.[165] Pink stated that she wanted to make “a tangible expression of support”.[166] Pink also donated money to Autism Speaks.[167]

In August 2012, Pink became a spokesmodel for CoverGirl, featuring in a fall 2013 advertising campaign themed “beauty with an edge”.[168]

On August 21, 2018, Pink stopped her concert in Brisbane for a grieving fan. A girl named Leah lost her mother one month prior to the concert, and she and her family hung up signs all around the concert, saying “My name is Leah – I’m 14 years old. I lost my beautiful Mum last month. I would LOVE a hug… Please!”. The signs grabbed the attention of Pink.

Legacy

Pink has been credited for breaking boundaries and pushing the envelope throughout her career. She is regarded as the “most trailblazing artist” of her pop generation.[151][170] Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times says, “Pink stood up for her music, broke the music industry’s mold and scored a breakout hit, challenging a school of teen singers to find their own sounds as well.” He adds, “[Pink] also started a race among other teen pop stars like Christina Aguilera to add substance to their own sound.”[171] Ann Powers refers to her as a “powerhouse vocalist”, stating her mix of rebellion, emotional rawness, humor, and “infectious” dance beats created “a model for the mashup approach of latter-day divas such as Katy Perry, Kesha, and Rihanna.”[151] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone commented: “I think people respond to her sense of independence and dedication. It inspires people… This is a prolific pop artist who is sometimes famous and successful, sometimes obscure, who nonetheless keeps making her own kind of music.”[151]

James Montgomery of MTV describes her as “a fabulously fearless pop artist” who can “out-sing almost anyone out there. She can out-crazy Gaga or Lily. She’s the total pop-star package, everything you’d want in a singer/entertainer/icon. And still, she remains oddly off the radar. Such is the price of busting borders”.[170] Entertainment Weekly said: “She essentially invented the whole modern wave of Pop Diva Domination: You can draw a straight line from “Get This Party Started” to Katy Perry, Kesha, pre-messianic Lady Gaga, and post-weird Rihanna.”[172] Glamour Magazine wrote: “When Pennsylvania-born Alecia Moore debuted in 2000, pop was dominated by long-locked blonds like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. Pink changed the game. Without her, the last 13 years of big-voiced, tough chick music is hard to imagine.”[173][better source needed]

Following her performance at the American Music Awards of 2012, LZ Granderson of CNN wrote:

“… our culture’s biggest sin may well be the auto-tuned syrup we’ve allowed to dominate the pop charts. All-time chart records are handed to vacuous acts such as the Black Eyed Peas and singing awards are given to vocal lightweights such as Taylor Swift […] But thank God for Pink. […] While Christina Aguilera has a tendency to oversing, Britney Spears can’t sing, and Lauryn Hill sorta stopped singing, Pink has managed to carve a brilliant 13-year career by being something that is incredibly rare these days—an artist.”

British soul singer Adele considers Pink’s performance at Brixton Academy in London as one of “the most defining moments” in her life, saying “It was the Missundaztood record, so I was about 13 or 14. I had never heard, being in the room, someone sing like that live. I remember sort of feeling like I was in a wind tunnel, her voice just hitting me. It was incredible.”[175][176]

Pink’s work has inspired several other artists including Christina Aguilera[177], Demi Lovato,[178] Kelly Clarkson,[179] Taylor Swift,[180] Katy Perry,[181] Tegan and Sara,[182] Ashley Tisdale,[183] Alessia Cara,[184] Victoria Justice,[185] Adele,[186] Julia Michaels,[187] Ben Hopkins of Pwr Bttm[188] Dua Lipa,[189] Bebe Rexha,[190] Halsey,[191] Anne Marie,[192] Kehlani[193] and Daya

Personal life

Pink met professional motocross racer Carey Hart at the 2001 X Games in Philadelphia. Following a brief separation in 2003, Pink proposed to Hart in June 2005 during a Mammoth Lakes motocross race; she was “assisting” in his race and wrote “Will You Marry Me? I’m serious!” on a pit board. He initially didn’t notice and continued on for another lap. When he did notice later, he veered off the track to accept right then. She then made him finish the race.[195][196] They married in Costa Rica on January 7, 2006.[197]

After months of speculation, Pink announced in February 2008, that she and Hart had separated.[198][199] Hart subsequently appeared in the video for her 2008 song “So What”,[200] which deals with their separation.[201] The couple sought marriage counseling during their separation[202] in hopes of reconciliation.[203] In February 2010, Pink confirmed that she and Hart were back together.[204] Hart also appears with Pink in the music video for her songs “Just Give Me a Reason”, “True Love”, and “Just like Fire”.[205][206]

In November 2010, Pink announced on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she and Hart were expecting their first child.[207] In June 2011, she gave birth to their daughter, Willow Sage.[208] In December 2016, she gave birth to their second child, a son, Jameson Moon.[209][210]

Pink is a supporter of attachment parenting.[211]

In 2010, she appeared on Forbes’ “The Celebrity 100” list at number 27, with earnings of $44 million.[212] In 2011, she appeared on Forbes’ The Top-Earning Women in Music list at number 6 with earnings of $22 million, with an average of $1 million per show on the road.[213] In 2009, Billboard put her number 6 on their “Money Makers” list, listing her earnings as $36,347,658.[214] In 2013, she appeared on Forbes’ list of “Highest Paid Musicians”, with earnings of $32 million.[215] In 2018, she appeared on Forbes’ list of “Highest Paid Female Celebrities”, with earnings of $52 million.[216]

On April 4, 2020, Pink announced that she and her three-year-old son, Jameson, showed symptoms for COVID-19 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and she subsequently tested positive then fully recovered.[217] She also announced donations of $500,000 each to the Temple University Hospital Fund in Philadelphia, where her mother worked for nearly two decades, and the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund.

Lyrics


John Lennon

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

John Winston Ono Lennon[nb 1] MBE (born John Winston Lennon, 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist[2] who gained worldwide fame as the founder, co-lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of the Beatles. His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in musical history.[3] In 1969, he started the Plastic Ono Band with his second wife, Yoko Ono. After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Lennon continued a career as a solo artist and as Ono’s collaborator.

Born in Liverpool, Lennon became involved in the skiffle craze as a teenager. In 1956, he formed his first band, the Quarrymen, which evolved into the Beatles in 1960. He was initially the group’s de facto leader, a role gradually ceded to McCartney. Lennon was characterised for the rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing, drawings, on film and in interviews. In the mid-1960s, he had two books published: In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, both collections of nonsense writings and line drawings. Starting with 1967’s “All You Need Is Love”, his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement and the larger counterculture.

From 1968 to 1972, Lennon produced more than a dozen records with Ono, including a trilogy of avant-garde albums, his first solo LP John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and the international top 10 singles “Give Peace a Chance”, “Instant Karma!”, “Imagine” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. In 1969, he held the two week-long anti-war demonstration Bed-Ins for Peace. After moving to New York City in 1971, his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a three-year attempt by the Nixon administration to deport him. In 1975, Lennon disengaged from the music business to raise his infant son Sean and, in 1980, returned with the Ono collaboration Double Fantasy. He was shot and killed in the archway of his Manhattan apartment building by a Beatles fan, Mark David Chapman, three weeks after the album’s release.

As a performer, writer or co-writer, Lennon had 25 number one singles in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Double Fantasy, his best-selling album, won the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In 1982, Lennon was honoured with the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. In 2002, Lennon was voted eighth in a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer and thirty-eighth greatest artist of all time. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (in 1997) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (twice, as a member of the Beatles in 1988 and as a solo artist in 1994).

Biography

1940–1957: Early years

Lennon was born at Liverpool Maternity Hospital to Julia (née Stanley) (1914–1958) and Alfred Lennon (1912–1976). Alfred was a merchant seaman of Irish descent who was away at the time of his son’s birth.[4] His parents named him John Winston Lennon after his paternal grandfather, John “Jack” Lennon, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.[5] His father was often away from home but sent regular pay cheques to 9 Newcastle Road, Liverpool, where Lennon lived with his mother;[6] the cheques stopped when he went absent without leave in February 1944.[7][8] When he eventually came home six months later, he offered to look after the family, but Julia, by then pregnant with another man’s child, rejected the idea.[9] After her sister Mimi complained to Liverpool’s Social Services twice, Julia gave her custody of Lennon. In July 1946, Lennon’s father visited her and took his son to Blackpool, secretly intending to emigrate to New Zealand with him.[10] Julia followed them – with her partner at the time, Bobby Dykins – and after a heated argument, his father forced the five-year-old to choose between them. In one account of this incident, Lennon twice chose his father, but as his mother walked away, he began to cry and followed her.[11] According to author Mark Lewisohn, however, Lennon’s parents agreed that Julia should take him and give him a home. A witness who was there that day, Billy Hall, has said that the dramatic portrayal of a young John Lennon being forced to make a decision between his parents is inaccurate.[12] Lennon had no further contact with Alf for close to 20 years.[13]

Throughout the rest of his childhood and adolescence, Lennon lived at Mendips, 251 Menlove Avenue, Woolton, with Mimi and her husband George Toogood Smith, who had no children of their own.[14] His aunt purchased volumes of short stories for him, and his uncle, a dairyman at his family’s farm, bought him a mouth organ and engaged him in solving crossword puzzles.[15] Julia visited Mendips on a regular basis, and when John was 11 years old, he often visited her at 1 Blomfield Road, Liverpool, where she played him Elvis Presley records, taught him the banjo, and showed him how to play “Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino.[16] In September 1980, Lennon commented about his family and his rebellious nature:

 

A part of me would like to be accepted by all facets of society and not be this loudmouthed lunatic poet/musician. But I cannot be what I am not … I was the one who all the other boys’ parents – including Paul’s father – would say, “Keep away from him” … The parents instinctively recognised I was a troublemaker, meaning I did not conform and I would influence their children, which I did. I did my best to disrupt every friend’s home … Partly out of envy that I didn’t have this so-called home … but I did … There were five women that were my family. Five strong, intelligent, beautiful women, five sisters. One happened to be my mother. [She] just couldn’t deal with life. She was the youngest and she had a husband who ran away to sea and the war was on and she couldn’t cope with me, and I ended up living with her elder sister. Now those women were fantastic … And that was my first feminist education … I would infiltrate the other boys’ minds. I could say, “Parents are not gods because I don’t live with mine and, therefore, I know.”

He regularly visited his cousin, Stanley Parkes, who lived in Fleetwood and took him on trips to local cinemas.[18] During the school holidays Parkes often visited Lennon with Leila Harvey, another cousin, and the threesome often travelled to Blackpool two or three times a week to watch shows. They would visit the Blackpool Tower Circus and see artists such as Dickie Valentine, Arthur Askey, Max Bygraves and Joe Loss, with Parkes recalling that Lennon particularly liked George Formby.[19] After Parkes’s family moved to Scotland, the three cousins often spent their school holidays together there. Parkes recalled, “John, cousin Leila and I were very close. From Edinburgh we would drive up to the family croft at Durness, which was from about the time John was nine years old until he was about 16.”[20] Lennon’s uncle George died of a liver haemorrhage on 5 June 1955, aged 52.[21]

Lennon was raised as an Anglican and attended Dovedale Primary School.[22] After passing his eleven-plus exam, he attended Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool from September 1952 to 1957, and was described by Harvey at the time as a “happy-go-lucky, good-humoured, easy going, lively lad”.[23] He often drew comical cartoons that appeared in his own, self-made school magazine called the Daily Howl.[24][nb 2]

In 1956, Julia bought John his first guitar. The instrument was an inexpensive Gallotone Champion acoustic for which she lent her son five pounds and ten shillings on the condition that the guitar be delivered to her own house and not Mimi’s, knowing well that her sister was not supportive of her son’s musical aspirations.[26] Mimi was sceptical of his claim that he would be famous one day, and she hoped that he would grow bored with music, often telling him, “The guitar’s all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living out of it.”[27]

On 15 July 1958, Julia Lennon was struck and killed by a car while she was walking home after visiting the Smiths’ house.[28] His mother’s death traumatised the teenage Lennon, who, for the next two years, drank heavily and frequently got into fights, consumed by a “blind rage”.[29] Julia’s memory would later serve as a major creative inspiration for Lennon, inspiring songs such as the 1968 Beatles song “Julia”.[30]

Lennon’s senior school years were marked by a shift in his behaviour. Teachers at Quarry Bank High School described him thus: “He has too many wrong ambitions and his energy is often misplaced”, and “His work always lacks effort. He is content to “drift” instead of using his abilities.”[31] Lennon’s misbehaviour created a rift in his relationship with his aunt.

Lennon failed his O-level examinations, and was accepted into the Liverpool College of Art after his aunt and headmaster intervened.[32] At the college he began to wear Teddy Boy clothes and was threatened with expulsion for his behaviour.[33] In the description of Cynthia Powell, Lennon’s fellow student and subsequently his wife, he was “thrown out of the college before his final year”.

1956–1970: The Quarrymen to the Beatles

1956–1966: Formation, fame and touring

At the age of 15, Lennon formed a skiffle group, the Quarrymen. Named after Quarry Bank High School, the group was established by Lennon in September 1956.[35] By the summer of 1957, the Quarrymen played a “spirited set of songs” made up of half-skiffle and half-rock and roll.[36] Lennon first met Paul McCartney at the Quarrymen’s second performance, which was held in Woolton on 6 July at the St Peter’s Church garden fête. Lennon then asked McCartney to join the band.[37]

McCartney said that Aunt Mimi “was very aware that John’s friends were lower class”, and would often patronise him when he arrived to visit Lennon.[38] According to McCartney’s brother Mike, their father similarly disapproved of Lennon, declaring that Lennon would get his son “into trouble”.[39] McCartney’s father nevertheless allowed the fledgling band to rehearse in the family’s front room at 20 Forthlin Road.[40][41] During this time Lennon wrote his first song, “Hello Little Girl”, which became a UK top 10 hit for the Fourmost in 1963.[42]

McCartney recommended that his friend George Harrison become the lead guitarist.[43] Lennon thought that Harrison, then 14 years old, was too young. McCartney engineered an audition on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus, where Harrison played “Raunchy” for Lennon and was asked to join.[44] Stuart Sutcliffe, Lennon’s friend from art school, later joined as bassist.[45] Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe became “The Beatles” in early 1960. In August that year, the Beatles were engaged for a 48-night residency in Hamburg, in West Germany, and were desperately in need of a drummer. They asked Pete Best to join them.[46] Lennon’s aunt, horrified when he told her about the trip, pleaded with Lennon to continue his art studies instead.[47] After the first Hamburg residency, the band accepted another in April 1961, and a third in April 1962. As with the other band members, Lennon was introduced to Preludin while in Hamburg,[48] and regularly took the drug as a stimulant during their long, overnight performances.

Brian Epstein managed the Beatles from 1962 until his death in 1967. He had no previous experience managing artists, but he had a strong influence on the group’s dress code and attitude on stage.[50] Lennon initially resisted his attempts to encourage the band to present a professional appearance, but eventually complied, saying “I’ll wear a bloody balloon if somebody’s going to pay me.”[51] McCartney took over on bass after Sutcliffe decided to stay in Hamburg, and Best was replaced with drummer Ringo Starr; this completed the four-piece line-up that would remain until the group’s break-up in 1970. The band’s first single, “Love Me Do”, was released in October 1962 and reached No. 17 on the British charts. They recorded their debut album, Please Please Me, in under 10 hours on 11 February 1963,[52] a day when Lennon was suffering the effects of a cold,[53] which is evident in the vocal on the last song to be recorded that day, “Twist and Shout”.[54] The Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership yielded eight of its fourteen tracks. With a few exceptions, one being the album title itself, Lennon had yet to bring his love of wordplay to bear on his song lyrics, saying: “We were just writing songs … pop songs with no more thought of them than that – to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant”.[52] In a 1987 interview, McCartney said that the other Beatles idolised Lennon: “He was like our own little Elvis … We all looked up to John. He was older and he was very much the leader; he was the quickest wit and the smartest.”

The Beatles achieved mainstream success in the UK early in 1963. Lennon was on tour when his first son, Julian, was born in April. During their Royal Variety Show performance, which was attended by the Queen Mother and other British royalty, Lennon poked fun at the audience: “For our next song, I’d like to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands … and the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery.”[56] After a year of Beatlemania in the UK, the group’s historic February 1964 US debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked their breakthrough to international stardom. A two-year period of constant touring, filmmaking, and songwriting followed, during which Lennon wrote two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.[57] The Beatles received recognition from the British establishment when they were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1965 Queen’s Birthday Honours.[58]

Lennon grew concerned that fans who attended Beatles concerts were unable to hear the music above the screaming of fans, and that the band’s musicianship was beginning to suffer as a result.[59] Lennon’s “Help!” expressed his own feelings in 1965: “I meant it … It was me singing ‘help’”.[60] He had put on weight (he would later refer to this as his “Fat Elvis” period),[61] and felt he was subconsciously seeking change.[62] In March that year he and Harrison were unknowingly introduced to LSD when a dentist, hosting a dinner party attended by the two musicians and their wives, spiked the guests’ coffee with the drug.[63] When they wanted to leave, their host revealed what they had taken, and strongly advised them not to leave the house because of the likely effects. Later, in a lift at a nightclub, they all believed it was on fire; Lennon recalled: “We were all screaming … hot and hysterical.”[64] In March 1966, during an interview with Evening Standard reporter Maureen Cleave, Lennon remarked, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink … We’re more popular than Jesus now – I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”[65] The comment went virtually unnoticed in England but caused great offence in the US when quoted by a magazine there five months later. The furore that followed, which included the burning of Beatles records, Ku Klux Klan activity and threats against Lennon, contributed to the band’s decision to stop touring.

1966–1970: Studio years, break-up and solo work

After the band’s final concert on 29 August 1966, Lennon filmed the anti-war black comedy How I Won the War – his only appearance in a non-Beatles feature film – before rejoining his bandmates for an extended period of recording, beginning in November.[67] Lennon had increased his use of LSD[68] and, according to author Ian MacDonald, his continuous use of the drug in 1967 brought him “close to erasing his identity”.[69] The year 1967 saw the release of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, hailed by Time magazine for its “astonishing inventiveness”,[70] and the group’s landmark album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which revealed lyrics by Lennon that contrasted strongly with the simple love songs of the group’s early years.[71] In late June, the Beatles performed Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love” as Britain’s contribution to the Our World satellite broadcast, before an international audience estimated at up to 400 million.[72] Intentionally simplistic in its message,[73] the song formalised his pacifist stance and provided an anthem for the Summer of Love.

After the Beatles were introduced to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the group attended an August weekend of personal instruction at his Transcendental Meditation seminar in Bangor, Wales.[75] During the seminar, they were informed of Epstein’s death. “I knew we were in trouble then”, Lennon said later. “I didn’t have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music. I was scared – I thought, ‘We’ve fucking had it now.’”[76] McCartney organised the group’s first post-Epstein project,[77] the self-written, -produced and -directed television film Magical Mystery Tour, which was released in December that year. While the film itself proved to be their first critical flop, its soundtrack release, featuring Lennon’s Lewis Carroll-inspired “I Am the Walrus”, was a success.[78][79]

Led by Harrison and Lennon’s interest, the Beatles travelled to the Maharishi’s ashram in India in February 1968 for further guidance.[80] While there, they composed most of the songs for their double album The Beatles,[81] but the band members’ mixed experience with Transcendental Meditation signalled a sharp divergence in the group’s camaraderie.[82] On their return to London, they became increasingly involved in business activities with the formation of Apple Corps, a multimedia corporation composed of Apple Records and several other subsidiary companies. Lennon described the venture as an attempt to achieve “artistic freedom within a business structure”.[83] Released amid a period of civic unrest and protests, the band’s debut single for the Apple label included Lennon’s B-side “Revolution”, in which he called for a “plan” rather than committing to Maoist revolution. The song’s pacifist message led to ridicule from political radicals in the New Left press.[84] Adding to the tensions at the Beatles’ recording sessions that year, Lennon insisted on having his new girlfriend, the Japanese artist Yoko Ono, beside him, thereby contravening the band’s policy regarding wives and girlfriends in the studio. He was especially pleased with his songwriting contributions to the double album and identified it as a superior work to Sgt. Pepper.[85] At the end of 1968, Lennon participated in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, a television special that was not broadcast. Lennon performed with the Dirty Mac, a supergroup composed of Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell. The group also backed a vocal performance by Ono. A film version was released in 1996.

By late 1968, Lennon’s increased drug use and growing preoccupation with Ono, combined with the Beatles’ inability to agree on how the company should be run, left Apple in need of professional management. Lennon asked Lord Beeching to take on the role, but he declined, advising Lennon to go back to making records. Lennon was approached by Allen Klein, who had managed the Rolling Stones and other bands during the British Invasion. In early 1969, Klein was appointed as Apple’s chief executive by Lennon, Harrison and Starr,[87] but McCartney never signed the management contract.[88] Lennon and Ono were married on 20 March 1969, and soon released a series of 14 lithographs called “Bag One” depicting scenes from their honeymoon,[89] eight of which were deemed indecent and most of which were banned and confiscated.[90] Lennon’s creative focus continued to move beyond the Beatles, and between 1968 and 1969 he and Ono recorded three albums of experimental music together: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins[91] (known more for its cover than for its music), Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions and Wedding Album. In 1969, they formed the Plastic Ono Band, releasing Live Peace in Toronto 1969. Between 1969 and 1970, Lennon released the singles “Give Peace a Chance”, which was widely adopted as an anti-Vietnam War anthem,[92] “Cold Turkey”, which documented his withdrawal symptoms after he became addicted to heroin,[93] and “Instant Karma!”.

In protest at Britain’s involvement in “the Nigeria-Biafra thing”[95] (namely, the Nigerian Civil War),[96] its support of America in the Vietnam War and (perhaps jokingly) against “Cold Turkey” slipping down the charts,[97] Lennon returned his MBE medal to the Queen. This gesture had no effect on his MBE status, which could not be renounced.[98] The medal, together with Lennon’s letter, is held at the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood.[99]

Lennon left the Beatles in September 1969,[100] but agreed not to inform the media while the group renegotiated their recording contract. He was outraged that McCartney publicised his own departure on releasing his debut solo album in April 1970. Lennon’s reaction was, “Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it!”[101] He later wrote, “I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.”[102] In a December 1970 interview with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine, he revealed his bitterness towards McCartney, saying, “I was a fool not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record.”[103] Lennon also spoke of the hostility he perceived the other members had towards Ono, and of how he, Harrison and Starr “got fed up with being sidemen for Paul … After Brian Epstein died we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us when we went round in circles?”

1970–1980: Solo career

1970–1972: Initial solo success and activism

In 1970, Lennon and Ono went through primal therapy with Arthur Janov in Los Angeles, California. Designed to release emotional pain from early childhood, the therapy entailed two half-days a week with Janov for four months; he had wanted to treat the couple for longer, but they felt no need to continue and returned to London.[106] Lennon’s debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970), was received with praise by many music critics, but its highly personal lyrics and stark sound limited its commercial performance.[107] Critic Greil Marcus remarked, “John’s singing in the last verse of ‘God’ may be the finest in all of rock.”[108] The album featured the song “Mother”, in which Lennon confronted his feelings of childhood rejection,[109] and the Dylanesque “Working Class Hero”, a bitter attack against the bourgeois social system which, due to the lyric “you’re still fucking peasants”, fell foul of broadcasters.[110][111] In January 1971, Tariq Ali expressed his revolutionary political views when he interviewed Lennon, who immediately responded by writing “Power to the People”. In his lyrics to the song, Lennon reversed the non-confrontational approach he had espoused in “Revolution”, although he later disowned “Power to the People”, saying that it was borne out of guilt and a desire for approval from radicals such as Ali.[112] Lennon became involved with Ali in a protest against the prosecution of Oz magazine for alleged obscenity. Lennon denounced the proceedings as “disgusting fascism”, and he and Ono (as Elastic Oz Band) released the single “God Save Us/Do the Oz” and joined marches in support of the magazine.

Eager for a major commercial success, Lennon adopted a more accessible sound for his next album, Imagine (1971).[117] Rolling Stone reported that “it contains a substantial portion of good music” but warned of the possibility that “his posturings will soon seem not merely dull but irrelevant”.[118] The album’s title track later became an anthem for anti-war movements,[119] while the song “How Do You Sleep?” was a musical attack on McCartney in response to lyrics on Ram that Lennon felt, and McCartney later confirmed,[120] were directed at him and Ono.[121][nb 3] In “Jealous Guy”, Lennon addressed his demeaning treatment of women, acknowledging that his past behaviour was the result of long-held insecurity.[123] In gratitude for his guitar contributions to Imagine, Lennon initially agreed to perform at Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh benefit shows in New York.[124] Harrison refused to allow Ono to participate at the concerts, however, which resulted in the couple having a heated argument and Lennon pulling out of the event.

