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Beatlemania

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I just returned from one of the greatest experiences of my life: a Paul McCartney concert at FedEx field.

The 67-year-old McCartney took the stage at 9pm and played, non-stop, until nearly midnight.  Three hours of rocking in the humid Washington weather.

I confess to being now, as I have been since I was a five-year-old in February 1964 when the Beatles first came to America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, utterly obsessed with their music.  Not a day passes that I don’t listen to the Beatles.  I never tire of hearing their music.  (Some exceptions: I loathe “Michelle” – which McCartney sang tonight [yuck], and I’m left cold by “The Long and Winding Road” – which he also performed tonight.  But that’s pretty much the extent of what I don’t care for in Beatles music.)

McCartney’s encore performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” was — well, words fail me.  It was spectacular, amazing, remarkable, brilliant.

The evening made me indescribably happy.

McCartney was soaked in sweat for most of the concert, but his energy never waned and his rapport with the audience never faltered.  And yet he’s worth, what?, a billion dollars – a pittance compared to what he’s contributed to humankind.  Why does he do it?  Who cares?  He performs, he records, he writes, and he thrilled me and tens of thousand of others tonight.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!!

Here’s a blog post that I did three years ago on McCartney’s 64th birthda [2]y.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (and Mr. Smith, and Ms. Jones, and Mr. Williams, and…..)
by Don Boudreaux on June 18, 2006

Lots of media are noting that today Paul McCartney turns 64 – notable chiefly because McCartney wrote and sang, as a Beatle, the song “When I’m 64.” Of course, many of these reports also mention Paul’s recent separation [3] from his second wife, Heather Mills, and the fact that she’ll get a sizeable share of his fortune of $1.5 billion.

I don’t care about McCartney’s personal life, but I do love Beatles’ music. I’ve loved it since, as a five-year-old boy on February 9, 1964, I sat in my grandmother’s lap and watched the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show [4].

When I read of McCartney’s fortune, I’m struck by how puny it is compared to the amount of pleasure he’s contributed to humankind. Consider:

If each viewer of only the Beatles’ first two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show deposited $1 into an account in return for watching the Beatles on these telecasts, this account would have had in it, on February 16, 1964, $143.7 million. (The number of people who tuned in to the Beatles’ February 9, 1964, appearance was 73 million; the number who tuned in one week later for their second appearance was 70.7 million. These data are here [5].)

If this money were invested at the historical rate of return earned by U.S. stocks, it would have earned an annual return, on average, of eight percent. Today, this account would be worth about $3.5 billion.

Divided equally among John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Paul’s share today would be $875 million – more than half of his current net worth. And this from only a small payment made 42 years ago by each viewer of a mere two episodes of an American television show. Add the value of the pleasures McCartney helped to bring to us from the Beatles’ other appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – the value of the Beatles’ many live performances around the globe – the value of their many albums that continue (now mostly in CD form) to be played – the value of the Beatles’ movies such as “A Hard Day’s Night [6]” – the value that McCartney’s music post-Beatles brought to countless people.

And the man is worth only $1.5 billion!  Because no one forced him to write and perform and record music, I’ll certainly not argue that McCartney is undercompensated. But I do insist that his net worth of $1.5 billion is paltry, puny, insignificant compared to his contributions to humankind.

Quite a bargain.

Update: I wish only that, last night, McCartney had performed “Please Please Me [7]” – one of my favorite songs of all time.

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