Sir Paul McCartney: I Was The Anti-War Beatle (Courtesy of Bertrand Russell)Maurice Chittenden
Dec. 14, 2008
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Sir Paul McCartney claims that it was he – and not John Lennon – who politicised the Beatles. He has shunned music magazines to give an interview to an intellectual journal in which he describes how he introduced the group to the “very bad” Vietnam war.
It paints a picture at odds with the conventional view of the Beatles, that McCartney was writing pop ditties such as Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da while Lennon was composing overtly political songs such as Revolution.
McCartney says he began his political awakening by meeting Bertrand Russell, then in his nineties, at the latter’s home in London in the mid1960s.
Russell, author of the seminal work A History of Western Philosophy, was one of the world’s best known pacifists and had been imprisoned during the first world war for warning British workers about the American army and its role in strike breaking in the United States.
He told McCartney about America’s increasing role in the war in Vietnam, which the musician knew little about.
McCartney tells Prospect magazine that he went back to the Abbey Road studios, where the Beatles were recording tracks. He told “the guys, particularly John [Lennon], about this meeting and saying what a bad war this was”.
The singer says the Beatles backed the peace movement and constantly spoke out against the war.
McCartney’s memory differs from others who were present during these 1960s struggles. Tariq Ali, who was leader of the International Marxist Group and led antiwar demonstrations in London, said: “This is news to me. We never heard of Paul’s views at the time.
“It was John Lennon who was concerned about the war. He never mentioned McCartney and I never thought of asking him to join us.”
McCartney says he has now handed over the political “megaphone” to younger pop stars including Bob Geldof and Bono, the U2 singer.