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Let It Be Known that Today Is Paul McCartney’s 80th Birthday

Perhaps this post is written for no one but me….

My earliest clear memory the length of which is greater than that of a jpeg shared on Facebook is the assassination of JFK. I’d turned five just two months earlier. My next such memory, from just weeks later, is of the news made by the Beatles’ arrival on the international music scene. My grandmother and great aunt showed me a cover of Life magazine featuring a color photo of these strange men with long hair. I can’t today say why – I couldn’t then say why – but as a young child I got caught up in the hype, the “Beatlemania.” This new music, and the band playing it, were revolutionary, and very exciting.

I remember well sitting on my maternal grandmother’s lap, at my grandparents’ home at 1337 Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans, watching on television – black-and-white, of course – the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. (Sunday, February 9th, 1964, to be exact.) I remember someone giving me, as a gift, the album “Meet the Beatles!” and me wanting to hear it played over and over again. I’ve been a fan ever since. (I also remember wondering, whenever I looked at the album cover, if there was something wrong with Ringo’s neck – a tumor, perhaps? – that my young eyes didn’t realize was simply a consequence of the way the photograph was posed and shot.)

(Many memories are flawed, especially long-ago ones and more so if they’re from early childhood. In my memory, I saw the cover of Life before watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, but that can’t have been the case because that issue of Life didn’t appear until August 1964.)

Anyway, today is Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday. Happy Birthday, Sir. You’ve given the world much happiness. Pasted below the fold is what I wrote here at Cafe Hayek 16 years ago, when McCartney turned the age that I will turn in three months: 64.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (and Mr. Smith, and Ms. Jones, and Mr. Williams, and…..)



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 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.

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.)

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” – 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.