McCartney has been active ever since, in Wings, as a solo artist and on the road. On Tuesday, McCartney will take the stage at a sold-out Miller Park for his first Milwaukee concert since 2005, to perform in front of about 40,000 spectators.
In light of the occasion, we wanted to know some of the stories of the locals who owe so much to McCartney and his music. We reached out to a variety of Wisconsinites — among them executives, die-hard fans, and a famous Grammy-winning musician from Eau Claire — and asked, "What does Paul McCartney mean to you?" In their words, here are their memories, and their stories of how McCartney changed their lives forever. (Quotes have been compiled from phone interviews and emails, and have been condensed and edited.)
"I connected with the Beatles with my Mom. She'd be cranking it up in the minivan on the way to preschool. Paul McCartney writes songs better than anyone else. He represents a certain level of musicianship. McCartney's in (Dave Grohl's documentary) 'Sound City.' Its adorable and informative and its actually a movie about a soundboard, which is my favorite. McCartney is going in (the studio), and he's like an (expletive) child, trying really hard to make a song good. He hasn't lost that. And what I learned from that is, don't quit."
— Justin Vernon, Grammy-winning musician behind Bon Iver, Eau Claire
"We were four giggling, very young teenagers in high school who were crazy in love with the Beatles. We would draw pictures of them, we would buy magazines, we would collect bubble gum cards. When we'd go to my friend Renny's house, we would pretend the kitchen was the Cavern Club in Liverpool (the first place the Beatles performed). We'd have candles on the table and in the background we'd have a record player with the Beatles' music. We memorized all the words to the songs, and we went to 'A Hard Day's Night' seven or eight times. I would say Paul McCartney's parts. My first name is Patty, and it starts with a P, so I said, 'P is for Patty, P is for Paul.' And I just thought he was the most good-looking.
We wanted to see the Beatles at their premiere appearance in Milwaukee (in 1964). My friend Renny had her mother stand in line to get tickets. Sixth row — wow! We all dressed up in dresses, nylons and even wore light lipstick. I had my Brownie camera and my sunglasses. I have pictures of their performance. I really don't know how I kept my camera steady.
I put (the sunglasses) on about halfway into the performance, and Paul pointed to his eyes and then to me. My hero Paul McCartney, he saw me!
Today, we're all in different parts of the state, and one of us is in a different state. But we're still friends. The Beatles hold us together; it's something that we all believed in and we really enjoyed.
We call ourselves the Fab Four, and our group still gets together once a year."
— Patty Petek, education consultant, Brookfield
At that time in 1964, I was listening to this little transistor radio and this song, 'I Want to Hold Your Hand,' I thought it was awesome. My Mom and Dad called me into the living room one Sunday evening, and the Beatles were playing 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' and they played that song. I was really impressed. A couple of weeks later, I was taking guitar lessons and holding my hair down. I wanted to be like the Beatles, and Paul McCartney is the one everyone said I kind of looked like. Paul was my favorite; his stuff just uplifted me all the time.
Around 1976, I was in these other bands, and I realized I don't want to do all this music, I want to play all Beatles. Thirty-six years later, I'm still in (Beatles tribute band) the Britins. I play Paul's part. They're such a versatile band, and there's such a catalog of music to pick from. It never gets old."
— Rick Bertoni, performer with the Britins, Sussex
The song 'Let It Be' had a big effect on me. I was 16 and thought it was a perfect synthesis of rock and pop music at the time. Since it was released within a month of the Beatles officially breaking up, it also seemed to me to be a very bittersweet coda for the group. Plus, my mother's name is Mary, so I identified with the 'mother Mary' lyrics McCartney wrote about his own mother."
— William Dowlding, author of the book "Beatlesongs," Pewaukee
"I was studying classical piano and classical cello in the high school orchestra, and the director absolutely had a fit. He could not believe that I loved the Beatles. But their music was terrific, and I can remember loving to hear everything that they played. And for me Paul was my favorite. I think a lot of girls felt that way.
