Paul is dead

51st Annual GRAMMY Awards - Backstage and Audience

Relax, Kanye West fans will find out who Paul McCartney is sooner or later

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 13, 2015

On New Year’s Day Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney released a new song, “Only One,” in anticipation of West’s seventh album. Although this should have been an occasion of excitement, it turned into an Internet uproar of ignorance. West fans—perhaps in jest—asked, “Who is Paul McCartney?” and other questions suggesting that West is “shining a light on unknown artists.”

At my age, the notion of anybody not knowing who McCartney is or about the Beatles is insulting, perhaps more insulting than the cheap auto-tune song itself. If the statements are meant to be sarcastic then I’ll laugh along (because I get jokes), but a part of me is withering inside.

Those who are clueless to the Beatles are like people who have never seen an episode of The Simpsons. How?

For me, I went through the Beatles phase around high school. Before that, I thought it was music for old people. And if that was the case in the early 2000s, then “Let It Bet” must seem really ancient now. But there is a timelessness to the Beatles’ music, and that is why I feel it’s in a genre of its own. Like punk, blues, or electronic music, the indulgence in that art represents a phase in our lives we can revisit; the same goes with the Beatles.

I remember the first time I heard “Yesterday”—albeit it was during the Mr. Bean movie. I remember how I felt when I heard “Here Comes the Sun” and tried to replicate it on every instrument I had. Then I remember hearing “Revolution 9” and thought, now this is getting weird (drugs?). Unlike a lot of other artists, the Beatles were the soundtrack to early mornings, long nights, road trips, homework sessions, and many other scenarios. Then I grew up and I watched as the next generation discovered it; I realized that I was a part of a chain.

Not everybody listens to the music I like these days, and oftentimes I have to defend my taste. But people are drawn to the Beatles; everybody knows how their tunes go—even if they hate them. Whether it’s your cup of tea (British slang) or not, the Beatles are like Stephen King. They have influenced everybody in one way or another, but nobody should say, “Stephen King is my favourite author.” That’ll just make you look uncultured.

Like learning about history, the Beatles may be shoved down some young people’s throat. That will cause resistance for sure. But if they allow it to digest and savour what it really is, perhaps there is hope that the future will continue listening to the Beatles and McCartney without the help of a modern day artist or being sampled in a rap song.

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