Lennon and Ono moved to New York in August 1971 and immediately embraced US radical left politics. The couple released their “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” single in December.[126] During the new year, the Nixon administration took what it called a “strategic counter-measure” against Lennon’s anti-war and anti-Nixon propaganda. The administration embarked on what would be a four-year attempt to deport him.[127][128] Lennon was embroiled in a continuing legal battle with the immigration authorities, and he was denied permanent residency in the US; the issue would not be resolved until 1976.[129]

Some Time in New York City was recorded as a collaboration with Ono and was released in 1972 with backing from the New York band Elephant’s Memory. A double LP, it contained songs about women’s rights, race relations, Britain’s role in Northern Ireland and Lennon’s difficulties in obtaining a green card.[130] The album was a commercial failure and was maligned by critics, who found its political sloganeering heavy-handed and relentless.[131] The NME’s review took the form of an open letter in which Tony Tyler derided Lennon as a “pathetic, ageing revolutionary”.[132] In the US, “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” was released as a single from the album and was televised on 11 May, on The Dick Cavett Show. Many radio stations refused to broadcast the song because of the word “nigger”.[133] Lennon and Ono gave two benefit concerts with Elephant’s Memory and guests in New York in aid of patients at the Willowbrook State School mental facility.[134] Staged at Madison Square Garden on 30 August 1972, they were his last full-length concert appearances.[135] After George McGovern lost the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon, Lennon and Ono attended a post-election wake held in the New York home of activist Jerry Rubin.[127] Lennon was depressed and got intoxicated; he left Ono embarrassed after he had sex with a female guest. Ono’s song “Death of Samantha” was inspired by the incident.[

1973–1975: “Lost weekend”

While Lennon was recording Mind Games in 1973, he and Ono decided to separate. The ensuing 18-month period apart, which he later called his “lost weekend”,[137] was spent in Los Angeles and New York City in the company of May Pang. Mind Games, credited to the “Plastic U.F.Ono Band”, was released in November 1973. Lennon also contributed “I’m the Greatest” to Starr’s album Ringo (1973), released the same month. With Harrison joining Starr and Lennon at the recording session for the song, it marked the only occasion when three former Beatles recorded together between the band’s break-up and Lennon’s death.[138][nb 4]

In early 1974, Lennon was drinking heavily and his alcohol-fuelled antics with Harry Nilsson made headlines. In March, two widely publicised incidents occurred at The Troubadour club. In the first incident, Lennon stuck an unused menstrual pad on his forehead and scuffled with a waitress. The second incident occurred two weeks later, when Lennon and Nilsson were ejected from the same club after heckling the Smothers Brothers.[140] Lennon decided to produce Nilsson’s album Pussy Cats, and Pang rented a Los Angeles beach house for all the musicians.[141] After a month of further debauchery, the recording sessions were in chaos, and Lennon returned to New York with Pang to finish work on the album. In April, Lennon had produced the Mick Jagger song “Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup)” which was, for contractual reasons, to remain unreleased for more than 30 years. Pang supplied the recording for its eventual inclusion on The Very Best of Mick Jagger (2007).[142]

Lennon had settled back in New York when he recorded the album Walls and Bridges. Released in October 1974, it included “Whatever Gets You thru the Night”, which featured Elton John on backing vocals and piano, and became Lennon’s only single as a solo artist to top the US Billboard Hot 100 chart during his lifetime.[143][nb 5] A second single from the album, “#9 Dream”, followed before the end of the year. Starr’s Goodnight Vienna (1974) again saw assistance from Lennon, who wrote the title track and played piano.[145] On 28 November, Lennon made a surprise guest appearance at Elton John’s Thanksgiving concert at Madison Square Garden, in fulfilment of his promise to join the singer in a live show if “Whatever Gets You thru the Night”, a song whose commercial potential Lennon had doubted, reached number one. Lennon performed the song along with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There”, which he introduced as “a song by an old estranged fiancé of mine called Paul”.[146]

Lennon co-wrote “Fame”, David Bowie’s first US number one, and provided guitar and backing vocals for the January 1975 recording.[147] In the same month, Elton John topped the charts with his cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, featuring Lennon on guitar and back-up vocals; Lennon is credited on the single under the moniker of “Dr. Winston O’Boogie”. He and Ono were reunited shortly afterwards. Lennon released Rock ‘n’ Roll (1975), an album of cover songs, in February. “Stand by Me”, taken from the album and a US and UK hit, became his last single for five years.[148] He made what would be his final stage appearance in the ATV special A Salute to Lew Grade, recorded on 18 April and televised in June.[149] Playing acoustic guitar and backed by an eight-piece band, Lennon performed two songs from Rock ‘n’ Roll (“Stand by Me”, which was not broadcast, and “Slippin’ and Slidin’”) followed by “Imagine”.[149] The band, known as Etc., wore masks behind their heads, a dig by Lennon, who thought Grade was two-faced.

1975–1980: Hiatus and return

Sean was Lennon’s only child with Ono. Sean was born on 9 October 1975 (Lennon’s thirty-fifth birthday), and John took on the role of househusband. Lennon began what would be a five-year hiatus from the music industry, during which time, he later said, he “baked bread” and “looked after the baby”.[151] He devoted himself to Sean, rising at 6 am daily to plan and prepare his meals and to spend time with him.[152] He wrote “Cookin’ (In the Kitchen of Love)” for Starr’s Ringo’s Rotogravure (1976), performing on the track in June in what would be his last recording session until 1980.[153] He formally announced his break from music in Tokyo in 1977, saying, “we have basically decided, without any great decision, to be with our baby as much as we can until we feel we can take time off to indulge ourselves in creating things outside of the family.”[154] During his career break he created several series of drawings, and drafted a book containing a mix of autobiographical material and what he termed “mad stuff”,[155] all of which would be published posthumously.

Lennon emerged from his five-year interruption in music recording in October 1980, when he released the single “(Just Like) Starting Over”. The following month saw the release of Double Fantasy, which contained songs written during the summer of 1980, spent in Bermuda. Lennon sailed a 43-foot sailing boat with his younger son in June 1980 journey to the British colony, where they briefly lived at Knapton Hill before local businessman Rolf Oskar Luthi vacated his Undercliff, his home at Fairylands, to enable the Lennons to take up temporary residence.[156][157][158][159]

The music reflected Lennon’s fulfilment in his new-found stable family life.[160] Sufficient additional material was recorded for a planned follow-up album Milk and Honey, which was released posthumously, in 1984.[161] Double Fantasy was jointly released by Lennon and Ono very shortly before his death; the album was not well received and drew comments such as Melody Maker’s “indulgent sterility … a godawful yawn”.

8 December 1980: Murder

At approximately 5:00 p.m. on 8 December 1980, Lennon autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for fan Mark David Chapman before leaving The Dakota with Ono for a recording session at the Record Plant.[163] After the session, Lennon and Ono returned to their Manhattan apartment in a limousine at around 10:50 p.m. EST. They exited the vehicle and walked through the archway of the building when Chapman shot Lennon twice in the back and twice in the shoulder[164] at close range. Lennon was rushed in a police cruiser to the emergency room of Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:00 p.m. (EST).

Ono issued a statement the next day, saying “There is no funeral for John”, ending it with the words, “John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him.”[166] His remains were cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Ono scattered his ashes in New York’s Central Park, where the Strawberry Fields memorial was later created.[167] Chapman avoided going to trial when he ignored his attorney’s advice and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20-years-to-life.[168][nb 6]

In the weeks following the murder, “(Just Like) Starting Over” and Double Fantasy topped the charts in the UK and the US.[170] In a further example of the public outpouring of grief, “Imagine” hit number one in the UK in January 1981 and “Happy Xmas” peaked at number two.[171] Later that year, Roxy Music’s cover version of “Jealous Guy”, recorded as a tribute to Lennon, was also a UK number-one.

Personal relationships

Cynthia Lennon

Lennon met Cynthia Powell (1939–2015) in 1957, when they were fellow students at the Liverpool College of Art.[172] Although Powell was intimidated by Lennon’s attitude and appearance, she heard that he was obsessed with the French actress Brigitte Bardot, so she dyed her hair blonde. Lennon asked her out, but when she said that she was engaged, he shouted, “I didn’t ask you to fuckin’ marry me, did I?”[173] She often accompanied him to Quarrymen gigs and travelled to Hamburg with McCartney’s girlfriend to visit him.[174] Lennon was jealous by nature and eventually grew possessive, often terrifying Powell with his anger and physical violence.[175] Lennon later said that until he met Ono, he had never questioned his chauvinistic attitude towards women. He said that the Beatles song “Getting Better” told his own story, “I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace.”[176]

Recalling his July 1962 reaction when he learned that Cynthia was pregnant, Lennon said, “There’s only one thing for it Cyn. We’ll have to get married.”[177] The couple wed on 23 August at the Mount Pleasant Register Office in Liverpool, with Brian Epstein serving as best man. His marriage began just as Beatlemania was taking off across the UK. He performed on the evening of his wedding day and would continue to do so almost daily from then on.[178] Epstein feared that fans would be alienated by the idea of a married Beatle, and he asked the Lennons to keep their marriage secret. Julian was born on 8 April 1963; Lennon was on tour at the time and did not see his infant son until three days later.[179]

Cynthia attributed the start of the marriage breakdown to Lennon’s use of LSD, and she felt that he slowly lost interest in her as a result of his use of the drug.[180] When the group travelled by train to Bangor, Wales in 1967 for the Maharishi Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation seminar, a policeman did not recognise her and stopped her from boarding. She later recalled how the incident seemed to symbolise the end of their marriage.[181] After Cynthia arrived home at Kenwood, she found Lennon with Ono and left the house to stay with friends. Alexis Mardas later claimed to have had sex with her that night, and a few weeks later he informed her that Lennon was seeking a divorce and custody of Julian on the grounds of her adultery with him. After negotiations, Lennon capitulated and agreed to let her divorce him on the same grounds. The case was settled out of court in November 1968, with Lennon giving her £100,000 ($240,000 in US dollars at the time), a small annual payment and custody of Julian.

Brian Epstein

The Beatles were performing at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in November 1961 when they were introduced to Brian Epstein after a midday concert. Epstein was homosexual, and according to biographer Philip Norman, one of Epstein’s reasons for wanting to manage the group was that he was attracted to Lennon. Almost as soon as Julian was born, Lennon went on holiday to Spain with Epstein, which led to speculation about their relationship. When he was later questioned about it, Lennon said, “Well, it was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated. But it was a pretty intense relationship. It was my first experience with a homosexual that I was conscious was homosexual. We used to sit in a café in Torremolinos looking at all the boys and I’d say, ‘Do you like that one? Do you like this one?’ I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time: I am experiencing this.”[183] Soon after their return from Spain, at McCartney’s twenty-first birthday party in June 1963, Lennon physically attacked Cavern Club master of ceremonies Bob Wooler for saying “How was your honeymoon, John?” The MC, known for his wordplay and affectionate but cutting remarks, was making a joke,[184] but ten months had passed since Lennon’s marriage, and the deferred honeymoon was still two months in the future.[185] Lennon was drunk at the time and the matter was simple: “He called me a queer so I battered his bloody ribs in.”[186]

Lennon delighted in mocking Epstein for his homosexuality and for the fact that he was Jewish.[187] When Epstein invited suggestions for the title of his autobiography, Lennon offered Queer Jew; on learning of the eventual title, A Cellarful of Noise, he parodied, “More like A Cellarful of Boys”.[188] He demanded of a visitor to Epstein’s flat, “Have you come to blackmail him? If not, you’re the only bugger in London who hasn’t.”[187] During the recording of “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”, he sang altered choruses of “Baby, you’re a rich fag Jew”.[

Julian Lennon

During his marriage to Cynthia, Lennon’s first son Julian was born at the same time that his commitments with the Beatles were intensifying at the height of Beatlemania. Lennon was touring with the Beatles when Julian was born on 8 April 1963. Julian’s birth, like his mother Cynthia’s marriage to Lennon, was kept secret because Epstein was convinced that public knowledge of such things would threaten the Beatles’ commercial success. Julian recalled that as a small child in Weybridge some four years later, “I was trundled home from school and came walking up with one of my watercolour paintings. It was just a bunch of stars and this blonde girl I knew at school. And Dad said, ‘What’s this?’ I said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.’”[191] Lennon used it as the title of a Beatles song, and though it was later reported to have been derived from the initials LSD, Lennon insisted, “It’s not an acid song.”[192] Lennon was distant from Julian, who felt closer to McCartney than to his father. During a car journey to visit Cynthia and Julian during Lennon’s divorce, McCartney composed a song, “Hey Jules”, to comfort him. It would evolve into the Beatles song “Hey Jude”. Lennon later said, “That’s his best song. It started off as a song about my son Julian … he turned it into ‘Hey Jude’. I always thought it was about me and Yoko but he said it wasn’t.”[193]

Lennon’s relationship with Julian was already strained, and after Lennon and Ono moved to New York in 1971, Julian did not see his father again until 1973.[194] With Pang’s encouragement, arrangements were made for Julian and his mother to visit Lennon in Los Angeles, where they went to Disneyland.[195] Julian started to see his father regularly, and Lennon gave him a drumming part on a Walls and Bridges track.[196] He bought Julian a Gibson Les Paul guitar and other instruments, and encouraged his interest in music by demonstrating guitar chord techniques.[196] Julian recalls that he and his father “got on a great deal better” during the time he spent in New York: “We had a lot of fun, laughed a lot and had a great time in general.”[197]

In a Playboy interview with David Sheff shortly before his death, Lennon said, “Sean is a planned child, and therein lies the difference. I don’t love Julian any less as a child. He’s still my son, whether he came from a bottle of whiskey or because they didn’t have pills in those days. He’s here, he belongs to me, and he always will.”[198] He said he was trying to reestablish a connection with the then 17-year-old, and confidently predicted, “Julian and I will have a relationship in the future.”[198] After his death it was revealed that he had left Julian very little in his will.

Yoko Ono

Lennon first met Yoko Ono on 9 November 1966 at the Indica Gallery in London, where Ono was preparing her conceptual art exhibit. They were introduced by gallery owner John Dunbar.[200] Lennon was intrigued by Ono’s “Hammer A Nail”: patrons hammered a nail into a wooden board, creating the art piece. Although the exhibition had not yet begun, Lennon wanted to hammer a nail into the clean board, but Ono stopped him. Dunbar asked her, “Don’t you know who this is? He’s a millionaire! He might buy it.” According to Lennon’s recollection in 1980, Ono had not heard of the Beatles, but she relented on condition that Lennon pay her five shillings, to which Lennon said he replied, “I’ll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in.”[201] Ono subsequently related that Lennon had taken a bite out of the apple on display in her work Apple, much to her fury.[202][nb 7]

Ono began to telephone and visit Lennon at his home. When Cynthia asked him for an explanation, Lennon explained that Ono was only trying to obtain money for her “avant-garde bullshit”.[205] While his wife was on holiday in Greece in May 1968, Lennon invited Ono to visit. They spent the night recording what would become the Two Virgins album, after which, he said, they “made love at dawn”.[206] When Lennon’s wife returned home she found Ono wearing her bathrobe and drinking tea with Lennon who simply said, “Oh, hi.”[207] Ono became pregnant in 1968 and miscarried a male child on 21 November 1968,[167] a few weeks after Lennon’s divorce from Cynthia was granted.[208]

Two years before the Beatles disbanded, Lennon and Ono began public protests against the Vietnam War. They were married in Gibraltar on 20 March 1969,[209] and spent their honeymoon at the Hilton Amsterdam, campaigning with a week-long Bed-In for Peace. They planned another Bed-In in the United States, but were denied entry,[210] so held one instead at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, where they recorded “Give Peace a Chance”.[211] They often combined advocacy with performance art, as in their “Bagism”, first introduced during a Vienna press conference. Lennon detailed this period in the Beatles song “The Ballad of John and Yoko”.[212] Lennon changed his name by deed poll on 22 April 1969, adding “Ono” as a middle name. The brief ceremony took place on the roof of the Apple Corps building, where the Beatles had performed their rooftop concert three months earlier. Although he used the name John Ono Lennon thereafter, official documents referred to him as John Winston Ono Lennon, since he was not permitted to revoke a name given at birth.[1] The couple settled at Tittenhurst Park at Sunninghill in Berkshire.[213] After Ono was injured in a car accident, Lennon arranged for a king-size bed to be brought to the recording studio as he worked on the Beatles’ last album, Abbey Road.[214]

Ono and Lennon moved to New York, to a flat on Bank Street, Greenwich Village. Looking for somewhere with better security, they relocated in 1973 to the more secure Dakota overlooking Central Park at 1 West 72nd Street.

May Pang

ABKCO Industries was formed in 1968 by Allen Klein as an umbrella company to ABKCO Records. Klein hired May Pang as a receptionist in 1969. Through involvement in a project with ABKCO, Lennon and Ono met her the following year. She became their personal assistant. In 1973, after she had been working with the couple for three years, Ono confided that she and Lennon were becoming estranged. She went on to suggest that Pang should begin a physical relationship with Lennon, telling her, “He likes you a lot.” Astounded by Ono’s proposition, Pang nevertheless agreed to become Lennon’s companion. The pair soon left for Los Angeles, beginning an 18-month period he later called his “lost weekend”.[137] In Los Angeles, Pang encouraged Lennon to develop regular contact with Julian, whom he had not seen for two years. He also rekindled friendships with Starr, McCartney, Beatles roadie Mal Evans, and Harry Nilsson. While Lennon was drinking with Nilsson, he misunderstood something that Pang had said and attempted to strangle her. Lennon relented only after he was physically restrained by Nilsson.[216]

In June, Lennon and Pang returned to Manhattan in their newly rented penthouse apartment where they prepared a spare room for Julian when he visited them.[216] Lennon, who had been inhibited by Ono in this regard, began to reestablish contact with other relatives and friends. By December, he and Pang were considering a house purchase, and he refused to accept Ono’s telephone calls. In January 1975, he agreed to meet Ono, who claimed to have found a cure for smoking. After the meeting, he failed to return home or call Pang. When Pang telephoned the next day, Ono told her that Lennon was unavailable because he was exhausted after a hypnotherapy session. Two days later, Lennon reappeared at a joint dental appointment; he was stupefied and confused to such an extent that Pang believed he had been brainwashed. Lennon told Pang that his separation from Ono was now over, although Ono would allow him to continue seeing her as his mistress.

Sean Lennon

Ono had previously suffered three miscarriages in her attempt to have a child with Lennon. When Ono and Lennon were reunited, she became pregnant again. She initially said that she wanted to have an abortion but changed her mind and agreed to allow the pregnancy to continue on the condition that Lennon adopt the role of househusband, which he agreed to do.

Following Sean’s birth, Lennon’s subsequent hiatus from the music industry would span five years. He had a photographer take pictures of Sean every day of his first year and created numerous drawings for him, which were posthumously published as Real Love: The Drawings for Sean. Lennon later proudly declared, “He didn’t come out of my belly but, by God, I made his bones, because I’ve attended to every meal, and to how he sleeps, and to the fact that he swims like a fish.”

Former Beatles

While Lennon and Starr remained consistently friendly during the years that followed the Beatles’ break-up in 1970, his relationships with McCartney and Harrison varied. He was initially close to Harrison, but the two drifted apart after Lennon moved to the US in 1971. When Harrison was in New York for his December 1974 Dark Horse tour, Lennon agreed to join him on stage but failed to appear after an argument over Lennon’s refusal to sign an agreement that would finally dissolve the Beatles’ legal partnership.[220][nb 8] Harrison later said that when he visited Lennon during his five years away from music, he sensed that Lennon was trying to communicate, but his bond with Ono prevented him.[221] Harrison offended Lennon in 1980 when he published an autobiography that made little mention of him.[222] Lennon told Playboy, “I was hurt by it. By glaring omission … my influence on his life is absolutely zilch … he remembers every two-bit sax player or guitarist he met in subsequent years. I’m not in the book.”[223]

Lennon’s most intense feelings were reserved for McCartney. In addition to attacking him with the lyrics of “How Do You Sleep?”, Lennon argued with him through the press for three years after the group split. The two later began to reestablish something of the close friendship they had once known, and in 1974, they even played music together again before eventually growing apart once more. During McCartney’s final visit in April 1976, Lennon said that they watched the episode of Saturday Night Live in which Lorne Michaels made a $3,000 offer to get the Beatles to reunite on the show.[224] According to Lennon, the pair considered going to the studio to make a joke appearance, attempting to claim their share of the money, but they were too tired.[225] Lennon summarised his feelings towards McCartney in an interview three days before his death: “Throughout my career, I’ve selected to work with … only two people: Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono … That ain’t bad picking.”[226]

Along with his estrangement from McCartney, Lennon always felt a musical competitiveness with him and kept an ear on his music. During his career break from 1975 until shortly before his death, according to Fred Seaman, Lennon and Ono’s assistant at the time, Lennon was content to sit back as long as McCartney was producing what Lennon saw as mediocre material.[227] Lennon took notice when McCartney released “Coming Up” in 1980, which was the year Lennon returned to the studio. “It’s driving me crackers!” he jokingly complained, because he could not get the tune out of his head.[227] That same year, Lennon was asked whether the group were dreaded enemies or the best of friends, and he replied that they were neither, and that he had not seen any of them in a long time. But he also said, “I still love those guys. The Beatles are over, but John, Paul, George and Ringo go on.”

Political activism

Lennon and Ono used their honeymoon as a Bed-In for Peace at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel; the March 1969 event attracted worldwide media ridicule.[229][230] During a second Bed-In three months later at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal,[231] Lennon wrote and recorded “Give Peace a Chance”. Released as a single, the song was quickly interpreted as an anti-war anthem and sung by a quarter of a million demonstrators against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC, on 15 November, the second Vietnam Moratorium Day.[92][232] In December, they paid for billboards in 10 cities around the world which declared, in the national language, “War Is Over! If You Want It”.[233]

During the year, Lennon and Ono began to support efforts by the family of James Hanratty to prove his innocence.[234] Hanratty had been hanged in 1962. According to Lennon, those who had condemned Hanratty were “the same people who are running guns to South Africa and killing blacks in the streets … The same bastards are in control, the same people are running everything, it’s the whole bullshit bourgeois scene.”[235] In London, Lennon and Ono staged a “Britain Murdered Hanratty” banner march and a “Silent Protest For James Hanratty”,[236] and produced a 40-minute documentary on the case. At an appeal hearing more than thirty years later, Hanratty’s conviction was upheld after DNA evidence was found to match.

Lennon and Ono showed their solidarity with the Clydeside UCS workers’ work-in of 1971 by sending a bouquet of red roses and a cheque for £5,000.[238] On moving to New York City in August that year, they befriended two of the Chicago Seven, Yippie peace activists Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman.[239] Another political activist, John Sinclair, poet and co-founder of the White Panther Party, was serving ten years in prison for selling two joints of marijuana after previous convictions for possession of the drug.[240] In December 1971 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, 15,000 people attended the “John Sinclair Freedom Rally”, a protest and benefit concert with contributions from Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party, and others.[241] Lennon and Ono, backed by David Peel and Jerry Rubin, performed an acoustic set of four songs from their forthcoming Some Time in New York City album including “John Sinclair”, whose lyrics called for his release. The day before the rally, the Michigan Senate passed a bill that significantly reduced the penalties for possession of marijuana and four days later Sinclair was released on an appeal bond.[242] The performance was recorded and two of the tracks later appeared on John Lennon Anthology (1998).[243]

Following the Bloody Sunday incident in Northern Ireland in 1972, in which fourteen unarmed civil rights protesters were shot dead by the British Army, Lennon said that given the choice between the army and the IRA (who were not involved in the incident) he would side with the latter. Lennon and Ono wrote two songs protesting British presence and actions in Ireland for their Some Time in New York City album: “The Luck of the Irish” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. In 2000, David Shayler, a former member of Britain’s domestic security service MI5, suggested that Lennon had given money to the IRA, though this was swiftly denied by Ono.[244] Biographer Bill Harry records that following Bloody Sunday, Lennon and Ono financially supported the production of the film The Irish Tapes, a political documentary with an Irish Republican slant.

According to FBI surveillance reports, and confirmed by Tariq Ali in 2006, Lennon was sympathetic to the International Marxist Group, a Trotskyist group formed in Britain in 1968.[247] However, the FBI considered Lennon to have limited effectiveness as a revolutionary, as he was “constantly under the influence of narcotics”.[248]

In 1973, Lennon contributed a limerick called “Why Make It Sad to Be Gay?” to Len Richmond’s The Gay Liberation Book.[249] Lennon’s last act of political activism was a statement in support of the striking minority sanitation workers in San Francisco on 5 December 1980. He and Ono planned to join the workers’ protest on 14 December.

Deportation attempt

Following the impact of “Give Peace a Chance” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” on the anti-war movement, the Nixon administration heard rumours of Lennon’s involvement in a concert to be held in San Diego at the same time as the Republican National Convention and[251] tried to have him deported. Nixon believed that Lennon’s anti-war activities could cost him his reelection;[252] Republican Senator Strom Thurmond suggested in a February 1972 memo that “deportation would be a strategic counter-measure” against Lennon.[253] The next month the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began deportation proceedings, arguing that his 1968 misdemeanour conviction for cannabis possession in London had made him ineligible for admission to the United States. Lennon spent the next three-and-a-half years in and out of deportation hearings until 8 October 1975, when a court of appeals barred the deportation attempt, stating “the courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds”.[254][130] While the legal battle continued, Lennon attended rallies and made television appearances. He and Ono co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show for a week in February 1972, introducing guests such as Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale to mid-America.[255] In 1972, Bob Dylan wrote a letter to the INS defending Lennon, stating:

 

John and Yoko add a great voice and drive to the country’s so-called art institution. They inspire and transcend and stimulate and by doing so, only help others to see pure light and in doing that, put an end to this dull taste of petty commercialism which is being passed off as Artist Art by the overpowering mass media. Hurray for John and Yoko. Let them stay and live here and breathe. The country’s got plenty of room and space. Let John and Yoko stay!

On 23 March 1973, Lennon was ordered to leave the US within 60 days.[258] Ono, meanwhile, was granted permanent residence. In response, Lennon and Ono held a press conference on 1 April 1973 at the New York City Bar Association, where they announced the formation of the state of Nutopia; a place with “no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people”.[259] Waving the white flag of Nutopia (two handkerchiefs), they asked for political asylum in the US. The press conference was filmed, and appeared in a 2006 documentary, The US vs. John Lennon.[260][nb 9] Soon after the press conference, Nixon’s involvement in a political scandal came to light, and in June the Watergate hearings began in Washington, DC. They led to the president’s resignation 14 months later.[262] In December 1974, when he and members of his tour entourage visited the White House, Harrison asked Gerald Ford, Nixon’s successor, to intercede in the matter.[263] Ford’s administration showed little interest in continuing the battle against Lennon, and the deportation order was overturned in 1975. The following year, Lennon received his “green card” certifying his permanent residency, and when Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president in January 1977, Lennon and Ono attended the Inaugural Ball.

FBI surveillance and declassified documents

After Lennon’s death, historian Jon Wiener filed a Freedom of Information Act request for FBI files that documented the Bureau’s role in the deportation attempt.[264] The FBI admitted it had 281 pages of files on Lennon, but refused to release most of them on the grounds that they contained national security information. In 1983, Wiener sued the FBI with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. It took 14 years of litigation to force the FBI to release the withheld pages.[265] The ACLU, representing Wiener, won a favourable decision in their suit against the FBI in the Ninth Circuit in 1991.[266] The Justice Department appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in April 1992, but the court declined to review the case.[267] In 1997, respecting President Bill Clinton’s newly instigated rule that documents should be withheld only if releasing them would involve “foreseeable harm”, the Justice Department settled most of the outstanding issues outside court by releasing all but 10 of the contested documents.[267]

Wiener published the results of his 14-year campaign in January 2000. Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files contained facsimiles of the documents, including “lengthy reports by confidential informants detailing the daily lives of anti-war activists, memos to the White House, transcripts of TV shows on which Lennon appeared, and a proposal that Lennon be arrested by local police on drug charges”.[268] The story is told in the documentary The US vs. John Lennon. The final 10 documents in Lennon’s FBI file, which reported on his ties with London anti-war activists in 1971 and had been withheld as containing “national security information provided by a foreign government under an explicit promise of confidentiality”, were released in December 2006. They contained no indication that the British government had regarded Lennon as a serious threat; one example of the released material was a report that two prominent British leftists had hoped Lennon would finance a left-wing bookshop and reading room.