Later, when we were able to take their arrangements and perform them in an orchestra, to be able to hear the harmonies, to be part of it, was quite an experience. It creates another avenue of enjoyment for me.
The three "B"s (in the classical music world) are Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. For me there are four "B's, and the fourth B is the Beatles."
— Linda Unkefer, former cellist and personnel manager of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee
"Paul McCartney has been one of the most important men in my life. I fell in love with him the very first time I saw him. Two years after that, my father and his family took me along on their vacation to Colorado, and our plane was delayed because the Beatles' plane had just landed. I got to look out the window of the plane and see the Beatles standing at the top of the stairs, and I could see Paul. And I could tell you what I was wearing, I can tell you where he was standing.
Jump forward many years, and I went to a radio industry seminar where Paul McCartney was going to be the keynote speaker. I knew the guy running it, so I got to be on the list of people who could stand up and ask a question. At that point, I had interviewed everybody — Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne. But when it was about my turn to ask the question, I was so nervous, I knew I was going to stand up and not speak and just start crying. My one chance to talk to Paul McCartney and I blew it."
— Marilyn Mee, midday personality WKLH-FM (96.5), Milwaukee
"I was eight years old in 1964 when the Beatles came up, and it literally became the soundtrack of my adolescence. As an eight-year-old, 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' made sense, but then all of a sudden you start getting to 'Rubber Soul' and they're talking about things that deal with life. And by the time 'The White Album' came out, I was a fully fledged, well-aware teenager. Talk about growing up on your music."
— Steve Palec, host of "Rock N' Roll Roots" WKLH-FM (96.5), Milwaukee (Sunday's show from 9 a.m. to noon will be devoted to Paul McCartney.)
"There are few people that impacted me musically as much as Paul McCartney. I was nine years old when 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' came out on the radio. And 'I Saw Her Standing There,' that song rocked my soul. To this day, it does.
The Beatles were so popular, I would sit in my room and listen to the radio, and you would hear 'Hold Your Hand' and those songs five, six, seven, eight times a day. After 10 times, you have to start dissecting. I would be listening more to the guitar or Paul McCartney's bass. Hearing those songs over and over in my bedroom had a lot to do with my understanding and love for music. And its why today I am a sound man with my own (music venue)."
— Jim Linneman, owner of Linneman's Riverwest Inn, Milwaukee
"I am a lifelong fan of the Beatles. When we had the opportunity to have his tour (stop at the Bradley Center) in 2002, it was one of those things you dream of. Milwaukee was the first date on the second leg of the tour, so they were here for a couple of extra days ahead of the show doing full rehearsals here, and hearing (McCartney) sing and play, it truly kind of took me back. It was a magical experience, to not only be a part of it, but to witness it. Over our 25 years, it remains one of our highlights."
— Steve Costello, president and CEO of BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee
"There are so many songs and so many lyrics within those songs that talk to you, that express so many different emotions that you have in life. It's comforting for me to listen to McCartney's music. It's inspiring.
The song that does it for me especially is 'Hey Jude.' I've been thinking a lot about that song. Recently, I went through a divorce, and when I hear that song I think about my kids and the impact of the divorce on my children. My two older sons are big Beatles fans; we don't agree on much but we can listen to the Beatles. When I hear that song, it makes me feel like everything is going to be OK."
— Rick Schlesinger, chief operating officer for the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee
"I'm 25, so for me it all started in 2007, when my friends took me and my brother to see The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage in Las Vegas. I have seen it three times now; I'm actually going to Vegas this weekend too so my goal is to attend the show again.
After seeing that show, I went back and listened to the original songs, and they had something for every mood for every situation. I became fascinated. We go on long drives to Minnesota a couple of times a year and listen to Beatles the entire time. Its fun for me, not as much fun for my boyfriend.
July 16th at Miller Park will be my third (McCartney) show in as many years. I am so thankful to my friends for taking me along on this 'Magical Mystery Tour.'"
— Chelsey Orlikowski, marketing specialist, Milwaukee
By of the Journal Sentinel