Paul McCartney went through a phase of embarrassing vests, or “waistcoats” as the Brits call them.
The one he wears in a 1993 televised performance of “Hope of Deliverance” is noteworthy, a rainbow-striped gem of a garment. As usual, Linda’s style matches Paul although hers is a more elegant white vest that is unbuttoned; her laid-back ease always complemented Macca’s try-hard ethos.
“We live in hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us,” sings McCartney. As we shelter in place facing an uncertain future, “Hope of Deliverance” is perhaps the most applicable McCartney song for this coronavirus moment.
“Hope of Deliverance” is just one of many, many optimistic McCartney songs. Its album, Off the Ground, includes songs in the similar tune of a fairy tale, such as “I Owe It All to You” and the tribute to Linda, “Golden Earth Girl.”
With its simultaneous anticipation and doubt, “Hope of Deliverance” is the song just before the wave of death descends, the one we know is coming.
In real life, the promises that McCartney makes at the beginning of the song will soon be revealed to be impossible. “I will always be hoping,” he begins. And “you,” which we know is Linda as she answers in the backing vocals, “will always be holding” him in her “hand.” But that won’t come true, not in the physical sense.
Linda won’t be able to “go along” with McCartney’s “plan.” In two years, she will be diagnosed and, in five years, Linda will die of breast cancer, the illness that claimed McCartney’s mother. All of a Beatle’s money and love could not save Linda.
He will cry for a year. “I will understand,” the song goes.
In retrospect, “Hope of Deliverance” shows us how to go on, especially when wished-for plans dissolve. In McCartney’s case, he returned to write music and perform with more relentless hope even after Linda wasn’t there to sing and play music with him.
We “don’t know,” as he sings, what deliverance will look like and who or what we will lose along the way, but McCartney has given us an example of how to overcome loss.
The music video for “Hope of Deliverance” is another shamelessly corny McCartney treasure, which includes two plots. In one, there are nuns in a car stuck on a track with an oncoming train; some of its passengers, a group of Buddhist monks, pull the lever just in time to save the nuns. The metaphor for the current pandemic is almost too obvious: who can we trust to stop the train? Who will step forward to save us? Prayers are futile in the absence of effective human action.
And then the will-o’-the-wisp McCartney plot. Why is he wearing sunglasses as he wanders through the dark forest, you ask? That question does not matter: he is all of us now, walking alone if we walk outside.
The isolated Paul wanders into the forest and discovers Linda, the rest of his band, and a whole crowd of people eventually emerge, including the heroic monks. The members of this joyful assembly dance and sing and play music, all of the things we can’t physically do together anymore.
We don’t know “what it will be like,” McCartney sings.
We stay at home and do shadow versions of the activities in the video, but we are apart in these online spaces.
And this is how I came to be watching videos of “Hope of Deliverance” a few days before Dhani Harrison’s #innerlight2020 initiative asked all of us to find and post similarly inspiring Beatles lyrics.
“We live in hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us.”
Photo: Paul McCartney via Getty Images