Writing and art

Beatles biographer Bill Harry wrote that Lennon began drawing and writing creatively at an early age with the encouragement of his uncle. He collected his stories, poetry, cartoons and caricatures in a Quarry Bank High School exercise book that he called the Daily Howl. The drawings were often of crippled people, and the writings satirical, and throughout the book was an abundance of wordplay. According to classmate Bill Turner, Lennon created the Daily Howl to amuse his best friend and later Quarrymen bandmate Pete Shotton, to whom he would show his work before he let anyone else see it. Turner said that Lennon “had an obsession for Wigan Pier. It kept cropping up”, and in Lennon’s story A Carrot in a Potato Mine, “the mine was at the end of Wigan Pier.” Turner described how one of Lennon’s cartoons depicted a bus stop sign annotated with the question, “Why?” Above was a flying pancake, and below, “a blind man wearing glasses leading along a blind dog – also wearing glasses”.[270]

Lennon’s love of wordplay and nonsense with a twist found a wider audience when he was 24. Harry writes that In His Own Write (1964) was published after “Some journalist who was hanging around the Beatles came to me and I ended up showing him the stuff. They said, ‘Write a book’ and that’s how the first one came about”. Like the Daily Howl it contained a mix of formats including short stories, poetry, plays and drawings. One story, “Good Dog Nigel”, tells the tale of “a happy dog, urinating on a lamp post, barking, wagging his tail – until he suddenly hears a message that he will be killed at three o’clock”. The Times Literary Supplement considered the poems and stories “remarkable … also very funny … the nonsense runs on, words and images prompting one another in a chain of pure fantasy”. Book Week reported, “This is nonsense writing, but one has only to review the literature of nonsense to see how well Lennon has brought it off. While some of his homonyms are gratuitous word play, many others have not only double meaning but a double edge.” Lennon was not only surprised by the positive reception, but that the book was reviewed at all, and suggested that readers “took the book more seriously than I did myself. It just began as a laugh for me”.[271]

In combination with A Spaniard in the Works (1965), In His Own Write formed the basis of the stage play The John Lennon Play: In His Own Write, co-adapted by Victor Spinetti and Adrienne Kennedy. After negotiations between Lennon, Spinetti and the artistic director of the National Theatre, Sir Laurence Olivier, the play opened at The Old Vic in 1968. Lennon and Ono attended the opening night performance, their second public appearance together.[272] In 1969, Lennon wrote “Four in Hand”, a skit based on his teenage experiences of group masturbation, for Kenneth Tynan’s play Oh! Calcutta![273] After Lennon’s death, further works were published, including Skywriting by Word of Mouth (1986), Ai: Japan Through John Lennon’s Eyes: A Personal Sketchbook (1992), with Lennon’s illustrations of the definitions of Japanese words, and Real Love: The Drawings for Sean (1999). The Beatles Anthology (2000) also presented examples of his writings and drawings.

Musicianship

Instruments played

Lennon played a mouth organ during a bus journey to visit his cousin in Scotland; the music caught the driver’s ear. Impressed, the driver told Lennon of a harmonica he could have if he came to Edinburgh the following day, where one had been stored in the bus depot since a passenger had left it on a bus.[274] The professional instrument quickly replaced Lennon’s toy. He would continue to play the harmonica, often using the instrument during the Beatles’ Hamburg years, and it became a signature sound in the group’s early recordings. His mother taught him how to play the banjo, later buying him an acoustic guitar. At 16, he played rhythm guitar with the Quarrymen.[275]

As his career progressed, he played a variety of electric guitars, predominantly the Rickenbacker 325, Epiphone Casino and Gibson J-160E, and, from the start of his solo career, the Gibson Les Paul Junior.[276][277] Double Fantasy producer Jack Douglas claimed that since his Beatle days Lennon habitually tuned his D-string slightly flat, so his Aunt Mimi could tell which guitar was his on recordings.[278] Occasionally he played a six-string bass guitar, the Fender Bass VI, providing bass on some Beatles numbers (“Back in the U.S.S.R.”, “The Long and Winding Road”, “Helter Skelter”) that occupied McCartney with another instrument.[279] His other instrument of choice was the piano, on which he composed many songs, including “Imagine”, described as his best-known solo work.[280] His jamming on a piano with McCartney in 1963 led to the creation of the Beatles’ first US number one, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.[281] In 1964, he became one of the first British musicians to acquire a Mellotron keyboard, though it was not heard on a Beatles recording until “Strawberry Fields Forever” in 1967.

Vocal style

The British critic Nik Cohn observed of Lennon, “He owned one of the best pop voices ever, rasped and smashed and brooding, always fierce.” Performing “Twist and Shout,” Cohn wrote, Lennon would “rant his way into total incoherence, half rupture himself.”[283] When the Beatles recorded “Twist and Shout”, the final track during the mammoth one-day session that produced the band’s 1963 debut album, Please Please Me, Lennon’s voice, already compromised by a cold, came close to giving out. Lennon said, “I couldn’t sing the damn thing, I was just screaming.”[284] In the words of biographer Barry Miles, “Lennon simply shredded his vocal cords in the interests of rock ‘n’ roll.”[285] The Beatles’ producer, George Martin, tells how Lennon “had an inborn dislike of his own voice which I could never understand. He was always saying to me: ‘DO something with my voice! … put something on it … Make it different.’”[286] Martin obliged, often using double-tracking and other techniques.

As his Beatles era segued into his solo career, his singing voice found a widening range of expression. Biographer Chris Gregory writes of Lennon “tentatively beginning to expose his insecurities in a number of acoustic-led ‘confessional’ ballads, so beginning the process of ‘public therapy’ that will eventually culminate in the primal screams of ‘Cold Turkey’ and the cathartic John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.”[287] Music critic Robert Christgau calls this Lennon’s “greatest vocal performance … from scream to whine, is modulated electronically … echoed, filtered, and double tracked.”[288] David Stuart Ryan notes Lennon’s vocal delivery to range from “extreme vulnerability, sensitivity and even naivety” to a hard “rasping” style.[289] Wiener too describes contrasts, saying the singer’s voice can be “at first subdued; soon it almost cracks with despair”.[290] Music historian Ben Urish recalls hearing the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show performance of “This Boy” played on the radio a few days after Lennon’s murder: “As Lennon’s vocals reached their peak … it hurt too much to hear him scream with such anguish and emotion. But it was my emotions I heard in his voice. Just like I always had.”

Legacy

Music historians Schinder and Schwartz wrote of the transformation in popular music styles that took place between the 1950s and the 1960s. They said that the Beatles’ influence cannot be overstated: having “revolutionised the sound, style, and attitude of popular music and opened rock and roll’s doors to a tidal wave of British rock acts”, the group then “spent the rest of the 1960s expanding rock’s stylistic frontiers”.[292] Liam Gallagher and his group Oasis were among the many who acknowledged the band’s influence; he identified Lennon as a hero. In 1999, he named his first son Lennon Gallagher in tribute.[293] On National Poetry Day in 1999, the BBC conducted a poll to identify the UK’s favourite song lyric and announced “Imagine” as the winner.[116]

In 1997, Yoko Ono and the BMI Foundation established an annual music competition programme for songwriters of contemporary musical genres to honour John Lennon’s memory and his large creative legacy.[294] Over $400,000 have been given through BMI Foundation’s John Lennon Scholarships to talented young musicians in the United States.[294]

In a 2006 Guardian article, Jon Wiener wrote: “For young people in 1972, it was thrilling to see Lennon’s courage in standing up to [US President] Nixon. That willingness to take risks with his career, and his life, is one reason why people still admire him today.”[295] For music historians Urish and Bielen, Lennon’s most significant effort was “the self-portraits … in his songs [which] spoke to, for, and about, the human condition.”[296]

In 2013, Downtown Music Publishing signed a publishing administration agreement for the US with Lenono Music and Ono Music, home to the song catalogues of John Lennon and Yoko Ono respectively. Under the terms of the agreement, Downtown represents Lennon’s solo works, including “Imagine”, “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)”, “Power to the People”, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, “Jealous Guy”, “(Just Like) Starting Over” and others.

Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has been the subject of numerous memorials and tributes. In 2002, the airport in Lennon’s home town was renamed the Liverpool John Lennon Airport.[298] On what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday in 2010, Cynthia and Julian Lennon unveiled the John Lennon Peace Monument in Chavasse Park, Liverpool.[299] The sculpture, entitled Peace & Harmony, exhibits peace symbols and carries the inscription “Peace on Earth for the Conservation of Life · In Honour of John Lennon 1940–1980”.[300] In December 2013, the International Astronomical Union named one of the craters on Mercury after Lennon.

Accolades

The Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership is regarded as one of the most influential and successful of the 20th century. As performer, writer or co-writer, Lennon had 25 number one singles in the US Hot 100 chart.[nb 10] His album sales in the US stand at 14 million units.[307] Double Fantasy was his best-selling album,[308] at three million shipments in the US.[309] Released shortly before his death, it won the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.[310] The following year, the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music was given to Lennon.[311]

Participants in a 2002 BBC poll voted him eighth of “100 Greatest Britons”.[312] Between 2003 and 2008, Rolling Stone recognised Lennon in several reviews of artists and music, ranking him fifth of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”[313] and 38th of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”,[314] and his albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, 22nd and 76th respectively of “Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.[314][315] He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) with the other Beatles in 1965 (returned in 1969).[316][317] Lennon was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987[318] and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Lyrics


Paul McCartney

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Sir James Paul McCartney CH MBE (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter, musician, and record and film producer who gained worldwide fame as co-lead vocalist and bassist for the Beatles. His songwriting partnership with John Lennon remains the most successful in history.[4] After the group disbanded in 1970, he pursued a solo career and formed the band Wings with his first wife, Linda, and Denny Laine.

A self-taught musician, McCartney is proficient on bass, guitar, keyboards, and drums. He is known for his melodic approach to bass-playing (mainly playing with a plectrum), his versatile and wide tenor vocal range (spanning over four octaves), and his eclecticism (exploring styles ranging from pre-rock and roll pop to classical and electronica). McCartney began his career as a member of the Quarrymen in 1957, which evolved into the Beatles in 1960. Starting with the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, he gradually became the Beatles’ de facto leader, providing the creative impetus for most of their music and film projects. His Beatles songs “And I Love Her” (1964), “Yesterday” (1965), “Eleanor Rigby” (1966) and “Blackbird” (1968) rank among the most covered songs in history.[5][6]

In 1970, McCartney debuted as a solo artist with the album McCartney. Throughout the 1970s, he led Wings, one of the most successful bands of the decade, with more than a dozen international top 10 singles and albums. McCartney resumed his solo career in 1980. Since 1989, he has toured consistently as a solo artist. In 1993, he formed the music duo the Fireman with Youth of Killing Joke. Beyond music, he has taken part in projects to promote international charities related to such subjects as animal rights, seal hunting, land mines, vegetarianism, poverty, and music education.

McCartney is one of the most successful composers and performers of all time. He has written or co-written 32 songs that have reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and as of 2009, had sales of 25.5 million RIAA-certified units in the United States. His honours include two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of the Beatles in 1988 and as a solo artist in 1999), 18 Grammy Awards, an appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1965, and a knighthood in 1997 for services to music. As of 2020, he is also one of the wealthiest musicians in the world, with an estimated fortune of £800 million.

Early life

James Paul McCartney was born on 18 June 1942 at Walton Hospital in the Walton area of Liverpool, where his mother, Mary Patricia (née Mohin), had qualified to practise as a nurse. His father, James (“Jim”) McCartney, was absent from his son’s birth due to his work as a volunteer firefighter during World War II.[8] McCartney has a younger brother named Michael and a stepsister named Ruth. The children were baptised in their mother’s Catholic faith, even though their father was a former Protestant who had turned agnostic. Religion was not emphasised in the household.[9]

McCartney attended Stockton Wood Road Primary School in Speke from 1947 until 1949, when he transferred to Joseph Williams Junior School in Belle Vale because of overcrowding at Stockton.[10] In 1953, he was one of only three students out of 90 to pass the 11-Plus exam, meaning he could attend the Liverpool Institute, a grammar school rather than a secondary modern school.[11] In 1954, he met schoolmate George Harrison on the bus from his suburban home in Speke. The two quickly became friends; McCartney later admitted: “I tended to talk down to him because he was a year younger.”

Career

1957–1960: The Quarrymen

At the age of fifteen on 6 July 1957, McCartney met John Lennon and his band, the Quarrymen, at the St Peter’s Church Hall fête in Woolton.[26] The Quarrymen played a mix of rock and roll and skiffle, a type of popular music with jazz, blues and folk influences.[27] Soon afterwards, the members of the band invited McCartney to join as a rhythm guitarist, and he formed a close working relationship with Lennon. Harrison joined in 1958 as lead guitarist, followed by Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, in 1960.[28] By May 1960, the band had tried several names, including Johnny and the Moondogs, Beatals and the Silver Beetles.[29] They adopted the name the Beatles in August 1960 and recruited drummer Pete Best shortly before a five-engagement residency in Hamburg.

1960–1970: The Beatles

In 1961, Sutcliffe left the band and McCartney reluctantly became their bass player.[31] While in Hamburg, they recorded professionally for the first time and were credited as the Beat Brothers, who were the backing band for English singer Tony Sheridan on the single “My Bonnie”.[32] This resulted in attention from Brian Epstein, who was a key figure in their subsequent development and success. He became their manager in January 1962.[33] Ringo Starr replaced Best in August, and the band had their first hit, “Love Me Do”, in October, becoming popular in the UK in 1963, and in the US a year later. The fan hysteria became known as “Beatlemania”, and the press sometimes referred to McCartney as the “cute Beatle”.[34][nb 2] McCartney co-wrote (with Lennon) several of their early hits, including “I Saw Her Standing There”, “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963) and “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1964).[36]

In August 1965, the Beatles released the McCartney composition “Yesterday”, featuring a string quartet. Included on the Help! LP, the song was the group’s first recorded use of classical music elements and their first recording that involved only a single band member.[37] “Yesterday” became one of the most covered songs in popular music history.[38] Later that year, during recording sessions for the album Rubber Soul, McCartney began to supplant Lennon as the dominant musical force in the band. Musicologist Ian MacDonald wrote, “from [1965] … [McCartney] would be in the ascendant not only as a songwriter, but also as instrumentalist, arranger, producer, and de facto musical director of the Beatles.”[39] Critics described Rubber Soul as a significant advance in the refinement and profundity of the band’s music and lyrics.[40] Considered a high point in the Beatles catalogue, both Lennon and McCartney said they had written the music for the song “In My Life”.[41] McCartney said of the album, “we’d had our cute period, and now it was time to expand.”[42] Recording engineer Norman Smith stated that the Rubber Soul sessions exposed indications of increasing contention within the band: “the clash between John and Paul was becoming obvious … [and] as far as Paul was concerned, George [Harrison] could do no right—Paul was absolutely finicky.”[43]

In 1966, the Beatles released the album Revolver. Featuring sophisticated lyrics, studio experimentation, and an expanded repertoire of musical genres ranging from innovative string arrangements to psychedelic rock, the album marked an artistic leap for the Beatles.[44] The first of three consecutive McCartney A-sides, the single “Paperback Writer” preceded the LP’s release.[45] The Beatles produced a short promotional film for the song, and another for its B-side, “Rain”. The films, described by Harrison as “the forerunner of videos”, aired on The Ed Sullivan Show and Top of the Pops in June 1966.[46] Revolver also included McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby”, which featured a string octet. According to Gould, the song is “a neoclassical tour de force … a true hybrid, conforming to no recognizable style or genre of song”.[47] Except for some backing vocals, the song included only McCartney’s lead vocal and the strings arranged by producer George Martin.

The band gave their final commercial concert at the end of their 1966 US tour.[50] Later that year, McCartney completed his first musical project independently of the group—a film score for the UK production The Family Way. The score was a collaboration with Martin, who used two McCartney themes to write thirteen variations. The soundtrack failed to chart, but it won McCartney an Ivor Novello Award for Best Instrumental Theme.[51]

Upon the end of the Beatles’ performing career, McCartney sensed unease in the band and wanted them to maintain creative productivity. He pressed them to start a new project, which became Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, widely regarded as rock’s first concept album.[52] McCartney was inspired to create a new persona for the group, to serve as a vehicle for experimentation and to demonstrate to their fans that they had musically matured. He invented the fictional band of the album’s title track.[53] As McCartney explained, “We were fed up with being the Beatles. We really hated that fucking four little mop-top approach. We were not boys we were men … and [we] thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers.”[54]

Starting in November 1966, the band adopted an experimental attitude during recording sessions for the album.[55] Their recording of “A Day in the Life” required a forty-piece orchestra, which Martin and McCartney took turns conducting.[56] The sessions produced the double A-side single “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” in February 1967, and the LP followed in June.[35][nb 4] Based on an ink drawing by McCartney, the LP’s cover included a collage designed by pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, featuring the Beatles in costume as the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, standing with a host of celebrities.[58] The cover piqued a frenzy of analysis.Epstein’s death in August 1967 created a void, which left the Beatles perplexed and concerned about their future.[61] McCartney stepped in to fill that void and gradually became the de facto leader and business manager of the group that Lennon had once led.[62][dubious – discuss] In his first creative suggestion after this change of leadership, McCartney proposed that the band move forward on their plans to produce a film for television, which was to become Magical Mystery Tour. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, the project was “an administrative nightmare throughout”.[63] McCartney largely directed the film, which brought the group their first unfavourable critical response.[64] However, the film’s soundtrack was more successful. It was released in the UK as a six-track double extended play disc (EP), and as an identically titled LP in the US, filled out with five songs from the band’s recent singles.[35] The only Capitol compilation later included in the group’s official canon of studio albums, the Magical Mystery Tour LP achieved $8 million in sales within three weeks of its release, higher initial sales than any other Capitol LP up to that point.

The Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine, loosely based on the imaginary world evoked by McCartney’s 1966 composition, premiered in July 1968. Though critics admired the film for its visual style, humour and music, the soundtrack album issued six months later received a less enthusiastic response.[66] By late 1968, relations within the band were deteriorating. The tension grew during the recording of their eponymous double album, also known as the “White Album”.[67][nb 5] Matters worsened the following year during the Let It Be sessions, when a camera crew filmed McCartney lecturing the group: “We’ve been very negative since Mr. Epstein passed away … we were always fighting [his] discipline a bit, but it’s silly to fight that discipline if it’s our own”.[69]

In March 1969, McCartney married his first wife, Linda Eastman, and in August, the couple had their first child, Mary, named after his late mother.[70] Abbey Road was the band’s last recorded album, and Martin suggested “a continuously moving piece of music”, urging the group to think symphonically.[71] McCartney agreed, but Lennon did not. They eventually compromised, agreeing to McCartney’s suggestion: an LP featuring individual songs on side one, and a long medley on side two.[71] In October 1969, a rumour surfaced that McCartney had died in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike, but this was quickly refuted when a November Life magazine cover featured him and his family, accompanied by the caption “Paul is still with us”.[72]

McCartney was in the midst of business disagreements with his bandmates when he announced his departure from the group on 10 April 1970.[73] He filed a suit for the band’s formal dissolution on 31 December 1970, and in March 1971 the court appointed a receiver to oversee Apple’s finances. An English court legally dissolved the Beatles’ partnership on 9 January 1975, though sporadic lawsuits against their record company EMI, Klein, and each other persisted until 1989.

1970–1981: Wings

As the Beatles were breaking up in 1969–70, McCartney fell into a depression. His wife helped him pull out of that condition by praising his work as a songwriter and convincing him to continue writing and recording. In her honour, he wrote “Maybe I’m Amazed”, explaining that with the Beatles breaking up, “that was my feeling: Maybe I’m amazed at what’s going on … Maybe I’m a man and maybe you’re the only woman who could ever help me; Baby won’t you help me understand … Maybe I’m amazed at the way you pulled me out of time, hung me on the line, Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.” He added that “every love song I write is for Linda.”[79][80]

In 1970, McCartney continued his musical career with his first solo release, McCartney, a US number-one album. Apart from some vocal contributions from Linda, McCartney is a one-man album, with McCartney providing compositions, instrumentation and vocals.[81][nb 8] In 1971, he collaborated with Linda and drummer Denny Seiwell on a second album, Ram. A UK number one and a US top five, Ram included the co-written US number-one hit single “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”.[83] Later that year, ex-Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine joined the McCartneys and Seiwell to form the band Wings. McCartney had this to say on the group’s formation: “Wings were always a difficult idea … any group having to follow [the Beatles’] success would have a hard job … I found myself in that very position. However, it was a choice between going on or finishing, and I loved music too much to think of stopping.”[84][nb 9] In September 1971, the McCartneys’ daughter Stella was born, named in honour of Linda’s grandmothers, both of whom were named Stella.[86]

Following the addition of guitarist Henry McCullough, Wings’ first concert tour began in 1972 with a debut performance in front of an audience of seven hundred at the University of Nottingham. Ten more gigs followed as they travelled across the UK in a van during an unannounced tour of universities, during which the band stayed in modest accommodation and received pay in coinage collected from students, while avoiding Beatles songs during their performances.[87] McCartney later said, “The main thing I didn’t want was to come on stage, faced with the whole torment of five rows of press people with little pads, all looking at me and saying, ‘Oh well, he is not as good as he was.’ So we decided to go out on that university tour which made me less nervous … by the end of that tour I felt ready for something else, so we went into Europe.”[88] During the seven-week, 25-show Wings Over Europe Tour, the band played almost solely Wings and McCartney solo material: the Little Richard cover “Long Tall Sally” was the only song that had previously been recorded by the Beatles. McCartney wanted the tour to avoid large venues; most of the small halls they played had capacities of fewer than 3,000 people.[89]

In March 1973, Wings achieved their first US number-one single, “My Love”, included on their second LP, Red Rose Speedway, a US number one and UK top five.[90][nb 10] McCartney’s collaboration with Linda and former Beatles producer Martin resulted in the song “Live and Let Die”, which was the theme song for the James Bond film of the same name. Nominated for an Academy Award, the song reached number two in the US and number nine in the UK. It also earned Martin a Grammy for his orchestral arrangement.[91] Music professor and author Vincent Benitez described the track as “symphonic rock at its best”.

After the departure of McCullough and Seiwell in 1973, the McCartneys and Laine recorded Band on the Run. The album was the first of seven platinum Wings LPs.[94] It was a US and UK number one, the band’s first to top the charts in both countries and the first ever to reach Billboard magazine’s charts on three separate occasions. One of the best-selling releases of the decade, it remained on the UK charts for 124 weeks. Rolling Stone named it one of the Best Albums of the Year for 1973, and in 1975, Paul McCartney and Wings won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance for the song “Band on the Run” and Geoff Emerick won the Grammy for Best Engineered Recording for the album.[95][nb 12] In 1974, Wings achieved a second US number-one single with the title track.[97] The album also included the top-ten hits “Jet” and “Helen Wheels”, and earned the 413th spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[98][nb 13]

Wings followed Band on the Run with the chart-topping albums Venus and Mars (1975) and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976).[100][nb 14] In 1975, they began the fourteen-month Wings Over the World Tour, which included stops in the UK, Australia, Europe and the US. The tour marked the first time McCartney performed Beatles songs live with Wings, with five in the two-hour set list: “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, “Yesterday”, “Blackbird”, “Lady Madonna” and “The Long and Winding Road”.[102] Following the second European leg of the tour and extensive rehearsals in London, the group undertook an ambitious US arena tour that yielded the US number-one live triple LP Wings over America.[103]

In September 1977, the McCartneys had a third child, a son they named James. In November, the Wings song “Mull of Kintyre”, co-written with Laine, was quickly becoming one of the best-selling singles in UK chart history.[104] The most successful single of McCartney’s solo career, it achieved double the sales of the previous record holder, “She Loves You”, and went on to sell 2.5 million copies and hold the UK sales record until the 1984 charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

London Town (1978) spawned a US number-one single (“With a Little Luck”), and continued Wings’ string of commercial successes, making the top five in both the US and the UK. Critical reception was unfavourable, and McCartney expressed disappointment with the album.[107][nb 16] Back to the Egg (1979) featured McCartney’s assemblage of a rock supergroup dubbed “Rockestra” on two tracks. The band included Wings along with Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Gary Brooker, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and others. Though certified platinum, critics panned the album.[109] Wings completed their final concert tour in 1979, with twenty shows in the UK that included the live debut of the Beatles songs “Got to Get You into My Life”, “The Fool on the Hill” and “Let it Be”.[110]

In 1980, McCartney released his second solo LP, the self-produced McCartney II, which peaked at number one in the UK and number three in the US. As with his first album, he composed and performed it alone.[111] The album contained the song “Coming Up”, the live version of which, recorded in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1979 by Wings, became the group’s last number-one hit.[112] By 1981, McCartney felt he had accomplished all he could creatively with Wings and decided he needed a change. The group discontinued in April 1981 after Laine quit following disagreements over royalties and salaries.

1982–1990

In 1982, McCartney collaborated with Stevie Wonder on the Martin-produced number-one hit “Ebony and Ivory”, included on McCartney’s Tug of War LP, and with Michael Jackson on “The Girl Is Mine” from Thriller.[117][nb 19] “Ebony and Ivory” was McCartney’s record 28th single to hit number one on the Billboard 100.[119] The following year, he and Jackson worked on “Say Say Say”, McCartney’s most recent US number one as of 2014. McCartney earned his latest UK number one as of 2014 with the title track of his LP release that year, “Pipes of Peace”.[120][nb 20]

In 1984, McCartney starred in the musical Give My Regards to Broad Street, a feature film he also wrote and produced which included Starr in an acting role. It was disparaged by critics: Variety described the film as “characterless, bloodless, and pointless”;[122] while Roger Ebert awarded it a single star, writing, “you can safely skip the movie and proceed directly to the soundtrack”.[123] The album fared much better, reaching number one in the UK and producing the US top-ten hit single “No More Lonely Nights”, featuring David Gilmour on lead guitar.[124] In 1985, Warner Brothers commissioned McCartney to write a song for the comedic feature film Spies Like Us. He composed and recorded the track in four days, with Phil Ramone co-producing.[125][nb 21] McCartney participated in Live Aid, performing “Let it Be”, but technical difficulties rendered his vocals and piano barely audible for the first two verses, punctuated by squeals of feedback. Equipment technicians resolved the problems and David Bowie, Alison Moyet, Pete Townshend and Bob Geldof joined McCartney on stage, receiving an enthusiastic crowd reaction.[127]

McCartney collaborated with Eric Stewart on Press to Play (1986), with Stewart co-writing more than half the songs on the LP.[128][nb 22] In 1988, McCartney released Снова в СССР, initially available only in the Soviet Union, which contained eighteen covers; recorded over the course of two days.[130] In 1989, he joined forces with fellow Merseysiders Gerry Marsden and Holly Johnson to record an updated version of “Ferry Cross the Mersey”, for the Hillsborough disaster appeal fund.[131][nb 23] That same year, he released Flowers in the Dirt; a collaborative effort with Elvis Costello that included musical contributions from Gilmour and Nicky Hopkins.[133][nb 24] McCartney then formed a band consisting of himself and Linda, with Hamish Stuart and Robbie McIntosh on guitars, Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards and Chris Whitten on drums.[135] In September 1989, they launched the Paul McCartney World Tour, his first in over a decade. During the tour, McCartney performed for the largest paying stadium audience in history on 21 April 1990, when 184,000 people attended his concert at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[136] That year, he released the triple album Tripping the Live Fantastic, which contained selected performances from the tour.

