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Paul McCartney’s relationship with John Lennon was more like a brotherhood than being simply bandmates. Together, what they created with The Beatles will likely remain unmatched, and even though they had very public disagreements, it was all love between them.
“It’s very difficult for me, and I occasionally will have thoughts and sort of say, ‘I don’t know, why don’t I just break down crying every day?’ Because it’s that bad,” McCartney admitted in 2020 about Lennon’s death. He continued, “Not every day, you know? There will be times that I just have memories and just think, ‘Oh my God, it was just so senseless.’”
Understandably, he’s never managed to fully grieve Lennon’s death. One consoling factor for Macca is the canon of music left behind by his former partner in crime, both with The Beatles and his solo career. There’s one track that McCartney turns to when he wants to be reminded of his late friend.
Interestingly, McCartney chooses to go for ‘Beautiful Boy’ from Double Fantasy, which is an ode to Lennon’s son, Sean, and shows the tender, fatherly side of the Beatle. Macca first discussed the track on Desert Island Discs in 1982 when he revealed it was one of the eight songs he’d take with him to a desert island.
Explaining his decision, McCartney said: “I haven’t chosen any Beatles records, but if we had more than eight, I probably would have. I haven’t chosen any of my records so, to sum up the whole thing, I have chosen one of John Lennon’s from Double Fantasy which I think is a beautiful song very moving to me. So, I’d like to sum up the whole thing by playing ‘Beautiful Boy’.”
“Well, what can I say? It’s about Sean. It’s self-explanatory. The music and the lyric came at the same time. The joy is still there when I see Sean,” Lennon said about ‘Beautiful Boy’ during a conversation with David Sheff in 1980. “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. That’s because I took him to the ‘Y’. I took him to the ocean. I’m so proud of those things. He is my biggest pride, you see.”
40 years after Lennon’s death, McCartney finally had the opportunity to tell Sean about his feelings about the track. The pair spoke during a programme on BBC Radio 2 to mark the anniversary of Lennon’s death, which made for emotional listening.
McCartney told Sean: “Obviously ‘Imagine and ‘Instant Karma’ is great, and the nice thing was when I listen to the records, I can imagine him in the studio and go, ‘Oh ok, I know what he’s done’. I’m often asked for my favourite tunes kind of thing, and I always include ‘Beautiful Boy’.”
Although it’s not considered a classic like the other tracks mentioned by McCartney, it’s the one that means the most to him. It’s Lennon at his most vulnerable and a love letter to his son, who he heartbreakingly never lived to see become a man. For those reasons, it never fails to wreak havoc with McCartney’s emotions.
The John Lennon song Paul McCartney called “very moving”
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