One key to the remarkable success of the Beatles was their ability to transform personal concerns into expressions of universal truth. The theme of “freedom” provides a good example. Perhaps inspired in his youth by hearing Fats Domino celebrate finding his freedom on Blueberry Hill, Paul McCartney repeatedly employed the theme in both his Beatle and solo careers. The seven songs discussed below represent merely a few examples of his lifelong interest in one of man’s most cherished states.
Written in response to the 9/11 attacks, McCartney intended the song as a single, but due to its success, it was subsequently included on his 2001 album, Driving Rain. While far from his best work, and displaying none of the subtlety its composer is capable of, the song makes the case for freedom as a god-given right that is worth fighting for. Anthemic, even simplistic in nature, it found popularity as a rallying point but seems unlikely to stand the test of time.
#6 “Band on the Run”
The title track to what is generally regarded as his best solo album, “Band on the Run” contrasts confinement with escape. Initially lamenting his detainment, the narrator gains release and celebrates his newfound freedom, daring anyone to catch him and his companions as they make their getaway. Really a mini-medley, the track’s musical accompaniment aptly complements the lyrical theme.
#5 “Mrs. Vanderbilt”
Another piece from Band on the Run, “Mrs. Vanderbilt” celebrates freedom from worry. Like many of McCartney’s songs, it’s also a paean to the pleasures of rural life, and how this setting can facilitate personal freedom. Liberated from concerns like rent and deadlines, we should shun those figures in our lives who, like the titular Mrs. Vanderbilt, threaten the serenity of a carefree existence.
A third track from his landmark 1973 masterpiece, “Bluebird” illustrates how love can act as a transcendent means of freedom. Identifying directly with the bluebird, the narrator describes how he will transfer the freedom he himself has found to the object of his affection so that both can fly away, at last achieving the sovereignty to live their own lives, once again in a setting of rural splendor.
McCartney’s 2013 album New was his strongest in years. Granted the importance of being placed as its second track, “Alligator’s” narrator is something of a sad sack, an honest, troubled man yearning to find the freedom he sees in others’ lives. To his mind, these lucky souls have found someone who enables them to break their chains, express themselves as individuals, and thus gain true liberation. This track sees McCartney at his best, both in its jaunty melody and the adroit realization of his lyrical intentions.
A belated answer of sorts to John Lennon’s “Rain,” “Mamunia” (inspired by a Moroccan hotel named Mamounia) acknowledges that precipitation is part of everyone’s life, but that it is beneficial, and thus nothing to complain about. A celebration of the element that is our life source, the track reminds us that without rain, tiny seeds within the earth would never achieve germination and thus gain the freedom to flourish above ground. Lilting and lovely, it is another standout track from Band on the Run, and one more illustration of McCartney celebrating his persona of “Mother Nature’s Son.”
Part of the Beatles’ sprawling 1968 White Album, “Blackbird” works on two levels. At first blush, it’s a simple piece that urges a wounded avian to find the inner strength to rise again. We know, however, that its composer had a broader purpose in mind. Here McCartney lends his support to the civil rights movement that was seeking to address long-standing injustices. Though physical, emotional, and societal obstacles exist, so, too, does the inner strength needed to surmount these hurdles and realize deliverance.
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