1991–1999

McCartney ventured into orchestral music in 1991 when the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society commissioned a musical piece by him to celebrate its sesquicentennial. He collaborated with composer Carl Davis, producing Liverpool Oratorio. The performance featured opera singers Kiri Te Kanawa, Sally Burgess, Jerry Hadley and Willard White with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the choir of Liverpool Cathedral.[140] Reviews were negative. The Guardian was especially critical, describing the music as “afraid of anything approaching a fast tempo”, and adding that the piece has “little awareness of the need for recurrent ideas that will bind the work into a whole”.[141] The paper published a letter McCartney submitted in response in which he noted several of the work’s faster tempos and added, “happily, history shows that many good pieces of music were not liked by the critics of the time so I am content to … let people judge for themselves the merits of the work.”[141] The New York Times was slightly more generous, stating, “There are moments of beauty and pleasure in this dramatic miscellany … the music’s innocent sincerity makes it difficult to be put off by its ambitions”.[142] Performed around the world after its London premiere, the Liverpool Oratorio reached number one on the UK classical chart, Music Week.[143]

In 1991, McCartney performed a selection of acoustic-only songs on MTV Unplugged and released a live album of the performance titled Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).[144][nb 27] During the 1990s, McCartney collaborated twice with Youth of Killing Joke as the musical duo “the Fireman”. The two released their first electronica album together, Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest, in 1993.[146] McCartney released the rock album Off the Ground in 1993.[147][nb 28] The subsequent New World Tour followed, which led to the release of the Paul Is Live album later that year.[149][nb 29][nb 30]

Starting in 1994, McCartney took a four-year break from his solo career to work on Apple’s Beatles Anthology project with Harrison, Starr and Martin. He recorded a radio series called Oobu Joobu in 1995 for the American network Westwood One, which he described as “widescreen radio”.[153] Also in 1995, Prince Charles presented him with an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Music—”kind of amazing for somebody who doesn’t read a note of music”, commented McCartney.[154]

In 1997, McCartney released the rock album Flaming Pie. Starr appeared on drums and backing vocals in “Beautiful Night”.[155][nb 31] Later that year, he released the classical work Standing Stone, which topped the UK and US classical charts.[157] In 1998, he released Rushes, the second electronica album by the Fireman.[158] In 1999, McCartney released Run Devil Run.[159][nb 32] Recorded in one week, and featuring Ian Paice and David Gilmour, it was primarily an album of covers with three McCartney originals. He had been planning such an album for years, having been previously encouraged to do so by Linda, who had died of cancer in April 1998.[160]

McCartney did an unannounced performance at the benefit tribute, “Concert for Linda,” his wife of 29 years who died a year earlier. It was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 10 April 1999, and was organised by two of her close friends, Chrissie Hynde and Carla Lane. Also during 1999, he continued his experimentation with orchestral music on Working Classical.

2000–2009

In 2000, he released the electronica album Liverpool Sound Collage with Super Furry Animals and Youth, using the sound collage and musique concrète techniques that had fascinated him in the mid-1960s.[162] He contributed the song “Nova” to a tribute album of classical, choral music called A Garland for Linda (2000), dedicated to his late wife.[163]

Having witnessed the 11 September 2001 attacks from the JFK airport tarmac, McCartney was inspired to take a leading role in organising the Concert for New York City. His studio album release in November that year, Driving Rain, included the song “Freedom”, written in response to the attacks.[164][nb 33] The following year, McCartney went out on tour with a band that included guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, accompanied by Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards and Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums.[166] They began the Driving World Tour in April 2002, which included stops in the US, Mexico and Japan. The tour resulted in the double live album Back in the US, released internationally in 2003 as Back in the World.[167][nb 34][nb 35] The tour earned a reported $126.2 million, an average of over $2 million per night, and Billboard named it the top tour of the year.[169] The group continues to play together; McCartney has played live with Brian Ray, Rusty Anderson, Abe Laboriel Jr. and Wix Wickens longer than he played live with the Beatles.[170]

In July 2002, McCartney married Heather Mills. In November, on the first anniversary of George Harrison’s death, McCartney performed at the Concert for George.[171] He participated in the National Football League’s Super Bowl, performing “Freedom” during the pre-game show for Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 and headlining the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.[172] The English College of Arms honoured McCartney in 2002 by granting him a coat of arms. His crest, featuring a Liver bird holding an acoustic guitar in its claw, reflects his background in Liverpool and his musical career. The shield includes four curved emblems which resemble beetles’ backs. The arms’ motto is Ecce Cor Meum, Latin for “Behold My Heart”.[173] In 2003, the McCartneys had a child, Beatrice Milly.

In July 2005, he performed at the Live 8 event in Hyde Park, London, opening the show with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (with U2) and closing it with “Drive My Car” (with George Michael), “Helter Skelter”, and “The Long and Winding Road”.[175][nb 36] In September, he released the rock album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, for which he provided most of the instrumentation.[177][nb 37][nb 38] In 2006, McCartney released the classical work Ecce Cor Meum.[180][nb 39] The rock album Memory Almost Full followed in 2007.[181][nb 40] In 2008, he released his third Fireman album, Electric Arguments.[183][nb 41] Also in 2008, he performed at a concert in Liverpool to celebrate the city’s year as European Capital of Culture. In 2009, after a four-year break, he returned to touring and has since performed over 80 shows.[185] More than forty-five years after the Beatles first appeared on American television during The Ed Sullivan Show, he returned to the same New York theatre to perform on Late Show with David Letterman.[186] On 9 September 2009, EMI reissued the Beatles catalogue following a four-year digital remastering effort, releasing a music video game called The Beatles: Rock Band the same day.[187]

McCartney’s enduring fame has made him a popular choice to open new venues. In 2009, he played to three sold-out concerts at the newly built Citi Field, a venue constructed to replace Shea Stadium in Queens, New York. These performances yielded the double live album Good Evening New York City later that year.

2010–present

In 2010, McCartney opened the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; it was his first concert in Pittsburgh since 1990 due to the old Civic Arena being deemed unsuitable for McCartney’s logistical needs.[189][nb 42] In July 2011, McCartney performed at two sold-out concerts at the new Yankee Stadium. A New York Times review of the first concert reported that McCartney was “not saying goodbye but touring stadiums and playing marathon concerts”.[191] McCartney was commissioned by the New York City Ballet, and in September 2011, he released his first score for dance, a collaboration with Peter Martins called Ocean’s Kingdom.[192] Also in 2011, McCartney married Nancy Shevell.[193] He released Kisses on the Bottom, a collection of standards, in February 2012, the same month that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honoured him as the MusiCares Person of the Year, two days prior to his performance at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards.[194]

McCartney remains one of the world’s top draws. He played to over 100,000 people during two performances in Mexico City in May, with the shows grossing nearly $6 million.[195][nb 43] In June 2012, McCartney closed Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Concert held outside Buckingham Palace, performing a set that included “Let It Be” and “Live and Let Die”.[197] He closed the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on 27 July, singing “The End” and “Hey Jude” and inviting the audience to join in on the coda.[198] Having donated his time, he received £1 from the Olympic organisers.[199]

On 12 December 2012, McCartney performed with three former members of Nirvana (Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Pat Smear) during the closing act of 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief, seen by approximately two billion people worldwide.[200] On 28 August 2013, McCartney released the title track of his upcoming studio album New, which came out in October 2013.[201] A primetime entertainment special was taped on 27 January 2014 at the Ed Sullivan Theater with a 9 February 2014 CBS airing. The show featured McCartney and Ringo Starr, and celebrated the legacy of the Beatles and their groundbreaking 1964 performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The show, titled The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles, featured 22 classic Beatles songs as performed by various artists, including McCartney and Starr.[202]

On 19 May 2014, it was reported that McCartney was bedridden on doctor’s orders due to an unspecified virus, which forced him to cancel a sold-out concert tour of Japan that was scheduled to begin later in the week. The tour would have included a stop at the famed Budokan Hall. McCartney also had to move his June US dates to October, as part of his doctor’s order to rest to make a full recovery.[203] However, he resumed the tour with a high-energy three hour appearance in Albany, New York on 5 July 2014.[204] On 14 August 2014, McCartney performed in the final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California before its demolition. It was the same venue that the Beatles played their final concert in 1966.[205] In 2014, McCartney wrote and performed “Hope for the Future,” the ending song for the video game Destiny.[206][207] In November 2014, a 42-song tribute album titled The Art of McCartney was released, which features a wide range of artists covering McCartney’s solo and Beatles work.[208] Also that year, McCartney collaborated with American recording artist Kanye West on the single “Only One”, released on 31 December.[209] In January 2015, McCartney collaborated with West and Barbadian singer Rihanna on the single “FourFiveSeconds”.[210] They released a music video for the song in January[211] and performed it live at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards on 8 February 2015.[212] McCartney is a featured guest on West’s 2015 single “All Day”, which also features Theophilus London and Allan Kingdom.

In February 2015, McCartney appeared and performed with Paul Simon for the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special. McCartney and Simon performed the first verse of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” on acoustic guitars, and McCartney later performed “Maybe I’m Amazed”.[214] McCartney shared lead vocals on the Alice Cooper-led Hollywood Vampires supergroup’s cover of his song “Come and Get It”, which appears on their debut album, released on 11 September 2015.[215] On 10 June 2016, McCartney released the career-spanning collection Pure McCartney.[216] The set includes songs from throughout McCartney’s solo career and his work with Wings and the Fireman, and is available in three different formats (2-CD, 4-CD, 4-LP and Digital). The 4-CD version includes 67 tracks, the majority of which were top 40 hits.[217][218] McCartney appeared in the adventure film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which was released in 2017.[219]

In January 2017, McCartney filed a suit in United States district court against Sony/ATV Music Publishing seeking to reclaim ownership of his share of the Lennon–McCartney song catalogue beginning in 2018. Under US copyright law, for works published before 1978 the author can reclaim copyrights assigned to a publisher after 56 years.[220][221] McCartney and Sony agreed to a confidential settlement in June 2017.[222][223] On 20 June 2018, McCartney released two songs, “I Don’t Know” and “Come On to Me”, from his album Egypt Station, which was released on 7 September through Capitol Records.[224] Egypt Station became McCartney’s first album in 36 years to top the Billboard 200, and his first to debut at number one.[225]

In October 2020, McCartney announced his new album McCartney III, which is set to be released on 11 December via Capitol Records.

Musicianship

McCartney was largely a self-taught musician, and his approach was described by musicologist Ian MacDonald as “by nature drawn to music’s formal aspects yet wholly untutored … [he] produced technically ‘finished’ work almost entirely by instinct, his harmonic judgement based mainly on perfect pitch and an acute pair of ears … [A] natural melodist—a creator of tunes capable of existing apart from their harmony”. McCartney commented, “I prefer to think of my approach to music as … rather like the primitive cave artists, who drew without training.”

Early influences

McCartney’s earliest musical influences include Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, and Chuck Berry.[230] When asked why the Beatles did not include Presley on the Sgt. Pepper cover, McCartney replied, “Elvis was too important and too far above the rest even to mention … so we didn’t put him on the list because he was more than merely a … pop singer, he was Elvis the King.”[231] McCartney stated that for his bassline for “I Saw Her Standing There”, he directly quoted Berry’s “I’m Talking About You”.[232]

McCartney called Little Richard an idol, whose falsetto vocalisations inspired McCartney’s own vocal technique.[233] McCartney said he wrote “I’m Down” as a vehicle for his Little Richard impersonation.[234] In 1971, McCartney bought the publishing rights to Holly’s catalogue, and in 1976, on the fortieth anniversary of Holly’s birth, McCartney inaugurated the annual “Buddy Holly Week” in England. The festival has included guest performances by famous musicians, songwriting competitions, drawing contests and special events featuring performances by the Crickets.

Bass guitar

Best known for primarily using a plectrum or pick, McCartney occasionally plays fingerstyle.[236] He does not use slapping techniques.[237] He was strongly influenced by Motown artists, in particular James Jamerson, whom McCartney called a hero for his melodic style. He was also influenced by Brian Wilson, as he commented: “because he went to very unusual places”.[238] Another favourite bassist of his is Stanley Clarke.[239] McCartney’s skill as a bass player has been acknowledged by bassists including Sting, Dr. Dre bassist Mike Elizondo, and Colin Moulding of XTC.

During McCartney’s early years with the Beatles, he primarily used a Höfner 500/1 bass, although from 1965, he favoured his Rickenbacker 4001S for recording. While typically using Vox amplifiers, by 1967, he had also begun using a Fender Bassman for amplification.[242] During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he used a Wal 5-String, which he said made him play more thick-sounding basslines, in contrast to the much lighter Höfner, which inspired him to play more sensitively, something he considers fundamental to his playing style.[237] He changed back to the Höfner around 1990 for that reason.[237] He uses Mesa Boogie bass amplifiers while performing live.[243]

MacDonald identified “She’s a Woman” as the turning point when McCartney’s bass playing began to evolve dramatically, and Beatles biographer Chris Ingham singled out Rubber Soul as the moment when McCartney’s playing exhibited significant progress, particularly on “The Word”.[244] Bacon and Morgan agreed, calling McCartney’s groove on the track “a high point in pop bass playing and … the first proof on a recording of his serious technical ability on the instrument.”[245] MacDonald inferred the influence of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour”, American soul tracks from which McCartney absorbed elements and drew inspiration as he “delivered his most spontaneous bass-part to date”.[246]

Bacon and Morgan described his bassline for the Beatles song “Rain” as “an astonishing piece of playing … [McCartney] thinking in terms of both rhythm and ‘lead bass’ … [choosing] the area of the neck … he correctly perceives will give him clarity for melody without rendering his sound too thin for groove.”[247] MacDonald identified the influence of Indian classical music in “exotic melismas in the bass part” on “Rain” and described the playing as “so inventive that it threatens to overwhelm the track”.[248] By contrast, he recognised McCartney’s bass part on the Harrison-composed “Something” as creative but overly busy and “too fussily extemporised”.[249] McCartney identified Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as containing his strongest and most inventive bass playing, particularly on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

Acoustic guitar

McCartney primarily flatpicks while playing acoustic guitar, though he also uses elements of fingerpicking.[251] Examples of his acoustic guitar playing on Beatles tracks include “Yesterday”, “I’m Looking Through You”, “Michelle”, “Blackbird”, “I Will”, “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Rocky Raccoon”.[252] McCartney singled out “Blackbird” as a personal favourite and described his technique for the guitar part in the following way: “I got my own little sort of cheating way of [fingerpicking] … I’m actually sort of pulling two strings at a time … I was trying to emulate those folk players.”[251] He employed a similar technique for “Jenny Wren”.[253] He played an Epiphone Texan on many of his acoustic recordings, but also used a Martin D-28.

Electric guitar

McCartney played lead guitar on several Beatles recordings, including what MacDonald described as a “fiercely angular slide guitar solo” on “Drive My Car”, which McCartney played on an Epiphone Casino. McCartney said of the instrument: “if I had to pick one electric guitar it would be this.”[256] He contributed what MacDonald described as “a startling guitar solo” on the Harrison composition “Taxman” and the “shrieking” guitar on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Helter Skelter”. MacDonald also praised McCartney’s “coruscating pseudo-Indian” guitar solo on “Good Morning Good Morning”.[257] McCartney also played lead guitar on “Another Girl”.[258]

During his years with Wings, McCartney tended to leave electric guitar work to other group members,[259] though he played most of the lead guitar on Band on the Run.[260] In 1990, when asked who his favourite guitar players were he included Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton and David Gilmour, stating, “but I still like Hendrix the best”.[251] He has primarily used a Gibson Les Paul for electric work, particularly during live performances.

Vocals

McCartney is known for his belting power, versatility and wide tenor vocal range, spanning over four octaves.[261][262] He was ranked the 11th greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone,[263] voted the 8th greatest singer ever by NME readers[264] and number 10 by Music Radar readers in the list of “the 30 greatest lead singers of all time”.[265] Over the years, McCartney has been named a significant vocal influence by Chris Cornell,[266] Billy Joel,[267] Steven Tyler,[268] Brad Delp,[269] and Axl Rose.[270]

McCartney’s vocals have crossed several music genres throughout his career. On “Call Me Back Again”, according to Benitez, “McCartney shines as a bluesy solo vocalist”, while MacDonald called “I’m Down” “a rock-and-roll classic” that “illustrates McCartney’s vocal and stylistic versatility”.[271] MacDonald described “Helter Skelter” as an early attempt at heavy metal, and “Hey Jude” as a “pop/rock hybrid”, pointing out McCartney’s “use of gospel-style melismas” in the song and his “pseudo-soul shrieking in the fade-out”.[272] Benitez identified “Hope of Deliverance” and “Put It There” as examples of McCartney’s folk music efforts while musicologist Walter Everett considered “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Honey Pie” attempts at vaudeville.[273] MacDonald praised the “swinging beat” of the Beatles’ twenty-four bar blues song, “She’s a Woman” as “the most extreme sound they had manufactured to date”, with McCartney’s voice “at the edge, squeezed to the upper limit of his chest register and threatening to crack at any moment.”[274] MacDonald described “I’ve Got a Feeling” as a “raunchy, mid-tempo rocker” with a “robust and soulful” vocal performance and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” as “the last of [the Beatles’] up-tempo rockers”, McCartney’s “belting” vocals among his best since “Drive My Car”, recorded three years earlier.[275]

McCartney also teasingly tried out classical singing, namely singing various renditions of “Besame Mucho” with the Beatles. He continued experimenting with various musical and vocal styles throughout his post-Beatles career.[276][277][278][text–source integrity?] “Monkberry Moon Delight” was described by Pitchfork’s Jayson Greene as “an absolutely unhinged vocal take, Paul gulping and sobbing right next to your inner ear”, adding that “it could be a latter-day Tom Waits performance”.

Keyboards

McCartney played piano on several Beatles songs, including “She’s a Woman”, “For No One”, “A Day in the Life”, “Hello, Goodbye”, “Lady Madonna”, “Hey Jude”, “Martha My Dear”, “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road”.[280] MacDonald considered the piano part in “Lady Madonna” as reminiscent of Fats Domino, and “Let It Be” as having a gospel rhythm.[281] MacDonald called McCartney’s Mellotron intro on “Strawberry Fields Forever” an integral feature of the song’s character.[282] McCartney played a Moog synthesizer on the Beatles song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and the Wings track “Loup (1st Indian on the Moon)”.[283] Ingham described the Wings songs “With a Little Luck” and “London Town” as being “full of the most sensitive pop synthesizer touches”.

Drums

McCartney played drums on the Beatles’ songs “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, “Dear Prudence”, “Martha My Dear”, “Wild Honey Pie” and “The Ballad of John and Yoko”.[285] He also played all the drum parts on his first and second solo albums McCartney and McCartney II, as well as on the Wings album Band on the Run and most of the drums on his solo LP Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.[286] His other drumming contributions include Paul Jones’ rendition of “And the Sun Will Shine” (1968),[287] Steve Miller Band’s 1969 tracks “Celebration Song” and “My Dark Hour”,[288][289] and “Sunday Rain” from the Foo Fighters’ 2017 album Concrete and Gold.

Tape loops

In the mid-1960s, when visiting artist friend John Dunbar’s flat in London, McCartney brought tapes he had compiled at then-girlfriend Jane Asher’s home. They included mixes of various songs, musical pieces and comments made by McCartney that Dick James made into a demo for him.[291] Heavily influenced by American avant-garde musician John Cage, McCartney made tape loops by recording voices, guitars and bongos on a Brenell tape recorder and splicing the various loops. He referred to the finished product as “electronic symphonies”.[292] He reversed the tapes, sped them up, and slowed them down to create the desired effects, some of which the Beatles later used on the songs “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “The Fool on the Hill”.

Personal life

Creative outlets

While at school during the 1950s, McCartney thrived at art assignments, often earning top accolades for his visual work. However, his lack of discipline negatively affected his academic grades, preventing him from earning admission to art college.[294] During the 1960s, he delved into the visual arts, explored experimental cinema, and regularly attended film, theatrical and classical music performances. His first contact with the London avant-garde scene was through artist John Dunbar, who introduced McCartney to art dealer Robert Fraser.[295] At Fraser’s flat he first learned about art appreciation and met Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Peter Blake, and Richard Hamilton.[296] McCartney later purchased works by Magritte, whose painting of an apple had inspired the Apple Records logo.[297] McCartney became involved in the renovation and publicising of the Indica Gallery in Mason’s Yard, London, which Barry Miles had co-founded and where Lennon first met Yoko Ono. Miles also co-founded International Times, an underground paper that McCartney helped to start with direct financial support and by providing interviews to attract advertiser income. Miles later wrote McCartney’s official biography, Many Years from Now (1997).[298]

McCartney became interested in painting after watching artist Willem de Kooning work in de Kooning’s Long Island studio.[299] McCartney took up painting in 1983, and he first exhibited his work in Siegen, Germany, in 1999. The 70-painting show featured portraits of Lennon, Andy Warhol and David Bowie.[300] Though initially reluctant to display his paintings publicly, McCartney chose the gallery because events organiser Wolfgang Suttner showed genuine interest in McCartney’s art.[301] In September 2000, the first UK exhibition of McCartney’s paintings opened, featuring 500 canvases at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol, England.[302] In October 2000, McCartney’s art debuted in his hometown of Liverpool. McCartney said, “I’ve been offered an exhibition of my paintings at the Walker Art Gallery … where John and I used to spend many a pleasant afternoon. So I’m really excited about it. I didn’t tell anybody I painted for 15 years but now I’m out of the closet”.[303] McCartney is lead patron of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, a school in the building formerly occupied by the Liverpool Institute for Boys.[304]

When McCartney was a child, his mother read him poems and encouraged him to read books. His father invited Paul and his brother Michael to solve crosswords with him, to increase their “word power”, as McCartney said.[305] In 2001, McCartney published Blackbird Singing, a volume of poems and lyrics to his songs for which he gave readings in Liverpool and New York City.[306] In the foreword of the book, he explains: “When I was a teenager … I had an overwhelming desire to have a poem published in the school magazine. I wrote something deep and meaningful—which was promptly rejected—and I suppose I have been trying to get my own back ever since”.[307] His first children’s book was published by Faber & Faber in 2005, High in the Clouds: An Urban Furry Tail, a collaboration with writer Philip Ardagh and animator Geoff Dunbar. Featuring a squirrel whose woodland home is razed by developers, it had been scripted and sketched by McCartney and Dunbar over several years, as an animated film. The Observer labelled it an “anti-capitalist children’s book”.[308] In 2018, he wrote the children’s book Hey Grandude! together with illustrator Kathryn Durst, which was published by Random House Books in September 2019. The book is about a grandpa and his three grandchildren with a magic compass on an adventure.

In 1981, McCartney asked Geoff Dunbar to direct a short animated film called Rupert and the Frog Song; McCartney was the writer and producer, and he also added some of the character voices.[311] His song “We All Stand Together” from the film’s soundtrack reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1992, he worked with Dunbar on an animated film about the work of French artist Honoré Daumier, which won them a BAFTA award.[312] In 2004, they worked together on the animated short film Tropic Island Hum.[313] The accompanying single, “Tropic Island Hum”/”We All Stand Together”, reached number 21 in the UK.[314]

McCartney also produced and hosted The Real Buddy Holly Story, a 1985 documentary featuring interviews with Keith Richards, Phil and Don Everly, the Holly family, and others.[315] In 1995, he made a guest appearance on the Simpsons episode “Lisa the Vegetarian” and directed a short documentary about the Grateful Dead.

Business

Since the Rich List began in 1989, McCartney has been the UK’s wealthiest musician, with an estimated fortune of £730 million in 2015.[317] In addition to an interest in Apple Corps and MPL Communications, an umbrella company for his business interests, he owns a significant music publishing catalogue, with access to over 25,000 copyrights, including the publishing rights to the musicals Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, Annie and Grease.[318] He earned £40 million in 2003, the highest income that year within media professions in the UK.[319] This rose to £48.5 million by 2005.[320] McCartney’s 18-date On the Run Tour grossed £37 million in 2012.[321]

McCartney signed his first recording contract, as a member of the Beatles, with Parlophone Records, an EMI subsidiary, in June 1962. In the United States, the Beatles recordings were distributed by EMI subsidiary Capitol Records. The Beatles re-signed with EMI for another nine years in 1967. After forming their own record label, Apple Records, in 1968, the Beatles’ recordings would be released through Apple although the masters were still owned by EMI.[35] Following the break-up of the Beatles, McCartney’s music continued to be released by Apple Records under the Beatles’ 1967 recording contract with EMI which ran until 1976. Following the formal dissolution of the Beatles’ partnership in 1975, McCartney re-signed with EMI worldwide and Capitol in the US, Canada and Japan, acquiring ownership of his solo catalogue from EMI as part of the deal. In 1979, McCartney signed with Columbia Records in the US and Canada—reportedly receiving the industry’s most lucrative recording contract to date, while remaining with EMI for distribution throughout the rest of the world.[322] As part of the deal, CBS offered McCartney ownership of Frank Music, publisher of the catalogue of American songwriter Frank Loesser. McCartney’s album sales were below CBS’ expectations and reportedly the company lost at least $9 million on the contract.[323] McCartney returned to Capitol in the US in 1985, remaining with EMI until 2006.[324] In 2007, McCartney signed with Hear Music, becoming the label’s first artist. He remains there as of 2012’s Kisses on the Bottom.[325]

In 1963, Dick James established Northern Songs to publish the songs of Lennon–McCartney.[326] McCartney initially owned 20% of Northern Songs, which became 15% after a public stock offering in 1965. In 1969, James sold a controlling interest in Northern Songs to Lew Grade’s Associated Television (ATV) after which McCartney and John Lennon sold their remaining shares although they remained under contract to ATV until 1973. In 1972, McCartney re-signed with ATV for seven years in a joint publishing agreement between ATV and McCartney Music. Since 1979, MPL Communications has published McCartney’s songs.

