Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney: 70 Iconic Images for 70 Years

5 minute read

In honor of Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday on June 18, LightBox culled various photography archives to feature 70 iconic images of the Beatle—one for each year of his life—with text from the introduction of TIME’s new book, Paul McCartney: The legend rocks on, by James Kaplan.

He is the most ordinary of extraordinary men: a historical figure with a common streak, a genius who’s still not entirely sure where it all comes from, or came from.

“I’ve always had this thing of him and me,” Paul McCartney told Barry Miles, his authorized biographer, in 1996. “He goes onstage, he’s famous, and then me; I’m just some kid from Liverpool … this little kid who used to run down the streets in Speke … collecting jam jars, damming up streams in the woods. I still very much am him grown up.

“Occasionally, I stop and think, I am Paul McCartney … hell, that is a total freak-out! You know, Paul McCartney! Just the words, it sounds like a total kind of legend. But, of course, you don’t want to go thinking that too much because it takes over.” And yet, “when I go on tour, I’m glad of the legendary thing,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to try and entertain 60,000 people in a Texas stadium with just the guy next door.”

No, that wouldn’t do at all. And so—still, in 2012—he steps out on the stage of whatever arena he may be playing, in whichever corner of the world—it scarcely matters where or what language they speak; everyone knows him and loves him, everyone knows the words to all the songs—and, as the roar rises to the rafters, begins singing, for the umpteenth time and with undiminished joy:

Roll up, roll up for the magical mystery tour, step right this way …

Today—inconceivably—he turns 70, and he’s still rolling. Fast. In the months before the big day, he seemed to be everywhere at once: touring in Helsinki and Moscow and Liverpool. Getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Playing at the MusiCares benefit (where he was honored as Person of the Year). Playing at the Grammys. Attending his daughter Stella’s fashion show in Paris. Vacationing in St. Barts with his wife Nancy Shevell—and then touring some more, in Rotterdam and Zurich and London.

It was almost as though, if he moved fast enough and squeezed in enough events, he might sideslip the 18th of June altogether and proceed to the next golden stage, untouched and untallied. Exactly the kind of dream a little kid running down the street in Liverpool might dream.

Except that no one, in his wildest imaginings, could have dreamed all that had happened to him in the years between then and now.

All four of them had remarkable faces, but only his was beautiful, the big-eyed, long-lashed looks saved from mere prettiness by a persistent, perhaps willfully untended, five-o’clock shadow and those asymmetrical, ironically arched brows, which seemed to say, I’ve got the goods. No, really. Think I’m kidding?

He had the goods, and then some. “Oh, beyond measure—on a Mozart level,” the musician and record producer Peter Asher told TIME recently, speaking of the musical gifts of the brash young -Liverpudlian who, beginning in 1963, dated his sister Jane and, though already famous, bunked in the attic of the Asher family’s town house on Wimpole Street: the attic where the melody of “Yesterday” came to him one night in a dream.

That, of course, was many yesterdays ago. And while Paul McCartney’s youthful beauty has gone the way of youth, the immense musical talent endures, along with, at the biblical three score and 10, something perhaps even more remarkable: “He keeps on going,” says another longtime acquaintance, the writer and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. “He doesn’t have to. He’s got all the money and all the success, and he’s written some great songs. In Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real … there’s [a line]: ‘Make voyages, attempt them; there’s nothing else.’ I think that’s Paul.”

At 70, he voyages still, maintaining a schedule that would give pause to a man half his age: a 30-concert tour in 2011-2012, from the Bronx to Bologna, Moscow to Montevideo to Mexico City. “My wife says he’s an alien from the Planet Fab,” says Paul “Wix” Wickens, the keyboardist in the band that has backed McCartney for the past 10 years. (The band also includes bassist Rusty Anderson, guitarist/bassist Brian Ray and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.)

