Jun 1, 2010 11:04 PM by Chris Welty
WASHINGTON (AP) - When it comes to popular music, it doesn't get
much bigger than the tunes Paul McCartney has written and sung over
the past five decades with the Beatles and on his own.
McCartney, who has been knighted by the queen of England, is
being honored with Washington's highest award for pop music this
week by the Library of Congress. The Gershwin Prize for Popular
Song is named for the U.S. songwriting brothers George and Ira
Gershwin, whose collections are housed at the library.
"Some of the songs you write, you don't know where they come
from," McCartney said on stage Tuesday night. "So I have to
believe in the magic."
The tune for "Yesterday" came to him in a dream, he said.
Nobody could place it, so he claimed it as his own.
McCartney joked the original lyrics were "Scrambled egg. Oh my
baby how I love your legs."
Then he took his guitar and said "Here goes nothin," before he
sang the familiar tune for a Washington crowd at a private concert
at the library. The audience included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
Stevie Wonder and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He also sang an encore
The 67-year-old McCartney said he's "slightly nervous" about
performing about 3 feet in front of President Barack Obama in the
East Room at the White House on Wednesday, when he will be
presented the award.
"For an English kid growing up in Liverpool, the White House -
that's pretty special," he said Tuesday.
"He's a great guy," McCartney said of Obama, "so lay off
The former Beatle says it's very special to win the Gershwin
Prize because he grew up listening to music by the Gershwin
brothers. Wonder and Paul Simon previously won the Gershwin prize.
Librarian of Congress James Billington said McCartney made an
impact beyond music, "symbolizing and humanizing the global
soundscape," and with his activism around the world.
Faced with the Washington press corps, McCartney was quizzed on
his inspiration for songwriting, his opinion on whether performers
should earn royalties for when their work is played on the radio
(he thinks they should) and even got a few autograph requests.
This is McCartney's first major lifetime achievement award from
the U.S. government. He was slated to win a Kennedy Center Honor,
the nation's top prize for performing artists, in 2002, but backed
out because of a scheduling conflict. In 1990, McCartney won the
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Jonas Brothers, Faith Hill, Stevie Wonder and Seinfeld are
part of an all-star lineup that will honor McCartney at the White
House concert. The concert will be televised July 28 nationwide on
Performers also will include White Stripes singer and guitarist
Jack White, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, singers Emmylou
Harris, Elvis Costello and others.
McCartney was knighted as Sir Paul in 1997 for his service to
music. Thirty years earlier, he and the rest of the Fab Four were
dubbed Members of the Order of the British Empire, a step below
knighthood and an honor that drew some protests.
The one-time teen idol has since made his name as an
environmentalist and animal rights supporter.
He said the Gulf Coast oil spill is "a disgrace" and those
responsible must know how to cap a gusher if they're allowed to
drill at the sea floor in the future.
On Tuesday, he performed "Yesterday" with the Loma Mar
Quartet, which played string instruments from the library's
Stradivari collection dating back to the late 1600s. Pianist Lang
Lang also performed on George Gershwin's piano.
Pelosi, went gaga over the former Beatle.
"Congratulations, Sir Paul," Pelosi said. She thanked him for
letting Americans travel with him "down the long and winding
road," and added "P.S. We love you."