McCartney and Yoko Ono attempted to purchase the Northern Songs catalogue in 1981, but Grade declined their offer. Soon afterward, ATV Music’s parent company, Associated Communications Corp., was acquired in a takeover by businessman Robert Holmes à Court, who later sold ATV Music to Michael Jackson in 1985. McCartney has criticised Jackson’s purchase and handling of Northern Songs over the years. In 1995, Jackson merged his catalogue with Sony for a reported £59,052,000 ($95 million), establishing Sony/ATV Music Publishing, in which he retained half-ownership.[327] Northern Songs was formally dissolved in 1995, and absorbed into the Sony/ATV catalogue.[328] McCartney receives writers’ royalties which together are 33⅓ percent of total commercial proceeds in the US, and which vary elsewhere between 50 and 55 percent.[329] Two of the Beatles’ earliest songs—”Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”—were published by an EMI subsidiary, Ardmore & Beechwood, before signing with James. McCartney acquired their publishing rights from Ardmore in 1978, and they are the only two Beatles songs owned by MPL Communications.

Drugs

McCartney first used drugs in the Beatles’ Hamburg days when they often used Preludin to maintain their energy while performing for long periods.[331] Bob Dylan introduced them to marijuana in a New York hotel room in 1964; McCartney recalls getting “very high” and “giggling uncontrollably”.[332] His use of the drug soon became habitual, and according to Miles, McCartney wrote the lyrics “another kind of mind” in “Got to Get You into My Life” specifically as a reference to cannabis.[333] During the filming of Help!, McCartney occasionally smoked a joint in the car on the way to the studio during filming, and often forgot his lines.[334] Director Richard Lester overheard two physically attractive women trying to persuade McCartney to use heroin, but he refused.[334] Introduced to cocaine by Robert Fraser, McCartney used the drug regularly during the recording of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and for about a year in total but stopped because of his dislike of the unpleasant melancholy he felt afterwards.[335]

Initially reluctant to try LSD, McCartney eventually did so in late 1966, and took his second “acid trip” in March 1967 with Lennon after a Sgt. Pepper studio session.[336] He later became the first Beatle to discuss the drug publicly, declaring: “It opened my eyes … [and] made me a better, more honest, more tolerant member of society.”[337] He made his attitude about cannabis public in 1967, when he, along with the other Beatles and Epstein, added his name to a July advertisement in The Times, which called for its legalisation, the release of those imprisoned for possession, and research into marijuana’s medical uses.[338]

In 1972, a Swedish court fined McCartney £1,000 for cannabis possession. Soon after, Scottish police found marijuana plants growing on his farm, leading to his 1973 conviction for illegal cultivation and a £100 fine. As a result of his drug convictions, the US government repeatedly denied him a visa until December 1973.[339] Arrested again for marijuana possession in 1975 in Los Angeles, Linda took the blame, and the court soon dismissed the charges. In January 1980, when Wings flew to Tokyo for a tour of Japan, customs officials found approximately 8 ounces (200 g) of cannabis in his luggage. They arrested McCartney and brought him to a local jail while the Japanese government decided what to do. After ten days, they released and deported him without charge.[340] In 1984, while McCartney was on holiday in Barbados, authorities arrested him for possession of marijuana and fined him $200.[341] Upon his return to England, he stated: “cannabis is … less harmful than rum punch, whiskey, nicotine and glue, all of which are perfectly legal … I don’t think … I was doing anyone any harm whatsoever.”[342] In 1997, he spoke out in support of decriminalisation of the drug: “People are smoking pot anyway and to make them criminals is wrong.”[295] He did, however, decide to quit cannabis in 2015, citing a desire to set a good example for his grandchildren.

Vegetarianism and activism

Since 1975, McCartney has been a vegetarian.[344][345] He and his wife Linda were vegetarians for most of their 29-year marriage. They decided to stop consuming meat after Paul saw lambs in a field as they were eating a meal of lamb. Soon after, the couple became outspoken animal rights activists.[346] In his first interview after Linda’s death, he promised to continue working for animal rights, and in 1999, he spent £3,000,000 to ensure Linda McCartney Foods remained free of genetically engineered ingredients.[347] In 1995, he narrated the documentary Devour the Earth, written by Tony Wardle.[348] McCartney is a supporter of the animal-rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He has appeared in the group’s campaigns, and in 2009, McCartney narrated a video for them titled “Glass Walls”, which was harshly critical of slaughterhouses, the meat industry, and their effect on animal welfare.[349][350][351] McCartney has also supported campaigns headed by the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, World Animal Protection, and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.[352][353]

Following McCartney’s marriage to Mills, he joined her in a campaign against land mines, becoming a patron of Adopt-A-Minefield.[354] In a 2003 meeting at the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin, ahead of a concert in Red Square, McCartney and Mills urged Russia to join the anti-landmine campaign.[355] In 2006, the McCartneys travelled to Prince Edward Island to raise international awareness of seal hunting. The couple debated with Danny Williams, Newfoundland’s then Premier, on Larry King Live, stating that fishermen should stop hunting seals and start seal-watching businesses instead.[356] McCartney also supports the Make Poverty History campaign.[357]

McCartney has participated in several charity recordings and performances, including the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, Ferry Aid, Band Aid, Live Aid, Live 8, and the recording of “Ferry Cross the Mersey”.[358] In 2004, he donated a song to an album to aid the “US Campaign for Burma”, in support of Burmese Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2008, he donated a song to Aid Still Required’s CD, organised as an effort to raise funds to assist with the recovery from the devastation caused in Southeast Asia by the 2004 tsunami.[359]

In 2009, McCartney wrote to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, asking him why he was not a vegetarian. As McCartney explained, “He wrote back very kindly, saying, ‘my doctors tell me that I must eat meat’. And I wrote back again, saying, you know, I don’t think that’s right … I think he’s now being told … that he can get his protein somewhere else … It just doesn’t seem right—the Dalai Lama, on the one hand, saying, ‘Hey guys, don’t harm sentient beings … Oh, and by the way, I’m having a steak.’”[360] In 2012, McCartney joined the anti-fracking campaign Artists Against Fracking.[361]

Save the Arctic is a campaign to protect the Arctic and an international outcry and a renewed focus concern on oil development in the Arctic, attracting the support of more than five million people. This includes McCartney, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 11 Nobel Peace Prize winners.[362][363] In 2015, following British prime minister David Cameron’s decision to give Members of Parliament a free vote on amending the law against fox hunting, McCartney was quoted: “The people of Britain are behind this Tory government on many things but the vast majority of us will be against them if hunting is reintroduced. It is cruel and unnecessary and will lose them support from ordinary people and animal lovers like myself.”[364] During the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, McCartney called for Chinese wet markets (which sell live animals including wild ones) to be banned. He expressed concern over both the health impacts of the practice as well as its cruelty to animals.

Meditation

In August 1967, McCartney met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the London Hilton and later went to Bangor in North Wales to attend a weekend initiation conference, where he and the other Beatles learned the basics of Transcendental Meditation.[366] He said, “The whole meditation experience was very good and I still use the mantra … I find it soothing.”[367] In 2009, McCartney and Starr headlined a benefit concert at Radio City Music Hall, raising three million dollars for the David Lynch Foundation to fund instruction in Transcendental Meditation for at-risk youth.

Football

McCartney has publicly professed support for Everton and has also shown favour for Liverpool.[369] In 2008, he ended speculation about his allegiance when he said: “Here’s the deal: my father was born in Everton, my family are officially Evertonians, so if it comes down to a derby match or an FA Cup final between the two, I would have to support Everton. But after a concert at Wembley Arena I got a bit of a friendship with Kenny Dalglish, who had been to the gig and I thought ‘You know what? I am just going to support them both because it’s all Liverpool.’”[

Relationships

Girlfriends

Dot Rhone

McCartney’s first serious girlfriend in Liverpool was Dot Rhone, whom he met at the Casbah club in 1959.[371] According to Spitz, Rhone felt that McCartney had a compulsion to control situations. He often chose clothes and makeup for her, encouraging her to grow her hair out like Brigitte Bardot’s, and at least once insisting she have it restyled, to disappointing effect.[372] When McCartney first went to Hamburg with the Beatles, he wrote to Rhone regularly, and she accompanied Cynthia Lennon to Hamburg when they played there again in 1962.[373] The couple had a two-and-a-half-year relationship, and were due to marry until Rhone’s miscarriage. According to Spitz, McCartney, now “free of obligation”, ended the engagement.

Jane Asher

McCartney first met British actress Jane Asher on 18 April 1963 when a photographer asked them to pose at a Beatles performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.[375] The two began a relationship, and in November of that year he took up residence with Asher at her parents’ home at 57 Wimpole Street, London.[376] They had lived there for more than two years before the couple moved to McCartney’s own home in St. John’s Wood in March 1966.[377] He wrote several songs while living at the Ashers’, including “Yesterday”, “And I Love Her”, “You Won’t See Me” and “I’m Looking Through You”, the latter three having been inspired by their romance.[378] They had a five-year relationship and planned to marry, but Asher broke off the engagement after she discovered he had become involved with Francie Schwartz,[379] an American screenwriter who moved to London at age 23 thinking she could sell a script to the Beatles. She met McCartney and he invited her to move into his London house, where events ensued that possibly broke up him and Asher.

Wives

Linda Eastman

Linda Eastman was a music fan who once commented, “all my teen years were spent with an ear to the radio.”[381] At times, she played hooky to see artists such as Fabian, Bobby Darin and Chuck Berry.[381] She became a popular photographer with several rock groups, including the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Grateful Dead, the Doors and the Beatles, whom she first met at Shea Stadium in 1966. She commented, “It was John who interested me at the start. He was my Beatle hero. But when I met him the fascination faded fast, and I found it was Paul I liked.”[382] The pair first met properly in 1967 at a Georgie Fame concert at The Bag O’Nails club, during her UK assignment to photograph rock musicians in London. As Paul remembers, “The night Linda and I met, I spotted her across a crowded club, and although I would normally have been nervous chatting her up, I realised I had to … Pushiness worked for me that night!”[383] Linda said this about their meeting: “I was quite shameless really. I was with somebody else [that night] … and I saw Paul at the other side of the room. He looked so beautiful that I made up my mind I would have to pick him up.”[382] The pair married in March 1969. About their relationship, Paul said, “We had a lot of fun together … just the nature of how we aren’t, our favourite thing really is to just hang, to have fun. And Linda’s very big on just following the moment.”[384] He added, “We were crazy. We had a big argument the night before we got married, and it was nearly called off … [it’s] miraculous that we made it. But we did.”[385]

After the break-up of the Beatles, the two collaborated musically and formed Wings in 1971.[386] They faced derision from some fans and critics, who questioned her inclusion. She was nervous about performing with Paul, who explained, “she conquered those nerves, got on with it and was really gutsy.”[387] Paul defended her musical ability: “I taught Linda the basics of the keyboard … She took a couple of lessons and learned some bluesy things … she did very well and made it look easier than it was … The critics would say, ‘She’s not really playing’ or ‘Look at her—she’s playing with one finger.’ But what they didn’t know is that sometimes she was playing a thing called a Minimoog, which could only be played with one finger. It was monophonic.”[387] He went on to say, “We thought we were in it for the fun … it was just something we wanted to do, so if we got it wrong—big deal. We didn’t have to justify ourselves.”[387] Former Wings guitarist McCullough said of collaborating with Linda, “trying to get things together with a learner in the group didn’t work as far as I was concerned.”[388]

They had four children—Linda’s daughter Heather (legally adopted by Paul), Mary, Stella and James—and remained married until Linda’s death from breast cancer at age 56 in 1998.[389] After Linda died, Paul said, “I got a counsellor because I knew that I would need some help. He was great, particularly in helping me get rid of my guilt [about wishing I’d been] perfect all the time … a real bugger. But then I thought, hang on a minute. We’re just human. That was the beautiful thing about our marriage. We were just a boyfriend and girlfriend having babies.”

Heather Mills

In 2002, McCartney married Heather Mills, a former model and anti-landmine campaigner.[391] In 2003, the couple had a child, Beatrice Milly, named in honour of Mills’s late mother and one of McCartney’s aunts.[174] They separated in April 2006 and divorced acrimoniously in March 2008.[392] In 2004, he commented on media animosity toward his partners: “[the British public] didn’t like me giving up on Jane Asher … I married [Linda], a New York divorcee with a child, and at the time they didn’t like that”.

Nancy Shevell

McCartney married New Yorker Nancy Shevell in a civil ceremony at Marylebone Town Hall, London, on 9 October 2011. The wedding was a modest event attended by a group of about 30 relatives and friends.[193] The couple had been together since November 2007.[394] Shevell is vice president of a family-owned transportation conglomerate which owns New England Motor Freight.[395] She is a former member of the board of the New York area’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.[396] Shevell is about 18 years younger than McCartney.[397] They had known each other for about 20 years prior to marrying, having met because both had homes in the Hamptons.

Beatles

John Lennon

Though McCartney had a strained relationship with Lennon, they briefly became close again in early 1974, and played music together on one occasion.[398] In later years, the two grew apart.[399] McCartney often phoned Lennon, but was apprehensive about the reception he would receive. During one call, Lennon told him, “You’re all pizza and fairytales!”[400] In an effort to avoid talking only about business, they often spoke of cats, babies, or baking bread.[401]

On 24 April 1976, McCartney and Lennon were watching an episode of Saturday Night Live at Lennon’s home in the Dakota when Lorne Michaels made a $3,000 cash offer for the Beatles to reunite. While they seriously considered going to the SNL studio a few blocks away, they decided it was too late. This was their last time together.[402] VH1 fictionalised this event in the 2000 television film Two of Us.[403] McCartney’s last telephone call to Lennon, days before Lennon and Ono released Double Fantasy, was friendly: “[It is] a consoling factor for me, because I do feel it was sad that we never actually sat down and straightened our differences out. But fortunately for me, the last phone conversation I ever had with him was really great, and we didn’t have any kind of blow-up”, he said.

Reaction to Lennon’s murder

On 9 December 1980, McCartney followed the news that Lennon had been murdered the previous night; Lennon’s death created a media frenzy around the surviving members of the band.[406] McCartney was leaving an Oxford Street recording studio that evening when he was surrounded by reporters who asked him for his reaction; he responded: “It’s a drag”. The press quickly criticised him for what appeared to be a superficial response.[407] He later explained, “When John was killed somebody stuck a microphone at me and said: ‘What do you think about it?’ I said, ‘It’s a dra-a-ag’ and meant it with every inch of melancholy I could muster. When you put that in print it says, ‘McCartney in London today when asked for a comment on his dead friend said, “It’s a drag”.’ It seemed a very flippant comment to make.”[407] He described his first exchange with Ono after the murder, and his last conversation with Lennon:

 

I talked to Yoko the day after he was killed, and the first thing she said was, “John was really fond of you.” The last telephone conversation I had with him we were still the best of mates. He was always a very warm guy, John. His bluff was all on the surface. He used to take his glasses down, those granny glasses, and say, “it’s only me.” They were like a wall you know? A shield. Those are the moments I treasure.

In 1983, McCartney said: “I would not have been as typically human and standoffish as I was if I knew John was going to die. I would have made more of an effort to try and get behind his ‘mask’ and have a better relationship with him.”[407] He said that he went home that night, watched the news on television with his children and cried most of the evening. In 1997, he said that Lennon’s death made the remaining ex-Beatles nervous that they might also be murdered.[408] He told Mojo magazine in 2002 that Lennon was his greatest hero.[409] In 1981, McCartney sang backup on Harrison’s tribute to Lennon, “All Those Years Ago”, which featured Starr on drums.[410] McCartney released “Here Today” in 1982, a song Everett described as “a haunting tribute” to McCartney’s friendship with Lennon

George Harrison

Discussing his relationship with McCartney, Harrison said: “Paul would always help along when you’d done his ten songs—then when he got ’round to doing one of my songs, he would help. It was silly. It was very selfish, actually … There were a lot of tracks, though, where I played bass … because what Paul would do—if he’d written a song, he’d learn all the parts for Paul and then come in the studio and say (sometimes he was very difficult): ‘Do this’. He’d never give you the opportunity to come out with something.”[412]

After Harrison’s death in November 2001, McCartney said he was “a lovely guy and a very brave man who had a wonderful sense of humour”. He went on to say: “We grew up together and we just had so many beautiful times together – that’s what I am going to remember. I’ll always love him, he’s my baby brother.”[413] On the first anniversary of his death, McCartney played Harrison’s “Something” on a ukulele at the Concert for George; he would perform this rendition of the song on many subsequent solo tours.[414] He also performed “For You Blue” and “All Things Must Pass”, and played the piano on Eric Clapton’s rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

Ringo Starr

During a recording session for The Beatles in 1968, the two got into an argument over McCartney’s critique of Starr’s drum part for “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, which contributed to Starr temporarily leaving the band.[416] Starr later commented on working with McCartney: “Paul is the greatest bass player in the world. But he is also very determined … [to] get his own way … [thus] musical disagreements inevitably arose from time to time.”[417]

McCartney and Starr collaborated on several post-Beatles projects, starting in 1973 when McCartney contributed instrumentation and backing vocals for “Six O’Clock”, a song McCartney wrote for Starr’s album Ringo.[418] McCartney played a kazoo solo on “You’re Sixteen” from the same album.[419] Starr appeared (as a fictional version of himself) in McCartney’s 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street, and played drums on most tracks of the soundtrack album, which includes re-recordings of several McCartney-penned Beatles songs. Starr played drums and sang backing vocals on “Beautiful Night” from McCartney’s 1997 album Flaming Pie. The pair collaborated again in 1998, on Starr’s Vertical Man, which featured McCartney’s backing vocals on three songs, and instrumentation on one.[420] In 2009, the pair performed “With a Little Help from My Friends” at a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation.[421] They collaborated on Starr’s album Y Not in 2010. McCartney played bass on “Peace Dream”, and sang a duet with Starr on “Walk with You”.[422] On 7 July 2010, Starr was performing at Radio City Music Hall in New York with his All-Starr Band in a concert celebrating his seventieth birthday. After the encores, McCartney made a surprise appearance, performing the Beatles’ song “Birthday” with Starr’s band.[423] On 26 January 2014, McCartney and Starr performed “Queenie Eye” from McCartney’s new album New at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.[424] McCartney inducted Starr into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2015, and played bass on his 2017 album Give More Love. On 16 December 2018, Starr and Ronnie Wood joined McCartney onstage to perform “Get Back” at his concert at London’s O2 Arena. Starr also made an appearance on the final day of McCartney’s Freshen Up tour in July 2019, performing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” and “Helter Skelter”.

Legacy

Achievements

McCartney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 as a member of the Beatles and again as a solo artist in 1999. In 1979, the Guinness Book of World Records recognised McCartney as the “most honored composer and performer in music”, with 60 gold discs (43 with the Beatles, 17 with Wings) and, as a member of the Beatles, sales of over 100 million singles and 100 million albums, and as the “most successful song writer”, he wrote jointly or solo 43 songs which sold one million or more records between 1962 and 1978.[426] In 2009, Guinness World Records again recognised McCartney as the “most successful songwriter” having written or co-written 188 charted records in the United Kingdom, of which 91 reached the top 10 and 33 made it to number one.

McCartney has written, or co-written, 32 number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100: twenty with the Beatles; seven solo or with Wings; one as a co-writer of “A World Without Love”, a number-one single for Peter and Gordon; one as a co-writer on Elton John’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”; one as a co-writer on Stars on 45’s “Medley”; one as a co-writer with Michael Jackson on “Say Say Say”; and one as writer on “Ebony and Ivory” performed with Stevie Wonder.[428] As of 2009, he has 15.5 million RIAA certified units in the United States as a solo artist plus another 10 million with Wings.[429]

Credited with more number ones in the UK than any other artist, McCartney has participated in twenty-four chart topping singles: seventeen with the Beatles, one solo, and one each with Wings, Stevie Wonder, Ferry Aid, Band Aid, Band Aid 20 and “The Christians et al.”[430][nb 44] He is the only artist to reach the UK number one as a soloist (“Pipes of Peace”), duo (“Ebony and Ivory” with Wonder), trio (“Mull of Kintyre”, Wings), quartet (“She Loves You”, the Beatles), quintet (“Get Back”, the Beatles with Billy Preston) and as part of a musical ensemble for charity (Ferry Aid).[432]

“Yesterday” is one of the most covered songs in history with more than 2,200 recorded versions, and according to the BBC, “the track is the only one by a UK writer to have been aired more than seven million times on American TV and radio and is third in the all-time list … [and] is the most played song by a British writer [last] century in the US”.[433] His 1968 Beatles composition “Hey Jude” achieved the highest sales in the UK that year and topped the US charts for nine weeks, which is longer than any other Beatles single. It was also the longest single released by the band and, at seven minutes eleven seconds, was at that time the longest number one.[434] “Hey Jude” is the best-selling Beatles single, achieving sales of over five million copies soon after its release.[435][nb 45]

In July 2005, McCartney’s performance of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with U2 at Live 8 became the fastest-released single in history. Available within forty-five minutes of its recording, hours later it had achieved number one on the UK Official Download Chart.

Awards and honours

  • 1971: Academy Award winner (as a member of the Beatles)
  • 18-time Grammy Award winner:
    • Nine as a member of the Beatles
    • Six as a solo artist
    • Two as a member of Wings
    • One as part of a joint collaboration
  • Two-time inductee – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
    • Class of 1988 as a member of the Beatles
    • Class of 1999 as a solo artist
  • 1965: Member of the Order of the British Empire
  • 1988: Honorary Doctor of the University degree from University of Sussex
  • 1997: Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to music
  • 2000: Fellowship into the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors
  • 2008: BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music
  • 2008: Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Yale University
  • 2010: Gershwin Prize for his contributions to popular music
  • 2010: Kennedy Center Honors
  • 2012: Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • 2012: Légion d’Honneur for his services to music
  • 2012: MusiCares Person of the Year
  • 2015: 4148 McCartney, asteroid named after him by the (International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center)
  • 2017: Appointed Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to music

 

Lyrics


Elvis Presley

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), also known simply as Elvis, was an American singer, musician and actor. He is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century and is often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll” or simply “the King”. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines during a transformative era in race relations, led him to great success—and initial controversy.

Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, with his family when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, recording at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience. Presley, on rhythm acoustic guitar, and accompanied by lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, was a pioneer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. In 1955, drummer D. J. Fontana joined to complete the lineup of Presley’s classic quartet and RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage him for more than two decades. Presley’s first RCA single, “Heartbreak Hotel”, was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. With a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records, he became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll.

In November 1956, Presley made his film debut in Love Me Tender. Drafted into military service in 1958, Presley relaunched his recording career two years later with some of his most commercially successful work. He held few concerts, however, and guided by Parker, proceeded to devote much of the 1960s to making Hollywood films and soundtrack albums, most of them critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed television comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley gave the first concert by a solo artist to be broadcast around the world, Aloha from Hawaii. Years of prescription drug abuse severely compromised his health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at his Graceland estate at the age of 42.

With his rise from poverty to significant fame, Presley’s success seemed to epitomize the American Dream. He is the best-selling solo music artist of all time, and was commercially successful in many genres, including pop, country, R&B, adult contemporary, and gospel. He won three Grammy Awards, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. Presley holds several records; the most RIAA certified gold and platinum albums, the most albums charted on the Billboard 200, and the most number-one albums by a solo artist on the UK Albums Chart and the most number-one singles by any act on the UK Singles Chart. In 2018, Presley was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Life and career

1935–1953: Early years

Childhood in Tupelo

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi to Vernon Elvis (April 10, 1916 – June 26, 1979) and Gladys Love (née Smith; April 25, 1912 – August 14, 1958) Presley in a two-room shotgun house that his father built for the occasion. Elvis’s identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, was delivered 35 minutes before him, stillborn. Presley became close to both parents and formed an especially close bond with his mother. The family attended an Assembly of God church, where he found his initial musical inspiration.

Presley’s father, Vernon, was of German[8] or Scottish origin.[9] Through his mother, Presley was Scots-Irish, with some French Norman.[10] His mother, Gladys, and the rest of the family, apparently believed that her great-great-grandmother, Morning Dove White, was Cherokee; this was confirmed by Elvis’s granddaughter Riley Keough in 2017. Elaine Dundy, in her biography, supports the belief – although one genealogy researcher has contested it on multiple grounds. Gladys was regarded by relatives and friends as the dominant member of the small family.

Vernon moved from one odd job to the next, evincing little ambition. The family often relied on help from neighbors and government food assistance. In 1938, they lost their home after Vernon was found guilty of altering a check written by his landowner and sometime-employer. He was jailed for eight months, while Gladys and Elvis moved in with relatives.

In September 1941, Presley entered first grade at East Tupelo Consolidated, where his teachers regarded him as “average”. He was encouraged to enter a singing contest after impressing his schoolteacher with a rendition of Red Foley’s country song “Old Shep” during morning prayers. The contest, held at the Mississippi–Alabama Fair and Dairy Show on October 3, 1945, was his first public performance. The ten-year-old Presley was dressed as a cowboy; he stood on a chair to reach the microphone and sang “Old Shep”. He recalled placing fifth. A few months later, Presley received his first guitar for his birthday; he had hoped for something else—by different accounts, either a bicycle or a rifle. Over the following year, he received basic guitar lessons from two of his uncles and the new pastor at the family’s church. Presley recalled, “I took the guitar, and I watched people, and I learned to play a little bit. But I would never sing in public. I was very shy about it.”

In September 1946, Presley entered a new school, Milam, for sixth grade; he was regarded as a loner. The following year, he began bringing his guitar to school on a daily basis. He played and sang during lunchtime, and was often teased as a “trashy” kid who played hillbilly music. By then, the family was living in a largely black neighborhood. Presley was a devotee of Mississippi Slim’s show on the Tupelo radio station WELO. He was described as “crazy about music” by Slim’s younger brother, who was one of Presley’s classmates and often took him into the station. Slim supplemented Presley’s guitar instruction by demonstrating chord techniques. When his protégé was twelve years old, Slim scheduled him for two on-air performances. Presley was overcome by stage fright the first time, but succeeded in performing the following week.
Teenage life in Memphis

In November 1948, the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. After residing for nearly a year in rooming houses, they were granted a two-bedroom apartment in the public housing complex known as the Lauderdale Courts. Enrolled at L. C. Humes High School, Presley received only a C in music in eighth grade. When his music teacher told him that he had no aptitude for singing, he brought in his guitar the next day and sang a recent hit, “Keep Them Cold Icy Fingers Off Me”, to prove otherwise. A classmate later recalled that the teacher “agreed that Elvis was right when he said that she didn’t appreciate his kind of singing”. He was usually too shy to perform openly, and was occasionally bullied by classmates who viewed him as a “mama’s boy”. In 1950, he began practicing guitar regularly under the tutelage of Lee Denson, a neighbor two and a half years his senior. They and three other boys—including two future rockabilly pioneers, brothers Dorsey and Johnny Burnette—formed a loose musical collective that played frequently around the Courts. That September, he began working as an usher at Loew’s State Theater. Other jobs followed: Precision Tool, Loew’s again, and MARL Metal Products.