“If you’re enjoying it, why do something else?” McCartney asked Rolling Stone, rhetorically, earlier this year. His pleasure in his art and his craft seems as pure as it was when he first picked up a guitar almost 60 years ago. “He absolutely loves music,” Wickens says. “He loves to play. And he loves being involved. He’s always doing something. When we [in the band] are not working, he is not not-working. He does relax, and he does take holidays. But he puts his head into other places, not just pop music, because he likes a challenge, he likes just to be doing it.”

Funny, the things an ordinary man will come up with.

Excerpted from TIME’s new book; Paul McCartney: The legend rocks on, by James Kaplan, copyright ©2012 by Time Home Entertainment Inc. To buy a copy, go to time.com/mccartneybook.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

Portrait of Paul McCartney, 1965. David Montgomery—Getty Images
Paul McCartney and John Lennon members of the 'The Quarrymen' rock and roll band perform on stage at the Casbah Coffee House, Liverpool, England in 1959.Michael Ochs Archives—Getty Images
Portrait of Paul McCartney taken at the Hamburg fairgrounds with Stuart Sutcliffe in the background. Hamburg, Germany,1960.Astrid Kirchherr —Courtesy of Vladislav Ginzburg
Astrid Kirchherr's first group photo of The Beatles taken at the Hamburg fairground, just blocks away from the Reeperbahn district where the group played nightly. Pete Best, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney Stuart Sutcliffe. Hamburg, Germany 1960. Astrid Kirchherr —Courtesy of Vladislav Ginzburg
Paul McCartney gives his all during Twist and Shout song on stage at the ABC Theater,Huddersfield,Yorkshire November 29th, 1963.Paul Berriff—The Beatles Hidden Gallery
The Beatles contact sheet from shoot by Fiona Adams on assignment for Boyfriend Magazine taken on location in London, England 1963. One of the jumping frames was later chosen for the Beatles EP album 'Twist and Shout'. Fiona Adams—Redferns/Getty Images
The Beatles; L-R: Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon in a posed, group shot - jumping on wall, later used on the Twist and Shout EP cover. London, England,1963.Fiona Adams—Redferns/Getty Images
The Beatles on stage at the Washington Coliseum, Washington DC, February 11, 1964. Stan Wayman—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Policemen struggle to restrain young Beatles fans outside Buckingham Palace as The Beatles receive their MBEs (Member of the British Empire) in October 1965. London, England. John Lennon later returned his MBE in September 1969, in protest against British politics. Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis
Paul McCartney poses for a portrait holding a Beatles fanzine which depicts 'Beatlemania' on the back cover, 1964.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
John Lennon and Paul McCartney with guitars. England, 1963.Philip Jones Griffiths—Magnum
Paul McCartney waves from a taxi on the Champs Elysees, Paris, France, January 1964.Popperfoto/Getty Images
Beatles' fans sit in an alley way in Liverpool waiting for their heroes. April 24, 1963.John Pratt—Keystone Features/Getty Images
The Beatles, 1963.Terence Spencer Photo Archive
The Beatles during filming of 'A Hard Days Night'. The Beatles film was primarily shot on a moving train. Fan recognizing Paul McCartney. London, England, 1964.David Hurn—Magnum
Paul McCartney in a disguise during filming of "A Hard Day's Night." London, England, 1964. David Hurn—Magnum
The Beatles during filming of 'A Hard Days Night'. London, England, 1964.David Hurn—Magnum
Paul McCartney on the set of 'A Hard Day's Night' at the Scala Theater, holding camera. London, England, 1964.K and K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns/Getty Images
The Beatles in the Abbey Road Studios, where many of their most famous records were made, examining the script of the film 'A Hard Days Night'. London, England, 1964.David Hurn—Magnum
The Beatles arrive at New York's Kennedy Airport Feb. 7, 1964 for their first U.S. appearance. From left are: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. AP
Fans of The Beatles in Boston 1964.Kevin Cole—Rex USA