During his junior year, Presley began to stand out more among his classmates, largely because of his appearance: he grew his sideburns and styled his hair with rose oil and Vaseline. In his free time, he would head down to Beale Street, the heart of Memphis’s thriving blues scene, and gaze longingly at the wild, flashy clothes in the windows of Lansky Brothers. By his senior year, he was wearing those clothes. Overcoming his reticence about performing outside the Lauderdale Courts, he competed in Humes’ Annual “Minstrel” show in April 1953. Singing and playing guitar, he opened with “Till I Waltz Again with You”, a recent hit for Teresa Brewer. Presley recalled that the performance did much for his reputation: “I wasn’t popular in school … I failed music—only thing I ever failed. And then they entered me in this talent show … when I came onstage I heard people kind of rumbling and whispering and so forth, ’cause nobody knew I even sang. It was amazing how popular I became in school after that.”

Presley, who received no formal music training and could not read music, studied and played by ear. He also frequented record stores that provided jukeboxes and listening booths to customers. He knew all of Hank Snow’s songs, and he loved records by other country singers such as Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Ted Daffan, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmie Davis, and Bob Wills.[38] The Southern gospel singer Jake Hess, one of his favorite performers, was a significant influence on his ballad-singing style. He was a regular audience member at the monthly All-Night Singings downtown, where many of the white gospel groups that performed reflected the influence of African-American spiritual music. He adored the music of black gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe.[38] Like some of his peers, he may have attended blues venues—of necessity, in the segregated South, only on nights designated for exclusively white audiences. He certainly listened to the regional radio stations, such as WDIA-AM, that played “race records”: spirituals, blues, and the modern, backbeat-heavy sound of rhythm and blues. Many of his future recordings were inspired by local African-American musicians such as Arthur Crudup and Rufus Thomas. B.B. King recalled that he had known Presley before he was popular when they both used to frequent Beale Street. By the time he graduated from high school in June 1953, Presley had already singled out music as his future.

1953–1956: First recordings

Sam Phillips and Sun Records

In August 1953, Presley checked into the offices of Sun Records. He aimed to pay for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate disc: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”. He later claimed that he intended the record as a birthday gift for his mother, or that he was merely interested in what he “sounded like”, although there was a much cheaper, amateur record-making service at a nearby general store. Biographer Peter Guralnick argued that he chose Sun in the hope of being discovered. Asked by receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley responded, “I sing all kinds.” When she pressed him on who he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, “I don’t sound like nobody.” After he recorded, Sun boss Sam Phillips asked Keisker to note down the young man’s name, which she did along with her own commentary: “Good ballad singer. Hold.”

In January 1954, Presley cut a second acetate at Sun Records—”I’ll Never Stand in Your Way” and “It Wouldn’t Be the Same Without You”—but again nothing came of it. Not long after, he failed an audition for a local vocal quartet, the Songfellows. He explained to his father, “They told me I couldn’t sing.” Songfellow Jim Hamill later claimed that he was turned down because he did not demonstrate an ear for harmony at the time. In April, Presley began working for the Crown Electric company as a truck driver.[ His friend Ronnie Smith, after playing a few local gigs with him, suggested he contact Eddie Bond, leader of Smith’s professional band, which had an opening for a vocalist. Bond rejected him after a tryout, advising Presley to stick to truck driving “because you’re never going to make it as a singer”.

Phillips, meanwhile, was always on the lookout for someone who could bring to a broader audience the sound of the black musicians on whom Sun focused. As Keisker reported, “Over and over I remember Sam saying, ‘If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars.’” In June, he acquired a demo recording by Jimmy Sweeney of a ballad, “Without You”, that he thought might suit the teenage singer. Presley came by the studio but was unable to do it justice. Despite this, Phillips asked Presley to sing as many numbers as he knew. He was sufficiently affected by what he heard to invite two local musicians, guitarist Winfield “Scotty” Moore and upright bass player Bill Black, to work something up with Presley for a recording session.

The session held the evening of July 5, proved entirely unfruitful until late in the night. As they were about to abort and go home, Presley took his guitar and launched into a 1946 blues number, Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right”. Moore recalled, “All of a sudden, Elvis just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them. Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open … he stuck his head out and said, ‘What are you doing?’ And we said, ‘We don’t know.’ ‘Well, back up,’ he said, ‘try to find a place to start, and do it again.’” Phillips quickly began taping; this was the sound he had been looking for. Three days later, popular Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips played “That’s All Right” on his Red, Hot, and Blue show. Listeners began phoning in, eager to find out who the singer was. The interest was such that Phillips played the record repeatedly during the remaining two hours of his show. Interviewing Presley on-air, Phillips asked him what high school he attended to clarify his color for the many callers who had assumed that he was black. During the next few days, the trio recorded a bluegrass number, Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, again in a distinctive style and employing a jury rigged echo effect that Sam Phillips dubbed “slapback”. A single was pressed with “That’s All Right” on the A-side and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the reverse.

 

Early live performances and RCA Victor contract

The trio played publicly for the first time on July 17 at the Bon Air club—Presley still sporting his child-size guitar. At the end of the month, they appeared at the Overton Park Shell, with Slim Whitman headlining. A combination of his strong response to rhythm and nervousness at playing before a large crowd led Presley to shake his legs as he performed: his wide-cut pants emphasized his movements, causing young women in the audience to start screaming.[63] Moore recalled, “During the instrumental parts, he would back off from the mike and be playing and shaking, and the crowd would just go wild”. Black, a natural showman, whooped and rode his bass, hitting double licks that Presley would later remember as “really a wild sound, like a jungle drum or something”. Soon after, Moore and Black left their old band, the Starlite Wranglers, to play with Presley regularly, and DJ/promoter Bob Neal became the trio’s manager. From August through October, they played frequently at the Eagle’s Nest club and returned to Sun Studio for more recording sessions, and Presley quickly grew more confident on stage. According to Moore, “His movement was a natural thing, but he was also very conscious of what got a reaction. He’d do something one time and then he would expand on it real quick.” Presley made what would be his only appearance on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry stage on October 2; after a polite audience response, Opry manager Jim Denny told Phillips that his singer was “not bad” but did not suit the program.

Louisiana Hayride, radio commercial, and first television performances

In November 1954, Presley performed on Louisiana Hayride—the Opry’s chief, and more adventurous, rival. The Shreveport-based show was broadcast to 198 radio stations in 28 states. Presley had another attack of nerves during the first set, which drew a muted reaction. A more composed and energetic second set inspired an enthusiastic response. House drummer D. J. Fontana brought a new element, complementing Presley’s movements with accented beats that he had mastered playing in strip clubs. Soon after the show, the Hayride engaged Presley for a year’s worth of Saturday-night appearances. Trading in his old guitar for $8 (and seeing it promptly dispatched to the garbage), he purchased a Martin instrument for $175, and his trio began playing in new locales, including Houston, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas.

Many fledgling performers, like Minnie Pearl, Johnny Horton, and Johnny Cash, sang the praises of Louisiana Hayride sponsor, The Southern Maid Donut Flour Company (Texas), including Elvis Presley, who developed a lifelong love of doughnuts. Presley made his singular product endorsement commercial for the doughnut company, which was never released, recording a radio jingle, “in exchange for a box of hot glazed doughnuts.”

Elvis made his first television appearance on the KSLA-TV television broadcast of Louisiana Hayride. Soon after, he failed an audition for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts on the CBS television network. By early 1955, Presley’s regular Hayride appearances, constant touring, and well-received record releases had made him a regional star, from Tennessee to West Texas. In January, Neal signed a formal management contract with Presley and brought him to the attention of Colonel Tom Parker, whom he considered the best promoter in the music business. Parker—who claimed to be from West Virginia (he was actually Dutch)—had acquired an honorary colonel’s commission from country singer turned Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis. Having successfully managed top country star Eddy Arnold, Parker was working with the new number-one country singer, Hank Snow. Parker booked Presley on Snow’s February tour. When the tour reached Odessa, Texas, a 19-year-old Roy Orbison saw Presley for the first time: “His energy was incredible, his instinct was just amazing. … I just didn’t know what to make of it. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare it.” By August, Sun had released ten sides credited to “Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill”; on the latest recordings, the trio were joined by a drummer. Some of the songs, like “That’s All Right”, were in what one Memphis journalist described as the “R&B idiom of negro field jazz”; others, like “Blue Moon of Kentucky”, were “more in the country field”, “but there was a curious blending of the two different musics in both”. This blend of styles made it difficult for Presley’s music to find radio airplay. According to Neal, many country-music disc jockeys would not play it because he sounded too much like a black artist and none of the rhythm-and-blues stations would touch him because “he sounded too much like a hillbilly.” The blend came to be known as rockabilly. At the time, Presley was variously billed as “The King of Western Bop”, “The Hillbilly Cat”, and “The Memphis Flash”.

Presley renewed Neal’s management contract in August 1955, simultaneously appointing Parker as his special adviser. The group maintained an extensive touring schedule throughout the second half of the year. Neal recalled, “It was almost frightening, the reaction that came to Elvis from the teenaged boys. So many of them, through some sort of jealousy, would practically hate him. There were occasions in some towns in Texas when we’d have to be sure to have a police guard because somebody’d always try to take a crack at him. They’d get a gang and try to waylay him or something.” The trio became a quartet when Hayride drummer Fontana joined as a full member. In mid-October, they played a few shows in support of Bill Haley, whose “Rock Around the Clock” track had been a number-one hit the previous year. Haley observed that Presley had a natural feel for rhythm, and advised him to sing fewer ballads.

At the Country Disc Jockey Convention in early November, Presley was voted the year’s most promising male artist. Several record companies had by now shown interest in signing him. After three major labels made offers of up to $25,000, Parker and Phillips struck a deal with RCA Victor on November 21 to acquire Presley’s Sun contract for an unprecedented $40,000. Presley, at 20, was still a minor, so his father signed the contract.[86] Parker arranged with the owners of Hill & Range Publishing, Jean and Julian Aberbach, to create two entities, Elvis Presley Music and Gladys Music, to handle all the new material recorded by Presley. Songwriters were obliged to forgo one-third of their customary royalties in exchange for having him perform their compositions. By December, RCA had begun to heavily promote its new singer, and before month’s end had reissued many of his Sun recordings.

1956–1958: Commercial breakout and controversy

First national TV appearances and debut album

On January 10, 1956, Presley made his first recordings for RCA in Nashville. Extending Presley’s by-now customary backup of Moore, Black, Fontana, and Hayride pianist Floyd Cramer—who had been performing at live club dates with Presley—RCA enlisted guitarist Chet Atkins and three background singers, including Gordon Stoker of the popular Jordanaires quartet, to fill in the sound.[94] The session produced the moody, unusual “Heartbreak Hotel”, released as a single on January 27. Parker finally brought Presley to national television, booking him on CBS’s Stage Show for six appearances over two months. The program, produced in New York, was hosted on alternate weeks by big band leaders and brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. After his first appearance, on January 28, Presley stayed in town to record at RCA’s New York studio. The sessions yielded eight songs, including a cover of Carl Perkins’ rockabilly anthem “Blue Suede Shoes”. In February, Presley’s “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”, a Sun recording initially released the previous August, reached the top of the Billboard country chart. Neal’s contract was terminated, and, on March 2, Parker became Presley’s manager.

RCA released Presley’s self-titled debut album on March 23. Joined by five previously unreleased Sun recordings, its seven recently recorded tracks were of a broad variety. There were two country songs and a bouncy pop tune. The others would centrally define the evolving sound of rock and roll: “Blue Suede Shoes”—”an improvement over Perkins’ in almost every way”, according to critic Robert Hilburn—and three R&B numbers that had been part of Presley’s stage repertoire for some time, covers of Little Richard, Ray Charles, and The Drifters. As described by Hilburn, these “were the most revealing of all. Unlike many white artists … who watered down the gritty edges of the original R&B versions of songs in the ’50s, Presley reshaped them. He not only injected the tunes with his own vocal character but also made guitar, not piano, the lead instrument in all three cases.” It became the first rock and roll album to top the Billboard chart, a position it held for 10 weeks. While Presley was not an innovative guitarist like Moore or contemporary African-American rockers Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, cultural historian Gilbert B. Rodman argued that the album’s cover image, “of Elvis having the time of his life on stage with a guitar in his hands played a crucial role in positioning the guitar … as the instrument that best captured the style and spirit of this new music.

Milton Berle Show and “Hound Dog”

On April 3, Presley made the first of two appearances on NBC’s Milton Berle Show. His performance, on the deck of the USS Hancock in San Diego, California, prompted cheers and screams from an audience of sailors and their dates. A few days later, a flight taking Presley and his band to Nashville for a recording session left all three badly shaken when an engine died and the plane almost went down over Arkansas. Twelve weeks after its original release, “Heartbreak Hotel” became Presley’s first number-one pop hit. In late April, Presley began a two-week residency at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The shows were poorly received by the conservative, middle-aged hotel guests—”like a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party”, wrote a critic for Newsweek. Amid his Vegas tenure, Presley, who had serious acting ambitions, signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures. He began a tour of the Midwest in mid-May, taking in 15 cities in as many days. He had attended several shows by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys in Vegas and was struck by their cover of “Hound Dog”, a hit in 1953 for blues singer Big Mama Thornton by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It became the new closing number of his act. After a show in La Crosse, Wisconsin, an urgent message on the letterhead of the local Catholic diocese’s newspaper was sent to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. It warned that “Presley is a definite danger to the security of the United States. … [His] actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth. … After the show, more than 1,000 teenagers tried to gang into Presley’s room at the auditorium. … Indications of the harm Presley did just in La Crosse were the two high school girls … whose abdomen and thigh had Presley’s autograph.”

The second Milton Berle Show appearance came on June 5 at NBC’s Hollywood studio, amid another hectic tour. Berle persuaded Presley to leave his guitar backstage, advising, “Let ’em see you, son.” During the performance, Presley abruptly halted an uptempo rendition of “Hound Dog” with a wave of his arm and launched into a slow, grinding version accentuated with energetic, exaggerated body movements. Presley’s gyrations created a storm of controversy. Television critics were outraged: Jack Gould of The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability. … His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub. … His one specialty is an accented movement of the body … primarily identified with the repertoire of the blond bombshells of the burlesque runway.” Ben Gross of the New York Daily News opined that popular music “has reached its lowest depths in the ‘grunt and groin’ antics of one Elvis Presley. … Elvis, who rotates his pelvis … gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos”. Ed Sullivan, whose own variety show was the nation’s most popular, declared him “unfit for family viewing”. To Presley’s displeasure, he soon found himself being referred to as “Elvis the Pelvis”, which he called “one of the most childish expressions I ever heard, comin’ from an adult.”

Steve Allen Show and first Sullivan appearance

The Berle shows drew such high ratings that Presley was booked for a July 1 appearance on NBC’s Steve Allen Show in New York. Allen, no fan of rock and roll, introduced a “new Elvis” in a white bow tie and black tails. Presley sang “Hound Dog” for less than a minute to a basset hound wearing a top hat and bow tie. As described by television historian Jake Austen, “Allen thought Presley was talentless and absurd … [he] set things up so that Presley would show his contrition”. Allen later wrote that he found Presley’s “strange, gangly, country-boy charisma, his hard-to-define cuteness, and his charming eccentricity intriguing” and simply worked him into the customary “comedy fabric” of his program.[113] Just before the final rehearsal for the show, Presley told a reporter, “I’m holding down on this show. I don’t want to do anything to make people dislike me. I think TV is important so I’m going to go along, but I won’t be able to give the kind of show I do in a personal appearance.” Presley would refer back to the Allen show as the most ridiculous performance of his career. Later that night, he appeared on Hy Gardner Calling, a popular local TV show. Pressed on whether he had learned anything from the criticism to which he was being subjected, Presley responded, “No, I haven’t, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong. … I don’t see how any type of music would have any bad influence on people when it’s only music. … I mean, how would rock ‘n’ roll music make anyone rebel against their parents?”

The next day, Presley recorded “Hound Dog”, along with “Any Way You Want Me” and “Don’t Be Cruel”. The Jordanaires sang harmony, as they had on The Steve Allen Show; they would work with Presley through the 1960s. A few days later, Presley made an outdoor concert appearance in Memphis, at which he announced, “You know, those people in New York are not gonna change me none. I’m gonna show you what the real Elvis is like tonight.”[116] In August, a judge in Jacksonville, Florida, ordered Presley to tame his act. Throughout the following performance, he largely kept still, except for wiggling his little finger suggestively in mockery of the order.[117] The single pairing “Don’t Be Cruel” with “Hound Dog” ruled the top of the charts for 11 weeks—a mark that would not be surpassed for 36 years. Recording sessions for Presley’s second album took place in Hollywood during the first week of September. Leiber and Stoller, the writers of “Hound Dog”, contributed “Love Me”.

Allen’s show with Presley had, for the first time, beaten CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show in the ratings. Sullivan, despite his June pronouncement, booked Presley for three appearances for an unprecedented $50,000. The first, on September 9, 1956, was seen by approximately 60 million viewers—a record 82.6 percent of the television audience. Actor Charles Laughton hosted the show, filling in while Sullivan was recovering from a car accident. Presley appeared in two segments that night from CBS Television City in Los Angeles. According to Elvis legend, Presley was shot only from the waist up. Watching clips of the Allen and Berle shows with his producer, Sullivan had opined that Presley “got some kind of device hanging down below the crotch of his pants—so when he moves his legs back and forth you can see the outline of his cock. … I think it’s a Coke bottle. … We just can’t have this on a Sunday night. This is a family show!” Sullivan publicly told TV Guide, “As for his gyrations, the whole thing can be controlled with camera shots.” In fact, Presley was shown head-to-toe in the first and second shows. Though the camerawork was relatively discreet during his debut, with leg-concealing closeups when he danced, the studio audience reacted in customary style: screaming.[ Presley’s performance of his forthcoming single, the ballad “Love Me Tender”, prompted a record-shattering million advance orders. More than any other single event, it was this first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that made Presley a national celebrity of barely precedented proportions.

Accompanying Presley’s rise to fame, a cultural shift was taking place that he both helped inspire and came to symbolize. Igniting the “biggest pop craze since Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra … Presley brought rock’n’roll into the mainstream of popular culture”, writes historian Marty Jezer. “As Presley set the artistic pace, other artists followed. … Presley, more than anyone else, gave the young a belief in themselves as a distinct and somehow unified generation—the first in America ever to feel the power of an integrated youth culture.”

Crazed crowds and film debut

The audience response at Presley’s live shows became increasingly fevered. Moore recalled, “He’d start out, ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a Hound Dog,’ and they’d just go to pieces. They’d always react the same way. There’d be a riot every time.” At the two concerts he performed in September at the Mississippi–Alabama Fair and Dairy Show, 50 National Guardsmen were added to the police security to ensure that the crowd would not cause a ruckus. Elvis, Presley’s second album, was released in October and quickly rose to number one on the billboard. The album includes “Old Shep”, which he sang at the talent show in 1945, and which now marked the first time he played piano on an RCA session. According to Guralnick, one can hear “in the halting chords and the somewhat stumbling rhythm both the unmistakable emotion and the equally unmistakable valuing of emotion over technique.” Assessing the musical and cultural impact of Presley’s recordings from “That’s All Right” through Elvis, rock critic Dave Marsh wrote that “these records, more than any others, contain the seeds of what rock & roll was, has been and most likely what it may foreseeably become.”

Presley returned to the Sullivan show at its main studio in New York, hosted this time by its namesake, on October 28. After the performance, crowds in Nashville and St. Louis burned him in effigy. His first motion picture, Love Me Tender, was released on November 21. Though he was not top-billed, the film’s original title—The Reno Brothers—was changed to capitalize on his latest number-one record: “Love Me Tender” had hit the top of the charts earlier that month. To further take advantage of Presley’s popularity, four musical numbers were added to what was originally a straight acting role. The film was panned by the critics but did very well at the box office. Presley would receive top billing on every subsequent film he made.

On December 4, Presley dropped into Sun Records where Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were recording and had an impromptu jam session, along with Johnny Cash. Though Phillips no longer had the right to release any Presley material, he made sure that the session was captured on tape. The results, none officially released for 25 years, became known as the “Million Dollar Quartet” recordings. The year ended with a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal reporting that Presley merchandise had brought in $22 million on top of his record sales, and Billboard’s declaration that he had placed more songs in the top 100 than any other artist since records were first charted.[134] In his first full year at RCA, one of the music industry’s largest companies, Presley had accounted for over 50 percent of the label’s singles sales.

Leiber and Stoller collaboration and draft notice

Presley made his third and final Ed Sullivan Show appearance on January 6, 1957—on this occasion indeed shot only down to the waist. Some commentators have claimed that Parker orchestrated an appearance of censorship to generate publicity. In any event, as critic Greil Marcus describes, Presley “did not tie himself down. Leaving behind the bland clothes he had worn on the first two shows, he stepped out in the outlandish costume of a pasha, if not a harem girl. From the make-up over his eyes, the hair falling in his face, the overwhelmingly sexual cast of his mouth, he was playing Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik, with all stops out.” To close, displaying his range and defying Sullivan’s wishes, Presley sang a gentle black spiritual, “Peace in the Valley”. At the end of the show, Sullivan declared Presley “a real decent, fine boy”.[136] Two days later, the Memphis draft board announced that Presley would be classified 1-A and would probably be drafted sometime that year.

Each of the three Presley singles released in the first half of 1957 went to number one: “Too Much”, “All Shook Up”, and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”. Already an international star, he was attracting fans even where his music was not officially released. Under the headline “Presley Records a Craze in Soviet”, The New York Times reported that pressings of his music on discarded X-ray plates were commanding high prices in Leningrad. Between film shoots and recording sessions, Presley also found time to purchase an 18-room mansion eight miles (13 km) south of downtown Memphis for himself and his parents: Graceland. Loving You—the soundtrack to his second film, released in July—was Presley’s third straight number-one album. The title track was written by Leiber and Stoller, who were then retained to write four of the six songs recorded at the sessions for Jailhouse Rock, Presley’s next film. The songwriting team effectively produced the Jailhouse sessions and developed a close working relationship with Presley, who came to regard them as his “good-luck charm”. “He was fast,” said Leiber. “Any demo you gave him he knew by heart in ten minutes.” The title track was yet another number-one hit, as was the Jailhouse Rock EP.

Presley undertook three brief tours during the year, continuing to generate a crazed audience response. A Detroit newspaper suggested that “the trouble with going to see Elvis Presley is that you’re liable to get killed.” Villanova students pelted him with eggs in Philadelphia,[143] and in Vancouver the crowd rioted after the end of the show, destroying the stage. Frank Sinatra, who had inspired the swooning of teenage girls in the 1940s, condemned the new musical phenomenon. In a magazine article, he decried rock and roll as “brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious. … It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells phoney and false. It is sung, played and written, for the most part, by cretinous goons. … This rancid-smelling aphrodisiac I deplore.” Asked for a response, Presley said, “I admire the man. He has a right to say what he wants to say. He is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn’t have said it. … This is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago.”

Leiber and Stoller were again in the studio for the recording of Elvis’ Christmas Album. Toward the end of the session, they wrote a song on the spot at Presley’s request: “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”, an innuendo-laden blues. The holiday release stretched Presley’s string of number-one albums to four and would become the best-selling Christmas album ever in the United States, with eventual sales of over 20 million worldwide. After the session, Moore and Black—drawing only modest weekly salaries, sharing in none of Presley’s massive financial success—resigned. Though they were brought back on a per diem basis a few weeks later, it was clear that they had not been part of Presley’s inner circle for some time. On December 20, Presley received his draft notice. He was granted a deferment to finish the forthcoming King Creole, in which $350,000 had already been invested by Paramount and producer Hal Wallis. A couple of weeks into the new year, “Don’t”, another Leiber and Stoller tune, became Presley’s tenth number-one seller. It had been only 21 months since “Heartbreak Hotel” had brought him to the top for the first time. Recording sessions for the King Creole soundtrack were held in Hollywood in mid-January 1958. Leiber and Stoller provided three songs and were again on hand, but it would be the last time they and Presley worked closely together. As Stoller recalled, Presley’s manager and entourage sought to wall him off: “He was removed. … They kept him separate.” A brief soundtrack session on February 11 marked another ending—it was the final occasion on which Black was to perform with Presley. He died in 1965.

1958–1960: Military service and mother’s death

On March 24, 1958, Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army as a private at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Arkansas. His arrival was a major media event. Hundreds of people descended on Presley as he stepped from the bus; photographers then accompanied him into the fort. Presley announced that he was looking forward to his military stint, saying that he did not want to be treated any differently from anyone else: “The Army can do anything it wants with me.”

Presley commenced basic training at Fort Hood, Texas. During a two-week leave in early June, he recorded five songs in Nashville. In early August, his mother was diagnosed with hepatitis, and her condition rapidly worsened. Presley was granted emergency leave to visit her and arrived in Memphis on August 12. Two days later, she died of heart failure at the age of 46. Presley was devastated and never the same; their relationship had remained extremely close—even into his adulthood, they would use baby talk with each other and Presley would address her with pet names.

After training, Presley joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany, on October 1.[161] While on maneuvers, Presley was introduced to amphetamines by a sergeant. He became “practically evangelical about their benefits”, not only for energy but for “strength” and weight loss as well, and many of his friends in the outfit joined him in indulging. The Army also introduced Presley to karate, which he studied seriously, training with Jürgen Seydel. It became a lifelong interest, which he later included in his live performances. Fellow soldiers have attested to Presley’s wish to be seen as an able, ordinary soldier, despite his fame, and to his generosity. He donated his Army pay to charity, purchased TV sets for the base, and bought an extra set of fatigues for everyone in his outfit.

While in Friedberg, Presley met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. They would eventually marry after a seven-and-a-half-year courtship. In her autobiography, Priscilla said that Presley was concerned that his 24-month spell as a GI would ruin his career. In Special Services, he would have been able to give musical performances and remain in touch with the public, but Parker had convinced him that to gain popular respect, he should serve his country as a regular soldier. Media reports echoed Presley’s concerns about his career, but RCA producer Steve Sholes and Freddy Bienstock of Hill and Range had carefully prepared for his two-year hiatus. Armed with a substantial amount of unreleased material, they kept up a regular stream of successful releases. Between his induction and discharge, Presley had ten top 40 hits, including “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck”, the best-selling “Hard Headed Woman”, and “One Night” in 1958, and “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such as I” and the number-one “A Big Hunk o’ Love” in 1959. RCA also generated four albums compiling old material during this period, most successfully Elvis’ Golden Records (1958), which hit number three on the LP chart.