Paul McCartney chatting with American talk show host Ed Sullivan during The Beatle's tour of the USA, New York, 1964. AP
(L-R) Paul McCartney and John Lennon rehearsing on stage during the American tour of The Beatles, 1964.Bob Gomel—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
The Beatles inside a car in Denver, Colorado, 1964.Gunther—MPTVImages
Paul McCartney during the Beatles Christmas concert, England, 1963.Sharok Hatami—Rex USA
The Beatles perform at the Seattle Centre Coliseum in Seattle, Washington, during their US tour, August, 1964.William Lovelace—Express/Getty Images
Paul McCartney at Madame Tussaud's waxworks with his newly unveiled effigy in London, England, April 29, 1964.Ron Case—Keystone/Getty Images
Escaping fans Paul McCartney is helped over his car by a guard before The Beatles concert at the Futurist Theatre. Fans can be seen in the background, Scarborough, England, 1964.Mirrorpix/Everett Collection
Paul McCartney shown in the Champs Elysees, Paris, France, 1964.Popperfoto/Getty Images
(L-R) Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr of The Beatles, taking a dip in a swimming pool. USA. February 1964.John Loengard—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Paul McCartney, member of British rock group, The Beatles, at poolside of the Deauville Hotel Miami, Florida. February 16, 1964.Bob Gomel—Time Life & Pictures/Getty Images
The Beatles at a mansion in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, August 1964.Bob Bonis—Not Fade Away Gallery
Paul McCartney and George Harrison reading a magazine, 1965. MPTVImages
Paul McCartney of the Beatles sports his marching band uniform while filming the movie "Help", released in 1965. Pictorial Press/Cache Agency
The Beatles in concert at the Vigorelli velodrome. A teenage girl holding a picture of Paul McCartney, Milan, Italy. June 24, 1965. Giorgio Lotti—Contrasto/Redux
Paul McCartney on stage during The Beatles' concert at the Sam Houston Coliseum, Texas, August 19, 1965.Bob Bonis—Not Fade Away Gallery
Paul McCartney, December 1965. David Montgomery—Getty Images
Georgie Fame and Paul McCartney at a fancy dress party at the Cromwellian Club.They are celebrating the 21st birthday of Fame's girlfriend Carmen Jimenez. London, England, 8th January 1967. Bruce Fleming—Getty Images
Paul McCartney, London, England, 1966.Jean-Marie Périer—Polaris
The Beatles and friends give an audience to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. From left to right; Paul McCartney, Jane Asher, Patti Harrison, Ringo Starr, his wife Maureen, John Lennon (1940 - 1980), George Harrison (1943 - 2001) and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. September, 1967.Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Paul McCartney signs autographs for fans whilst sat in his Aston Martin car outside his flat in St John's Wood. He has a badge on his shirt which reads 'The Love Of My Life'. London, England, 1967. (In this photo, the circle highlighting the badge was made by a prior media source) David Gerrard—Daily Sketch/Rex USA
The Beatles,from left to right, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and in front, Paul McCartney, at the EMI studios in Abbey Road, as they prepare for 'Our World', a world-wide live television show broadcasting to 24 countries with a potential audience of 400 million. June 25, 1967. London, England.BIPS/Getty Images
Policemen clear the field of enthusiastic fans as The Beatles perform on a bandstand in Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California, Aug 30, 1966.Bettmann/Corbis
Photographer Linda Eastman (1941 - 1998) talks to Beatle Paul McCartney at the press launch of the Beatles new album 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'. The couple married two years later. May 19, 1967.John Pratt/Getty Images
Beatles singer and bass player Paul McCartney holds four year old Julian, son of his colleague John Lennon (visible in the background) during a holiday near Athens in Greece. Central Press/Getty Images
The Beatles and their wives at the Rishikesh in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The group includes Ringo Starr, Maureen Starkey, Jane Asher, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Patti Boyd, Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon, Beatles roadie Mal Evans and Beach Boy Mike Love. India, 1968.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Paul McCartney gives the thumbs up during production of the new Beatles' film, a feature length cartoon called 'Yellow Submarine'. 1968.Keystone Features/Getty Images
British pop band The Beatles, aka John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, staging their final, legendary public performance on the rooftop of the Apple Corps HQ at 3 Saville Row in London, January 30th 1969. RBO/Camera Press/Redux
Still from film, Let It Be, 1970. (l to r) Ringo Starr, George Martin, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Yoko Ono, John Lennon.Everett Collection
Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife Linda in a New York recording studio putting finishing touches to Paul's single 'Another Day' and 'Oh Woman, Oh Why?'. 1971.Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Former Beatle Paul McCartney with his wife Linda and their pop group Wings, 1972.Evening Standard/Getty Images
Wings; L-R: Denny Laine, Linda McCartney, Henry McCullogh, Paul McCartney (playing Fender Rhodes electric piano keyboard) - performing. United Kingdom, April 4, 1973.David Redfern—Redferns/Getty Images
Paul McCartney with father James and brother Mike McGear, 1974.Gunther—MPTVImages
Paul and Linda McCartney in their dressing room after their performance in Bristol, England, during their band Wings' tour 1975.Homer Sykes—Eyevine/Redux
During Wings Tour, Paul in rehearsal dressing room, Bristol, England. 1975.Homer Sykes—Eyevine/Redux
Portrait of Paul McCartney and his wife Linda with their daughters Heather, Stella and Mary, April 4, 1976. David Montgomery—Getty Images
Paul McCartney and wife Linda take a photo with their newborn son James Louis McCartney born on September 12, 1977.Daily Mail/Rex / Alamy
Paul McCartney performing with his band Wings in 1980.Andy Beard—Camera Press/Redux
Paul McCartney and record producer/friend George Martin pictured together at a London recording studio in 1982.Homer Sykes—Camera Press/Redux
Stevie Wonder (left) and Paul McCartney (right) are shown working on the album Tug of War, in a series of recordings on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat. The first single released from the album was "Ebony and Ivory" in 1982.Bettmann/Corbis
Former Beatle Paul McCartney (center) provides musical entertainment at the wedding reception of ex-Beatles drummer Ringo Starr (left) and Barbara Bach (not pictured). Starr's daughter Lee Starkey stands next to him; also singing along is McCartney's wife Linda (right). At the London club Rags, April 1981. Terry O'Neill—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Paul McCartney, 1984.Snowdon—Camera Press/Redux
Pictured at the end of the Live Aid concert is Band Aid founder Bob Geldof who is hoisted shoulders high by Rock superstars Pete Townshend (left) of The Who and Paul McCartney, Wembley Stadium, London, 13th July 1985. Popperfoto/Getty Images
Ex-Beatle and top recording star Paul McCartney slips back to the mud and trauma of the World War I trenches in recent scenes for a video film to promote the British release of his single "Pipes of Peace" from the album of the same name. Filmed in Kent, England, McCartney plays the role of a British soldier, and a German soldier who meet in a theme of peace. January 3,1984.Bettmann/Corbis
Paul McCartney as he appears in the film 'Give My Regards to Broad Street', 1984. He also wrote the screenplay for the film. Richard Blanshard—Getty Images
Singer Paul McCartney pulls out all the stops for a gimmick-ridden electric live concert at SkyDome. Toronto, Canada, December 7, 1989.Toronto Star/Zuma
Sir Paul McCartney on the street in New York City, October 16, 2001.Frank Micelotta—ImageDirect/Getty Images
Sir Paul McCartney during a concert at the Engenhao stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 23, 2011.Antonio Lacerda—EPA/Corbis
Sir Paul McCartney, 2008.Terry O'Neill—Getty Images
Paul McCartney on stage during The Beatles' concert at the Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota, August 21, 1965.Bob Bonis—Not Fade Away Gallery

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