1960–1968: Focus on films

Elvis Is Back

Presley returned to the United States on March 2, 1960, and was honorably discharged three days later with the rank of sergeant. The train that carried him from New Jersey to Tennessee was mobbed all the way, and Presley was called upon to appear at scheduled stops to please his fans. On the night of March 20, he entered RCA’s Nashville studio to cut tracks for a new album along with a single, “Stuck on You”, which was rushed into release and swiftly became a number-one hit. Another Nashville session two weeks later yielded a pair of his best-selling singles, the ballads “It’s Now or Never” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, along with the rest of Elvis Is Back! The album features several songs described by Greil Marcus as full of Chicago blues “menace, driven by Presley’s own super-miked acoustic guitar, brilliant playing by Scotty Moore, and demonic sax work from Boots Randolph. Elvis’ singing wasn’t sexy, it was pornographic.” As a whole, the record “conjured up the vision of a performer who could be all things”, according to music historian John Robertson: “a flirtatious teenage idol with a heart of gold; a tempestuous, dangerous lover; a gutbucket blues singer; a sophisticated nightclub entertainer;  raucous rocker”. Released only days after recording was complete, it reached number two on the album chart.

Presley returned to television on May 12 as a guest on The Frank Sinatra Timex Special—ironic for both stars, given Sinatra’s earlier excoriation of rock and roll. Also known as Welcome Home Elvis, the show had been taped in late March, the only time all year Presley performed in front of an audience. Parker secured an unheard-of $125,000 fee for eight minutes of singing. The broadcast drew an enormous viewership.

G.I. Blues, the soundtrack to Presley’s first film since his return, was a number-one album in October. His first LP of sacred material, His Hand in Mine, followed two months later. It reached number 13 on the U.S. pop chart and number 3 in the UK, remarkable figures for a gospel album. In February 1961, Presley performed two shows for a benefit event in Memphis, on behalf of 24 local charities. During a luncheon preceding the event, RCA presented him with a plaque certifying worldwide sales of over 75 million records.[181] A 12-hour Nashville session in mid-March yielded nearly all of Presley’s next studio album, Something for Everybody. As described by John Robertson, it exemplifies the Nashville sound, the restrained, cosmopolitan style that would define country music in the 1960s. Presaging much of what was to come from Presley himself over the next half-decade, the album is largely “a pleasant, unthreatening pastiche of the music that had once been Elvis’ birthright”. It would be his sixt

h number-one LP. Another benefit concert, raising money for a Pearl Harbor memorial, was staged on March 25, in Hawaii. It was to be Presley’s last public performance for seven years.

Lost in Hollywood

Parker had by now pushed Presley into a heavy film making schedule, focused on formulaic, modestly budgeted musical comedies. Presley, at first, insisted on pursuing higher roles, but when two films in a more dramatic vein—Flaming Star (1960) and Wild in the Country (1961)—were less commercially successful, he reverted to the formula. Among the 27 films he made during the 1960s, there were a few further exceptions. His films were almost universally panned; critic Andrew Caine dismissed them as a “pantheon of bad taste”. Nonetheless, they were virtually all profitable. Hal Wallis, who produced nine of them, declared, “A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood.”[

Of Presley’s films in the 1960s, 15 were accompanied by soundtrack albums and another 5 by soundtrack EPs. The films’ rapid production and release schedules—he frequently starred in three a year—affected his music. According to Jerry Leiber, the soundtrack formula was already evident before Presley left for the Army: “three ballads, one medium-tempo [number], one up-tempo, and one break blues boogie”. As the decade wore on, the quality of the soundtrack songs grew “progressively worse”.[189] Julie Parrish, who appeared in Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), says that he disliked many of the songs chosen for his films. The Jordanaires’ Gordon Stoker describes how Presley would retreat from the studio microphone: “The material was so bad that he felt like he couldn’t sing it.” Most of the film albums featured a song or two from respected writers such as the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. But by and large, according to biographer Jerry Hopkins, the numbers seemed to be “written on order by men who never really understood Elvis or rock and roll”. Regardless of the songs’ quality, it has been argued that Presley generally sang them well, with commitment. Critic Dave Marsh heard the opposite: “Presley isn’t trying, probably the wisest course in the face of material like ‘No Room to Rumba in a Sports Car’ and ‘Rock-A-Hula Baby’.”

In the first half of the decade, three of Presley’s soundtrack albums were ranked number one on the pop charts, and a few of his most popular songs came from his films, such as “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (1961) and “Return to Sender” (1962). (“Viva Las Vegas”, the title track to the 1964 film, was a minor hit as a B-side, and became truly popular only later.) But, as with artistic merit, the commercial returns steadily diminished. During a five-year span—1964 through 1968—Presley had only one top-ten hit: “Crying in the Chapel” (1965), a gospel number recorded back in 1960. As for non-film albums, between the June 1962 release of Pot Luck and the November 1968 release of the soundtrack to the television special that signaled his comeback, only one LP of new material by Presley was issued: the gospel album How Great Thou Art (1967). It won him his first Grammy Award, for Best Sacred Performance. As Marsh described, Presley was “arguably the greatest white gospel singer of his time [and] really the last rock & roll artist to make gospel as vital a component of his musical personality as his secular songs”.

Shortly before Christmas 1966, more than seven years since they first met, Presley proposed to Priscilla Beaulieu. They were married on May 1, 1967, in a brief ceremony in their suite at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. The flow of formulaic films and assembly-line soundtracks rolled on. It was not until October 1967, when the Clambake soundtrack LP registered record low sales for a new Presley album, that RCA executives recognized a problem. “By then, of course, the damage had been done”, as historians Connie Kirchberg and Marc Hendrickx put it. “Elvis was viewed as a joke by serious music lovers and a has-been to all but his most loyal fans.

1968–1973: Comeback

Elvis: the ’68 Comeback Special

Presley’s only child, Lisa Marie, was born on February 1, 1968, during a period when he had grown deeply unhappy with his career. Of the eight Presley singles released between January 1967 and May 1968, only two charted in the top 40, and none higher than number 28. His forthcoming soundtrack album, Speedway, would rank at number 82 on the Billboard chart. Parker had already shifted his plans to television, where Presley had not appeared since the Sinatra Timex show in 1960. He maneuvered a deal with NBC that committed the network to both finance a theatrical feature and broadcast a Christmas special.

Recorded in late June in Burbank, California, the special, simply called Elvis, aired on December 3, 1968. Later known as the ’68 Comeback Special, the show featured lavishly staged studio productions as well as songs performed with a band in front of a small audience—Presley’s first live performances since 1961. The live segments saw Presley dressed in tight black leather, singing and playing guitar in an uninhibited style reminiscent of his early rock and roll days. Director and co-producer Steve Binder had worked hard to produce a show that was far from the hour of Christmas songs Parker had originally planned. The show, NBC’s highest-rated that season, captured 42 percent of the total viewing audience. Jon Landau of Eye magazine remarked, “There is something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home. He sang with the kind of power people no longer expect of rock ‘n’ roll singers. He moved his body with a lack of pretension and effort that must have made Jim Morrison green with envy.” Dave Marsh calls the performance one of “emotional grandeur and historical resonance”.

By January 1969, the single “If I Can Dream”, written for the special, reached number 12. The soundtrack album rose into the top ten. According to friend Jerry Schilling, the special reminded Presley of what “he had not been able to do for years, being able to choose the people; being able to choose what songs and not being told what had to be on the soundtrack. … He was out of prison, man.” Binder said of Presley’s reaction, “I played Elvis the 60-minute show, and he told me in the screening room, ‘Steve, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I give you my word I will never sing a song I don’t believe in.’”

From Elvis in Memphis and the International

Buoyed by the experience of the Comeback Special, Presley engaged in a prolific series of recording sessions at American Sound Studio, which led to the acclaimed From Elvis in Memphis. Released in June 1969, it was his first secular, non-soundtrack album from a dedicated period in the studio in eight years. As described by Dave Marsh, it is “a masterpiece in which Presley immediately catches up with pop music trends that had seemed to pass him by during the movie years. He sings country songs, soul songs and rockers with real conviction, a stunning achievement.” The album featured the hit single “In the Ghetto”, issued in April, which reached number three on the pop chart—Presley’s first non-gospel top ten hit since “Bossa Nova Baby” in 1963. Further hit singles were culled from the American Sound sessions: “Suspicious Minds”, “Don’t Cry Daddy”, and “Kentucky Rain”.[208]

Presley was keen to resume regular live performing. Following the success of the Comeback Special, offers came in from around the world. The London Palladium offered Parker $28,000 for a one-week engagement. He responded, “That’s fine for me, now how much can you get for Elvis?” In May, the brand new International Hotel in Las Vegas, boasting the largest showroom in the city, announced that it had booked Presley. He was scheduled to perform 57 shows over four weeks beginning July 31. Moore, Fontana, and the Jordanaires declined to participate, afraid of losing the lucrative session work they had in Nashville. Presley assembled new, top-notch accompaniment, led by guitarist James Burton and including two gospel groups, The Imperials and Sweet Inspirations. Costume designer Bill Belew, responsible for the intense leather styling of the Comeback Special, created a new stage look for Presley, inspired by Presley’s passion for karate. Nonetheless, he was nervous: his only previous Las Vegas engagement, in 1956, had been dismal. Parker, who intended to make Presley’s return the show business event of the year, oversaw a major promotional push. For his part, hotel owner Kirk Kerkorian arranged to send his own plane to New York to fly in rock journalists for the debut performance.[

Presley took to the stage without introduction. The audience of 2,200, including many celebrities, gave him a standing ovation before he sang a note and another after his performance. A third followed his encore, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (a song that would be his closing number for much of the 1970s).[ At a press conference after the show, when a journalist referred to him as “The King”, Presley gestured toward Fats Domino, who was taking in the scene. “No,” Presley said, “that’s the real king of rock and roll.” The next day, Parker’s negotiations with the hotel resulted in a five-year contract for Presley to play each February and August, at an annual salary of $1 million. Newsweek commented, “There are several unbelievable things about Elvis, but the most incredible is his staying power in a world where meteoric careers fade like shooting stars.” Rolling Stone called Presley “supernatural, his own resurrection.” In November, Presley’s final non-concert film, Change of Habit, opened. The double album From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis came out the same month; the first LP consisted of live performances from the International, the second of more cuts from the American Sound sessions. “Suspicious Minds” reached the top of the charts—Presley’s first U.S. pop number-one in over seven years, and his last.

Cassandra Peterson, later television’s Elvira, met Presley during this period in Las Vegas, where she was working as a showgirl. She recalled of their encounter, “He was so anti-drug when I met him. I mentioned to him that I smoked marijuana, and he was just appalled. He said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’” Presley was not only deeply opposed to recreational drugs, he also rarely drank. Several of his family members had been alcoholics, a fate he intended to avoid.

Back on tour and meeting Nixon

Presley returned to the International early in 1970 for the first of the year’s two-month-long engagements, performing two shows a night. Recordings from these shows were issued on the album On Stage. In late February, Presley performed six attendance-record–breaking shows at the Houston Astrodome. In April, the single “The Wonder of You” was issued—a number one hit in the UK, it topped the U.S. adult contemporary chart, as well. MGM filmed rehearsal and concert footage at the International during August for the documentary Elvis: That’s the Way It Is. Presley was performing in a jumpsuit, which would become a trademark of his live act. During this engagement, he was threatened with murder unless $50,000 was paid. Presley had been the target of many threats since the 1950s, often without his knowledge. The FBI took the threat seriously and security was stepped up for the next two shows. Presley went onstage with a Derringer in his right boot and a .45 pistol in his waistband, but the concerts succeeded without any incidents.

The album, That’s the Way It Is, produced to accompany the documentary and featuring both studio and live recordings, marked a stylistic shift. As music historian John Robertson noted, “The authority of Presley’s singing helped disguise the fact that the album stepped decisively away from the American-roots inspiration of the Memphis sessions towards a more middle-of-the-road sound. With country put on the back burner, and soul and R&B left in Memphis, what was left was very classy, very clean white pop—perfect for the Las Vegas crowd, but a definite retrograde step for Elvis.” After the end of his International engagement on September 7, Presley embarked on a week-long concert tour, largely of the South, his first since 1958. Another week-long tour, of the West Coast, followed in November.

On December 21, 1970, Presley engineered a meeting with President Richard Nixon at the White House, where he expressed his patriotism and explained how he believed he could reach out to the hippies to help combat the drug culture he and the president abhorred. He asked Nixon for a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, to add to similar items he had begun collecting and to signify official sanction of his patriotic efforts. Nixon, who apparently found the encounter awkward, expressed a belief that Presley could send a positive message to young people and that it was, therefore, important that he “retain his credibility”. Presley told Nixon that The Beatles, whose songs he regularly performed in concert during the era, exemplified what he saw as a trend of anti-Americanism. Presley and his friends previously had a four-hour get-together with The Beatles at his home in Bel Air, California in August 1965. On hearing reports of the meeting, Paul McCartney later said that he “felt a bit betrayed. … The great joke was that we were taking [illegal] drugs, and look what happened to him”, a reference to Presley’s early death, linked to prescription drug abuse.

The U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce named Presley one of its annual Ten Most Outstanding Young Men of the Nation on January 16, 1971. Not long after, the City of Memphis named the stretch of Highway 51 South on which Graceland is located “Elvis Presley Boulevard”. The same year, Presley became the first rock and roll singer to be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award (then known as the Bing Crosby Award) by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Grammy Award organization. Three new, non-film Presley studio albums were released in 1971, as many as had come out over the previous eight years. Best received by critics was Elvis Country, a concept record that focused on genre standards. The biggest seller was Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas, “the truest statement of all”, according to Greil Marcus. “In the midst of ten painfully genteel Christmas songs, every one sung with appalling sincerity and humility, one could find Elvis tom-catting his way through six blazing minutes of ‘Merry Christmas Baby,’ a raunchy old Charles Brown blues. … If [Presley’s] sin was his lifelessness, it was his sinfulness that brought him to life”.

Marriage breakdown and Aloha from Hawaii

MGM again filmed Presley in April 1972, this time for Elvis on Tour, which went on to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Documentary Film that year. His gospel album He Touched Me, released that month, would earn him his second competitive Grammy Award, for Best Inspirational Performance. A 14-date tour commenced with an unprecedented four consecutive sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The evening concert on July 10 was recorded and issued in an LP form a week later. Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden became one of Presley’s biggest-selling albums. After the tour, the single “Burning Love” was released—Presley’s last top ten hit on the U.S. pop chart. “The most exciting single Elvis has made since ‘All Shook Up’,” wrote rock critic Robert Christgau. “Who else could make ‘It’s coming closer, the flames are now licking my body’ sound like an assignation with James Brown’s backup band?”
High-collared white jumpsuit resplendent with red, blue, and gold eagle motif in sequins
Presley came up with his outfit’s eagle motif, as “something that would say ‘America’ to the world”.

Presley and his wife, meanwhile, had become increasingly distant, barely cohabiting. In 1971, an affair he had with Joyce Bova resulted—unbeknownst to him—in her pregnancy and an abortion. He often raised the possibility of her moving into Graceland, saying that he was likely to leave Priscilla. The Presleys separated on February 23, 1972, after Priscilla disclosed her relationship with Mike Stone, a karate instructor Presley had recommended to her. Priscilla related that when she told him, Presley “grabbed … and forcefully made love to” her, declaring, “This is how a real man makes love to his woman.” She later stated in an interview that she regretted her choice of words in describing the incident, and said it had been an overstatement. Five months later, Presley’s new girlfriend, Linda Thompson, a songwriter and one-time Memphis beauty queen, moved in with him. Presley and his wife filed for divorce on August 18. According to Joe Moscheo of the Imperials, the failure of Presley’s marriage “was a blow from which he never recovered.” At a rare press conference that June, a reporter had asked Presley whether he was satisfied with his image. Presley replied, “Well, the image is one thing and the human being another … it’s very hard to live up to an image.”

In January 1973, Presley performed two benefit concerts for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund in connection with a groundbreaking TV special, Aloha from Hawaii, which would be the first concert by a solo artist to be aired globally. The first show served as a practice run and backup should technical problems affect the live broadcast two days later. On January 14, Aloha from Hawaii aired live via satellite to prime-time audiences in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as to U.S. servicemen based across Southeast Asia. In Japan, where it capped a nationwide Elvis Presley Week, it smashed viewing records. The next night, it was simulcast to 28 European countries, and in April an extended version finally aired in the U.S., where it won a 57 percent share of the TV audience.[248] Over time, Parker’s claim that it was seen by one billion or more people would be broadly accepted, but that figure appeared to have been sheer invention. Presley’s stage costume became the most recognized example of the elaborate concert garb with which his latter-day persona became closely associated. As described by Bobbie Ann Mason, “At the end of the show, when he spreads out his American Eagle cape, with the full stretched wings of the eagle studded on the back, he becomes a god figure.”[254] The accompanying double album, released in February, went to number one and eventually sold over 5 million copies in the United States. It proved to be Presley’s last U.S. number-one pop album during his lifetime.

At a midnight show the same month, four men rushed onto the stage in an apparent attack. Security men came to Presley’s defense, and he ejected one invader from the stage himself. Following the show, he became obsessed with the idea that the men had been sent by Mike Stone to kill him. Though they were shown to have been only overexuberant fans, he raged, “There’s too much pain in me … Stone [must] die.” His outbursts continued with such intensity that a physician was unable to calm him, despite administering large doses of medication. After another two full days of raging, Red West, his friend and bodyguard, felt compelled to get a price for a contract killing and was relieved when Presley decided, “Aw hell, let’s just leave it for now. Maybe it’s a bit heavy.”

1973–1977: Health deterioration and death

Medical crises and last studio sessions

Presley’s divorce was finalized on October 9, 1973. By then, his health was in major and serious decline. Twice during the year, he overdosed on barbiturates, spending three days in a coma in his hotel suite after the first incident. Towards the end of 1973, he was hospitalized, semi-comatose from the effects of a pethidine addiction. According to his primary care physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, Presley “felt that by getting drugs from a doctor, he wasn’t the common everyday junkie getting something off the street”. Since his comeback, he had staged more live shows with each passing year, and 1973 saw 168 concerts, his busiest schedule ever. Despite his failing health, in 1974, he undertook another intensive touring schedule.

Presley’s condition declined precipitously in September. Keyboardist Tony Brown remembered Presley’s arrival at a University of Maryland concert: “He fell out of the limousine, to his knees. People jumped to help, and he pushed them away like, ‘Don’t help me.’ He walked on stage and held onto the mic for the first thirty minutes like it was a post. Everybody’s looking at each other like, ‘Is the tour gonna happen’?” Guitarist John Wilkinson recalled, “He was all gut. He was slurring. He was so fucked up. … It was obvious he was drugged. It was obvious there was something terribly wrong with his body. It was so bad the words to the songs were barely intelligible. … I remember crying. He could barely get through the introductions.” Wilkinson recounted that a few nights later in Detroit, “I watched him in his dressing room, just draped over a chair, unable to move. So often I thought, ‘Boss, why don’t you just cancel this tour and take a year off …?’ I mentioned something once in a guarded moment. He patted me on the back and said, ‘It’ll be all right. Don’t you worry about it.’” Presley continued to play to sellout crowds. Cultural critic Marjorie Garber wrote that he was now widely seen as a garish pop crooner: “In effect, he had become Liberace. Even his fans were now middle-aged matrons and blue-haired grandmothers.”

On July 13, 1976, Vernon Presley—who had become deeply involved in his son’s financial affairs—fired “Memphis Mafia” bodyguards Red West (Presley’s friend since the 1950s), Sonny West, and David Hebler, citing the need to “cut back on expenses”. Presley was in Palm Springs at the time, and some suggested that he was too cowardly to face the three himself. Another associate of Presley’s, John O’Grady, argued that the bodyguards were dropped because their rough treatment of fans had prompted too many lawsuits.[268] However, Presley’s stepbrother, David Stanley, claimed that the bodyguards were fired because they were becoming more outspoken about Presley’s drug dependency.

RCA, which had enjoyed a steady stream of product from Presley for over a decade, grew anxious as his interest in spending time in the studio waned. After a December 1973 session that produced 18 songs, enough for almost two albums, he did not enter the studio in 1974. Parker sold RCA yet another concert record, Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis. Recorded on March 20, it included a version of “How Great Thou Art” that would win Presley his third and final competitive Grammy Award. (All three of his competitive Grammy wins—out of 14 total nominations—were for gospel recordings.) Presley returned to the studio in Hollywood in March 1975, but Parker’s attempts to arrange another session toward the end of the year were unsuccessful. In 1976, RCA sent a mobile studio to Graceland that made possible two full-scale recording sessions at Presley’s home. Even in that comfortable context, the recording process became a struggle for him.

Despite concerns from his label and manager, between July 1973 and October 1976 Presley recorded virtually the entire contents of six albums. Though he was no longer a major presence on the pop charts, five of those albums entered the top five of the country chart, and three went to number one: Promised Land (1975), From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee (1976), and Moody Blue (1977).[278] Similarly, his singles in this era did not prove to be major pop hits, but Presley remained a significant force in the country and adult contemporary markets. Eight studio singles from this period released during his lifetime were top ten hits on one or both charts, four in 1974 alone. “My Boy” was a number-one adult contemporary hit in 1975, and “Moody Blue” topped the country chart and reached the second spot on the adult contemporary chart in 1976. Perhaps his most critically acclaimed recording of the era came that year, with what Greil Marcus described as his “apocalyptic attack” on the soul classic “Hurt”. “If he felt the way he sounded”, Dave Marsh wrote of Presley’s performance, “the wonder isn’t that he had only a year left to live but that he managed to survive that long.”

Final months and death

Presley and Linda Thompson split in November 1976, and he took up with a new girlfriend, Ginger Alden.[282] He proposed to Alden and gave her an engagement ring two months later, though several of his friends later claimed that he had no serious intention of marrying again. Journalist Tony Scherman wrote that by early 1977, “Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self. Hugely overweight, his mind dulled by the pharmacopia he daily ingested, he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts.”[284] In Alexandria, Louisiana, he was on stage for less than an hour, and “was impossible to understand”.[ On March 31, Presley failed to perform in Baton Rouge, unable to get out of his hotel bed; a total of four shows had to be canceled and rescheduled. Despite the accelerating deterioration of his health, he stuck to most touring commitments. According to Guralnick, fans “were becoming increasingly voluble about their disappointment, but it all seemed to go right past Presley, whose world was now confined almost entirely to his room and his spiritualism books.” A cousin, Billy Smith, recalled how Presley would sit in his room and chat for hours, sometimes recounting favorite Monty Python sketches and his own past escapades, but more often gripped by paranoid obsessions that reminded Smith of Howard Hughes.

“Way Down”, Presley’s last single issued during his career, was released on June 6. That month, CBS filmed two concerts for a TV special, Elvis in Concert, to be aired in October. In the first, shot in Omaha on June 19, Presley’s voice, Guralnick writes, “is almost unrecognizable, a small, childlike instrument in which he talks more than sings most of the songs, casts about uncertainly for the melody in others, and is virtually unable to articulate or project”. Two days later, in Rapid City, South Dakota, “he looked healthier, seemed to have lost a little weight, and sounded better, too”, though, by the conclusion of the performance, his face was “framed in a helmet of blue-black hair from which sweat sheets down over pale, swollen cheeks”. His final concert was held in Indianapolis at Market Square Arena, on June 26.

he book Elvis: What Happened?, co-written by the three bodyguards fired the previous year, was published on August 1. It was the first exposé to detail Presley’s years of drug misuse. He was devastated by the book and tried unsuccessfully to halt its release by offering money to the publishers. By this point, he suffered from multiple ailments: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, each magnified—and possibly caused—by drug abuse.

On the evening of Tuesday, August 16, 1977, Presley was scheduled to fly out of Memphis to begin another tour. That afternoon, Ginger Alden discovered him in an unresponsive state on a bathroom floor. According to her eyewitness account, “Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it. … It was clear that, from the time whatever hit him to the moment he had landed on the floor, Elvis hadn’t moved.” Attempts to revive him failed, and his death was officially pronounced the next day at 3:30 p.m. at the Baptist Memorial Hospital.

President Jimmy Carter issued a statement that credited Presley with having “permanently changed the face of American popular culture”. Thousands of people gathered outside Graceland to view the open casket. One of Presley’s cousins, Billy Mann, accepted $18,000 to secretly photograph the corpse; the picture appeared on the cover of the National Enquirer’s biggest-selling issue ever. Alden struck a $105,000 deal with the Enquirer for her story, but settled for less when she broke her exclusivity agreement. Presley left her nothing in his will.

Presley’s funeral was held at Graceland on Thursday, August 18. Outside the gates, a car plowed into a group of fans, killing two women and critically injuring a third. About 80,000 people lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where Presley was buried next to his mother. Within a few weeks, “Way Down” topped the country and UK pop charts. Following an attempt to steal Presley’s body in late August, the remains of both Presley and his mother were reburied in Graceland’s Meditation Garden on October 2.

Cause of death

While an autopsy, undertaken the same day Presley died, was still in progress, Memphis medical examiner Dr. Jerry Francisco announced that the immediate cause of death was cardiac arrest. Asked if drugs were involved, he declared that “drugs played no role in Presley’s death”.[301] In fact, “drug use was heavily implicated” in Presley’s death, writes Guralnick. The pathologists conducting the autopsy thought it possible, for instance, that he had suffered “anaphylactic shock brought on by the codeine pills he had gotten from his dentist, to which he was known to have had a mild allergy”. A pair of lab reports filed two months later strongly suggested that polypharmacy was the primary cause of death; one reported “fourteen drugs in Elvis’ system, ten in significant quantity”. In 1979, forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht conducted a review of the reports and concluded that a combination of central nervous system depressants had resulted in Presley’s accidental death.[301] Forensic historian and pathologist Michael Baden viewed the situation as complicated: “Elvis had had an enlarged heart for a long time. That, together with his drug habit, caused his death. But he was difficult to diagnose; it was a judgment call.”

The competence and ethics of two of the centrally involved medical professionals were seriously questioned. Dr. Francisco had offered a cause of death before the autopsy was complete; claimed the underlying ailment was cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that can be determined only in someone who is still alive; and denied drugs played any part in Presley’s death before the toxicology results were known. Allegations of a cover-up were widespread.[303] While a 1981 trial of Presley’s main physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, exonerated him of criminal liability for his death, the facts were startling: “In the first eight months of 1977 alone, he had [prescribed] more than 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines, and narcotics: all in Elvis’ name.” His license was suspended for three months. It was permanently revoked in the 1990s after the Tennessee Medical Board brought new charges of over-prescription.

In 1994, the Presley autopsy report was reopened. Dr. Joseph Davis, who had conducted thousands of autopsies as Miami-Dade County coroner, declared at its completion, “There is nothing in any of the data that supports a death from drugs. In fact, everything points to a sudden, violent heart attack.” More recent research has revealed that Dr. Francisco did not speak for the entire pathology team. Other staff “could say nothing with confidence until they got the results back from the laboratories, if then. That would be a matter of weeks.” One of the examiners, Dr. E. Eric Muirhead “could not believe his ears. Francisco had not only presumed to speak for the hospital’s team of pathologists, he had announced a conclusion that they had not reached. … Early on, a meticulous dissection of the body … confirmed [that] Elvis was chronically ill with diabetes, glaucoma, and constipation. As they proceeded, the doctors saw evidence that his body had been wracked over a span of years by a large and constant stream of drugs. They had also studied his hospital records, which included two admissions for drug detoxification and methadone treatments.” Writer Frank Coffey thought Elvis’s death was due to “a phenomenon called the Valsalva maneuver (essentially straining on the toilet leading to heart stoppage—plausible because Elvis suffered constipation, a common reaction to drug use)”. In similar terms, Dr. Dan Warlick, who was present at the autopsy, “believes Presley’s chronic constipation—the result of years of prescription drug abuse and high-fat, high-cholesterol gorging—brought on what’s known as Valsalva’s maneuver. Put simply, the strain of attempting to defecate compressed the singer’s abdominal aorta, shutting down his heart.”

However, in 2013, Dr. Forest Tennant, who had testified as a defense witness in Nichopoulos’ trial, described his own analysis of Presley’s available medical records. He concluded that Presley’s “drug abuse had led to falls, head trauma, and overdoses that damaged his brain”, and that his death was due in part to a toxic reaction to codeine—exacerbated by an undetected liver enzyme defect—which can cause sudden cardiac arrhythmia. DNA analysis in 2014 of a hair sample purported to be Presley’s found evidence of genetic variants that can lead to glaucoma, migraines, and obesity; a crucial variant associated with the heart-muscle disease hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was also identified.

Later developments

Between 1977 and 1981, six of Presley’s posthumously released singles were top-ten country hits.

Graceland was opened to the public in 1982. Attracting over half a million visitors annually, it became the second most-visited home in the United States, after the White House.[310] It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Presley has been inducted into five music halls of fame: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1998), the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2001), the Rockabilly Hall of Fame (2007), and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame (2012). In 1984, he received the W. C. Handy Award from the Blues Foundation and the Academy of Country Music’s first Golden Hat Award. In 1987, he received the American Music Awards’ Award of Merit.

A Junkie XL remix of Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” (credited as “Elvis Vs JXL”) was used in a Nike advertising campaign during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. It topped the charts in over 20 countries and was included in a compilation of Presley’s number-one hits, ELV1S, which was also an international success. The album returned Presley to the Billboard summit for the first time in almost three decades.

In 2003, a remix of “Rubberneckin’”, a 1969 recording of Presley’s, topped the U.S. sales chart, as did a 50th-anniversary re-release of “That’s All Right” the following year. The latter was an outright hit in Britain, debuting at number three on the pop chart; it also made the top ten in Canada. In 2005, another three reissued singles, “Jailhouse Rock”, “One Night”/”I Got Stung”, and “It’s Now or Never”, went to number one in the United Kingdom. They were part of a campaign that saw the re-release of all 18 of Presley’s previous chart-topping UK singles. The first, “All Shook Up”, came with a collectors’ box that made it ineligible to chart again; each of the other 17 reissues hit the British top five.

In 2005, Forbes named Presley the top-earning deceased celebrity for the fifth straight year, with a gross income of $45 million. He was placed second in 2006, returned to the top spot the next two years, and ranked fourth in 2009. The following year, he was ranked second, with his highest annual income ever—$60 million—spurred by the celebration of his 75th birthday and the launch of Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis show in Las Vegas. In November 2010, Viva Elvis: The Album was released, setting his voice to newly recorded instrumental tracks. As of mid-2011, there were an estimated 15,000 licensed Presley products, and he was again the second-highest-earning deceased celebrity. Six years later, he ranked fourth with earnings of $35 million, up $8 million from 2016 due in part to the opening of a new entertainment complex, Elvis Presley’s Memphis, and hotel, The Guest House at Graceland.

For much of his adult life, Presley, with his rise from poverty to riches and massive fame, had seemed to epitomize the American Dream. In his final years and even more so after his death, and the revelations about its circumstances, he became a symbol of excess and gluttony. Increasing attention, for instance, was paid to his appetite for the rich, heavy Southern cooking of his upbringing, foods such as chicken-fried steak and biscuits and gravy. In particular, his love of calorie-laden fried peanut butter, banana, and (sometimes) bacon sandwiches, now known as “Elvis sandwiches”, came to stand for this aspect of his persona. But the Elvis sandwich represents more than just unhealthy overindulgence—as media and culture scholar Robert Thompson describes, the unsophisticated treat also signifies Presley’s enduring all-American appeal: “He wasn’t only the king, he was one of us.”

Since 1977, there have been numerous alleged sightings of Presley. A long-standing conspiracy theory among some fans is that he faked his death. Adherents cite alleged discrepancies in the death certificate, reports of a wax dummy in his original coffin, and accounts of Presley planning a diversion so he could retire in peace.An unusually large number of fans have domestic shrines devoted to Presley and journey to sites with which he is connected, however faintly. Every August 16, the anniversary of his death, thousands of people gather outside Graceland and celebrate his memory with a candlelight ritual. “With Elvis, it is not just his music that has survived death”, writes Ted Harrison. “He himself has been raised, like a medieval saint, to a figure of cultic status. It is as if he has been canonized by acclamation.”

Artistry

Influences

Presley’s earliest musical influence came from gospel. His mother recalled that from the age of two, at the Assembly of God church in Tupelo attended by the family, “he would slide down off my lap, run into the aisle and scramble up to the platform. There he would stand looking at the choir and trying to sing with them.” In Memphis, Presley frequently attended all-night gospel singings at the Ellis Auditorium, where groups such as the Statesmen Quartet led the music in a style that, Guralnick suggests, sowed the seeds of Presley’s future stage act:

 

The Statesmen were an electric combination … featuring some of the most thrillingly emotive singing and daringly unconventional showmanship in the entertainment world … dressed in suits that might have come out of the window of Lansky’s. … Bass singer Jim Wetherington, known universally as the Big Chief, maintained a steady bottom, ceaselessly jiggling first his left leg, then his right, with the material of the pants leg ballooning out and shimmering. “He went about as far as you could go in gospel music,” said Jake Hess. “The women would jump up, just like they do for the pop shows.” Preachers frequently objected to the lewd movements … but audiences reacted with screams and swoons.

As a teenager, Presley’s musical interests were wide-ranging, and he was deeply informed about both white and African-American musical idioms. Though he never had any formal training, he had a remarkable memory, and his musical knowledge was already considerable by the time he made his first professional recordings aged 19 in 1954. When Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller met him two years later, they were astonished at his encyclopedic understanding of the blues, and, as Stoller put it, “He certainly knew a lot more than we did about country music and gospel music.” At a press conference the following year, he proudly declared, “I know practically every religious song that’s ever been written.”

Musicianship

Presley received his first guitar when he was 11 years old. He learned to play and sing; he gained no formal musical training but had an innate natural talent and could easily pick up music. Presley played guitar, bass, and piano. While he couldn’t read or write music and had no formal lessons, he was a natural musician and played everything by ear. Presley often played an instrument on his recordings and produced his own music. Presley played rhythm acoustic guitar on most of his Sun recordings and his 1950s RCA albums. He played electric bass guitar on “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” after his bassist Bill Black had trouble with the instrument.[348] Presley played the bass line including the intro. Presley played piano on songs such as “Old Shep” and “First in Line” from his 1956 album Elvis.[349] He is credited with playing piano on later albums such as From Elvis in Memphis and Moody Blue, and on “Unchained Melody” which was one of the last songs that he recorded.[350] Presley played lead guitar on one of his successful singles called “One Night”. Presley also played guitar on one of his successful singles called “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. In the 68 Comeback Special, Elvis took over on lead electric guitar, the first time he had ever been seen with the instrument in public, playing it on songs such as “Baby What You Want Me to Do” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. Elvis played the back of his guitar on some of his hits such as “All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”, providing percussion by slapping the instrument to create a beat. The album Elvis is Back! features Presley playing a lot of acoustic guitar on songs such as “I Will Be Home Again” and “Like a Baby”.

Musical styles and genres

Presley was a central figure in the development of rockabilly, according to music historians. “Rockabilly crystallized into a recognizable style in 1954 with Elvis Presley’s first release, on the Sun label”, writes Craig Morrison. Paul Friedlander describes the defining elements of rockabilly, which he similarly characterizes as “essentially … an Elvis Presley construction”: “the raw, emotive, and slurred vocal style and emphasis on rhythmic feeling [of] the blues with the string band and strummed rhythm guitar [of] country”. In “That’s All Right”, the Presley trio’s first record, Scotty Moore’s guitar solo, “a combination of Merle Travis–style country finger-picking, double-stop slides from acoustic boogie, and blues-based bent-note, single-string work, is a microcosm of this fusion.” While Katherine Charlton likewise calls Presley “rockabilly’s originator”, Carl Perkins has explicitly stated that “[Sam] Phillips, Elvis, and I didn’t create rockabilly” and, according to Michael Campbell, “Bill Haley recorded the first big rockabilly hit.” In Moore’s view, too, “It had been there for quite a while, really. Carl Perkins was doing basically the same sort of thing up around Jackson, and I know for a fact Jerry Lee Lewis had been playing that kind of music ever since he was ten years old.”

At RCA, Presley’s rock and roll sound grew distinct from rockabilly with group chorus vocals, more heavily amplified electric guitars and a tougher, more intense manner. While he was known for taking songs from various sources and giving them a rockabilly/rock and roll treatment, he also recorded songs in other genres from early in his career, from the pop standard “Blue Moon” at Sun to the country ballad “How’s the World Treating You?” on his second LP to the blues of “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”. In 1957, his first gospel record was released, the four-song EP Peace in the Valley. Certified as a million-seller, it became the top-selling gospel EP in recording history. Presley would record gospel periodically for the rest of his life.

After his return from military service in 1960, Presley continued to perform rock and roll, but the characteristic style was substantially toned down. His first post-Army single, the number-one hit “Stuck on You”, is typical of this shift. RCA publicity materials referred to its “mild rock beat”; discographer Ernst Jorgensen calls it “upbeat pop”. The number five “She’s Not You” (1962) “integrates the Jordanaires so completely, it’s practically doo-wop”. The modern blues/R&B sound captured with success on Elvis Is Back! was essentially abandoned for six years until such 1966–67 recordings as “Down in the Alley” and “Hi-Heel Sneakers”. Presley’s output during most of the 1960s emphasized pop music, often in the form of ballads such as “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, a number-one in 1960. “It’s Now or Never”, which also topped the chart that year, was a classically influenced variation of pop based on the Neapolitan “‘O sole mio” and concluding with a “full-voiced operatic cadence”. These were both dramatic numbers, but most of what Presley recorded for his many film soundtracks was in a much lighter vein.

While Presley performed several of his classic ballads for the ’68 Comeback Special, the sound of the show was dominated by aggressive rock and roll. He would record few new straight-ahead rock and roll songs thereafter; as he explained, they were “hard to find”. A significant exception was “Burning Love”, his last major hit on the pop charts. Like his work of the 1950s, Presley’s subsequent recordings reworked pop and country songs, but in markedly different permutations. His stylistic range now began to embrace a more contemporary rock sound as well as soul and funk. Much of Elvis in Memphis, as well as “Suspicious Minds”, cut at the same sessions, reflected his new rock and soul fusion. In the mid-1970s, many of his singles found a home on country radio, the field where he first became a star.

Vocal style and range

The developmental arc of Presley’s singing voice, as described by critic Dave Marsh, goes from “high and thrilled in the early days, [to] lower and perplexed in the final months.” Marsh credits Presley with the introduction of the “vocal stutter” on 1955’s “Baby Let’s Play House”. When on “Don’t Be Cruel”, Presley “slides into a ‘mmmmm’ that marks the transition between the first two verses,” he shows “how masterful his relaxed style really is.” Marsh describes the vocal performance on “Can’t Help Falling in Love” as one of “gentle insistence and delicacy of phrasing”, with the line “‘Shall I stay’ pronounced as if the words are fragile as crystal”.

Jorgensen calls the 1966 recording of “How Great Thou Art” “an extraordinary fulfillment of his vocal ambitions”, as Presley “crafted for himself an ad-hoc arrangement in which he took every part of the four-part vocal, from [the] bass intro to the soaring heights of the song’s operatic climax”, becoming “a kind of one-man quartet”. Guralnick finds “Stand By Me” from the same gospel sessions “a beautifully articulated, almost nakedly yearning performance,” but, by contrast, feels that Presley reaches beyond his powers on “Where No One Stands Alone”, resorting “to a kind of inelegant bellowing to push out a sound” that Jake Hess of the Statesmen Quartet had in his command. Hess himself thought that while others might have voices the equal of Presley’s, “he had that certain something that everyone searches for all during their lifetime.” Guralnick attempts to pinpoint that something: “The warmth of his voice, his controlled use of both vibrato technique and natural falsetto range, the subtlety and deeply felt conviction of his singing were all qualities recognizably belonging to his talent but just as recognizably not to be achieved without sustained dedication and effort.”

Marsh praises his 1968 reading of “U.S. Male”, “bearing down on the hard guy lyrics, not sending them up or overplaying them but tossing them around with that astonishingly tough yet gentle assurance that he brought to his Sun records.” The performance on “In the Ghetto” is, according to Jorgensen, “devoid of any of his characteristic vocal tricks or mannerisms”, instead relying on the exceptional “clarity and sensitivity of his voice”. Guralnick describes the song’s delivery as of “almost translucent eloquence … so quietly confident in its simplicity”. On “Suspicious Minds”, Guralnick hears essentially the same “remarkable mixture of tenderness and poise”, but supplemented with “an expressive quality somewhere between stoicism (at suspected infidelity) and anguish (over impending loss)”.

Music critic Henry Pleasants observes that “Presley has been described variously as a baritone and a tenor. An extraordinary compass … and a very wide range of vocal color have something to do with this divergence of opinion.” He identifies Presley as a high baritone, calculating his range as two octaves and a third, “from the baritone low G to the tenor high B, with an upward extension in falsetto to at least a D-flat. Presley’s best octave is in the middle, D-flat to D-flat, granting an extra full step up or down.” In Pleasants’ view, his voice was “variable and unpredictable” at the bottom, “often brilliant” at the top, with the capacity for “full-voiced high Gs and As that an opera baritone might envy”. Scholar Lindsay Waters, who figures Presley’s range as two-and-a-quarter octaves, emphasizes that “his voice had an emotional range from tender whispers to sighs down to shouts, grunts, grumbles, and sheer gruffness that could move the listener from calmness and surrender, to fear. His voice can not be measured in octaves, but in decibels; even that misses the problem of how to measure delicate whispers that are hardly audible at all.” Presley was always “able to duplicate the open, hoarse, ecstatic, screaming, shouting, wailing, reckless sound of the black rhythm-and-blues and gospel singers”, writes Pleasants, and also demonstrated a remarkable ability to assimilate many other vocal styles.

Lyrics


Breathless

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

If our love was a fairy tale
-4 5 -5 -5 -4 5 -4 4
I would charge in and rescue you
-4 5 -5 -5 -4 5 -4 4 -4
On a yacht baby we would sail
-4 5 -5 -5 -4 5 -4 4
To an island where we’d say I do
-4 5 -5 -5 -5 -4 5 6 -5
And if we had babies they would look like you
-5 -5 6 6 -6 -6 -6 6 6 -5 5 -5
It’d be so beautiful if that came true
-5 -5 6 6 -6 -6 -6 6 6 7 -5
You don’t even know how very special you are
-5 -5 6 6 -6 -6 -6 6 6 -5 5 -5

[Chorus]
You leave me breathless, You’re everything good in my life
-5 -8 7 -6 6 -5 6 6 6 6 6 -5 -4
You leave me breathless, I still can’t believe that you’re mine
-5 -8 7 -6 6 -5 6 6 6 6 -5 -5 5

You just walked out of one of my dreams
-5 6 -6 -6 -6 6 6 -5 5 -5
So beautiful you’re leaving me
-5 6 -6 -6 -6 6 6 7 7
Breathless
…. -6 6

Lyrics


Bratja “Brothers” (Full Metal Alchemist)

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Intro: -9 8 -9 8 -8 7 -6 6 7 -6

How can I repay you, brother of mine?
-4 -5 5 -4 6 -6 -5 5 -4
How can I expect you to forgive?
-4 -5 5 -5 6 7 -6 6 -6
Clinging to the past I shed our blood
-4 -5 5 -5 6 -6 -5 5 -4
and shatterd your chance to live.
-44 -4 -4 5 -5 5 -4

Though I knew the laws, I paid no heed.
-4 -5 5 -5 6 -6 -5 5 -4
How can I return your wasted breath?
-4 -5 5 -5 6 7 -6 6 -6
What I did not know has cost you dear
-4 -5 5 -5 6 -6 -5 5 -4
for there is no cure for death.
-44 -4 -4 5 -5 5 -4

Beautiful mother, soft and sweet
-6 6 -6 6 -4 -6 7 6
Once you were gone we were not complete
-6 6 -6 6 -4 5 -5 6 5
Back through the years we reached for you
-6 6 -6 6 -4 -6 7 6
Alas, it was not meant to be.
? -6 6 -6 -7 6 -6

And how can I make amends
-6 -8 -8 7 6 -6
For all that I took from you?
-6 -8 8 -8 7 6 -6
I led you with hopeless dreams
-6 6 -6 6 -5 5 -4
My brother, I was a fool
-6 6 -6 6 -5 5 5-4

Long Violin Part with no words(Semi Tabbed):
-6 -7 -6 6 -5 6 -6 5
-4 -6 -6 -7 -6 6 -6
-9 8 -8 8 7 -6 -8 8
-9 8 -9 9 8 -8

Don’t cry for the past, now brother of mine
-4 -5 5 -4 6 -6 -5 5 -4
Nether you nor I are free from blame
-4 -5 5 -5 6 7 -6 6 -6
Nothing can erase the things we did
-4 -5 5 -5 6 -6 -5 5 -4
for the path we took was the same
-4 4 -4 -4 5 -5 5 -4

Beautiful mother, soft and sweet
-6 6 -6 6 -4 -6 7 6
Once you were gone we were not complete
-6 6 -6 6 -4 5 -5 6 5
Back through the years we reached for you
-6 6 -6 6 -4 -6 7 6
Alas, it was not meant to be.
? -6 6 -6 -7 6 -6

My dreams made me blind and mute
-6 -8 -8 7 6 -6
I long to return to that time
-6 -8 8 -8 7 6 6 -6
I follow without a word
-6 6 -6 6 -5 5 -4
My brother, the fault is mine
-6 6 -6 6 -5 5 5 -4

So where do we go from here?
-6 -8 -8 7 6 -6
And how to forget and forgive?
-6 -8 8 -8 7 6 -6
What’s gone is forever lost
-6 6 -6 6 -5 5 -4
Now all we can do is live.
-6 6 -6 6 -5 5 5 -4

Lyrics


Food, Glorious Food

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Is it worth the waiting for
<5 <5 <5 <5 <5 <5 If we live till eighty-four -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 6 8 All we ever get is gruel 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 Every day we say a prayer <5 <5 <5 <5 <5 <5 <5 Will they change the bill of fare -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 6 8 Still we get the same old gruel -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 6 6 6 6 There’s not a crust, not a crumb, can we find 6 6 <-5 <-5 <-5 <-5 <-5 <-5 -5 Can we beg, can we borrow or cadge -5 -5 5 5 5 5 5 5 6 6 6 6 But there’s nothing to stop us from getting a thrill 6 6 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 When we all close our eyes and imagine 8 7 6 5 <-7 Food, glorious food -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 Hot sausage and mustard 8 7 6 5 <-7 While we’re in the mood -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 Cold jelly and custard 6 6 -6 7 7 -7 -5 Pease pudding and saveloys -5 -5 6 -6 <-6 7 What next is the question 7 7 -7 -8 -8 8 8 Rich gentlemen have it, boys -8 8 <8 -9 In digestion 8 7 6 5 <-7 Food, glorious food -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 We’re anxious to try it 8 7 6 5 <-7 Three banquets a day -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 Our favorite diet 6 6 -6 7 7 -7 -7 Just picture a great big steak -7 -7 -8 8 -9 Fried, roasted, or stewed <9 10 10 9 -9 10 10 9 -9 10 10 9 -9 9 Oh, food, wonderful food, marvelous food, glorious food 8 7 6 5 <-7 Food, glorious food -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 What is there more handsome 8 7 6 5 <-7 Gulped, swallowed, or chewed -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 Still worth a king’s ransom 6 6 -6 7 7 -7 -5 What is it we dream about -5 -5 6 -6 <-6 7 What brings on a sigh 7 7 -7 -8 -8 8 8 Piled peaches and cream about -8 8 <9 -9 Six feet high 8 7 6 5 <-7 Food, glorious food -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 Eat right through the menu 8 7 6 5 <-7 Just loosen your belt -7 -6 -5 -4 <7 7 Two inches and then you 6 6 -6 7 7 -7 -7 Work up a new appetite -7 -7 -8 8 -9 In this interlude <-9 10 10 9 -9 10 10 9 -9 10 10 9 -9 9 Then food, once again food, fabulous food, glorious food <8 <7 -6 <5 -8 Food, glorious food <-7 <-6 <-5 5 -7 <7 Don’t care what it looks like <8 <7 -6 <5 -8 Burned, underdone, crude <-7 <-6 <-5 5 -7 <7 Don’t care what the cook’s like -6 -6 <-6 <7 <7 <-7 <-5 Just thinking of growing fat <-5 <-5 -6 <-6 7 <7 Our senses go reeling <7 <7 <-7 8 8 <8 <8 One moment of knowing that 8 <8 -9 <-9 Full up feeling <8 <7 -6 <5 -8 Food, glorious food <-7 <-6 <-5 5 -7 <7 What wouldn’t we give for <8 <7 -6 <5 -8 That extra bit more <-7 <-6 <-5 5 -7 <7 That’s all that we live for -6 -6 <-6 <7 <7 <-7 <-7 Why should we be fated to <-7 <-7 8 <8 <-9 Do nothing but brood 10 -10 10 <9 <-9 -10 -10 <9 <-9 -10 -10 <9 <-9 -10 On food, magical food, wonderful food, marvelous food -10 <9 <-9 -10 -10 <9 <-9 -10 -10 <-10 11 <11 Fabulous food, beautiful food, glorious food 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 For what you are about to receive 8 8 8 8 8 8 -7 -8 -8 May the Lord make you truly thankful 8 8 Amen

Lyrics


Itchycoo Park

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

Words And Music By
Steve Marriot and Ronnie Lane

Best in Lower Keys
Medium Tempo

7 7 7 -10 9
Ov-er bridge of sighs
8 9 8 9 8 -8 7 7
To rest my eyes in shades of green
7 -7 7 -10 9
Un-der dreaming spires
8 9 9 8 9
To Itch-y coo Park
8 -8 7 7
That’s where I’ve been
7 -8 7 8 -8 7
What did you do there ? ~~~
-10 -10 10 -10
I got high ~~~~
7 -8 7 8 -8 7
What did you feel there? ~~
-10 -10 10 -10
Well I cried ~~~~
7 -8 7 8 -8 7
But why the tears then ? ~~
-10 -10 10 10 -10 9 -9 8
Tell you why ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9 9 9 -10 8 8 -8
It’s all too beautiful ~~~~~
9 9 9 -10 8 8 -8
It’s all too beautiful ~~~~~
9 9 9 -10 8 8 -8
It’s all too beautiful ~~~~~
9 9 9 -10 8 8 -8
It’s all too beautiful ~~~~~

Slower Tempo Here

-6 7 7 7 7 8 -7 7
I feel inclined to blow my mind
-7 -7 -7 7 -7 -6 6 -5 6
Get hung up, feed the ducks with a bun
6 7 7 7 7 8 -7 -7 -7
They all come out to groove ~~ about
-7 -7 7 -7 -6 6 -5 6
Be nice and have fun in the sun

Verse 2 followed by chorus to fade

Verse 2

I’ll tell you what I’ll do (what will you do)
I’d like to go there now with you
You can miss out school (won’t that be cool)
Why go learn the words of fools ?)
What will we do there ?
We’ll get high
What will we touch there ?
We’ll touch the sky
But why the tears then ?
I’ll tell you why

Chorus

Lyrics


Ironic!

Key: D

Genre: General

Harp Type: Chromatic

Skill: Any

4 6 5 -4 -4 4 5
An old man turned nine-ty-eight

4 4 4 -6b 6 6 -4 -4 4 4 4
He won the lot-ter-y and died the next day

4 4 6 5 5 -4 -4 4 5
It’s a black fly in your Char-don-nay

4 4 -6b 6 5 -4 5 -4 4 4 4
It’s a death row par-don two min-utes too late

5 5 -4 4 -4 4 5 4 4
Is-n’t it i-ron-ic, don’t you think

CHORUS

6 6 7 6 5 6 6 -6b
It’s like rain on your wed-ding day

6 6 7 -6b 6 5 6 6 -6b 5
It’s a free ride when you’ve al-read-y paid

6 6 7 -6 6 6 5 6 6 5 -5b
It’s the good ad-vice that you just did-n’t take

-6 -6b 6 -6b -5b -6b 6
Who would-‘ve thought, it fi-gures

VERSE 2

Mister Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
“Well isn’t this nice…”
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think

REPEAT CHORUS

BRIDGE

5 5 5 5 -6b 6 6
Well life has a fun-ny way

4 4 4 4 4 4
of sneak-ing up on you

4 4 4 4 4 -4 5
When you think ev-ry-thing’s okay

4 4 4 4 4 4 4
and ev-ry-thing’s go-ing right

4 4 -4 5 —6b 5 6
And life has a fun-ny way

4 4 4 4 4
of help-ing you out when

4 4 -4 -4 -4 5 4
You think ev-ry-thing’s gone wrong

4 4 4 4 4 4
and ev-ry-thing blows up

4 4 4
In your face

VERSE 3

A traffic jam when you’re already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all
you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife

4 5 4 4 -4 4 -4 4 4 4
And is-n’t it i-ron-ic, don’t you think

6 6 6 7 -6 7 6 5
A lit-tle too i-ron-ic and,

4 4 4 5 4 4
yeah, I real-ly do think

REPEAT CHORUS

5 5 5 5 5 5 -6b 5 6
And you know life has a fun-ny way

4 4 4 -4 5 4
of sneak-ing up on you

5 5 5 -6b 5 -6b 5 6 4 4 4 -4 4
Life has a fun-ny, fun-ny way of help-ing you out

4 4 -4 4
Help-ing you out

ENJOY!!

Lyrics