Paul McCartney's "The Lyrics": our talk with editor, poet Paul Muldoon
(This conversation was originally broadcast on January 7, 2022)
We begin with the familiar opening bars of Yesterday, the song that Rolling Stone Magazine called “the best song of the 20th century.” It’s been covered and recorded by thousands of artists, and it is universally loved.
Paul McCartney wrote it in 1965, when he was 23 and in the middle of his stint with The Beatles. Sir Paul turns 80 on June 18th, and he’s still writing, recording and performing. (His current concert tour brings him to Camden Yards in Baltimore on June 12th.) In a writing career that began in 1956, McCartney has written or co-written more than 400 songs. The lyrics to 154 of them, from Beatles-era classics to songs he’s written in the decades since, are included in The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, a two-volume set of books published last summer in which McCartney offers context and back stories for each of the songs.
Welcome to Midday. Today on this encore presentation of our show, Tom's guest is the wonderful poet Paul Muldoon, who was tapped by Paul McCartney to help him with the book. Muldoon wrote an introduction, and edited conversations with McCartney into the essays that accompany each song.
Paul Muldoon is perfectly positioned to curate such a collection. He is a song lyricist himself, and a member of a band called Rogue Oliphant. He even teaches a course in songwriting at Princeton University, where he’s been on the faculty for 35 years.
He is also the author of 14 poetry collections and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. His latest collection is called Howdie-Skelp. He and Tom talk about that book as well, later in the program.
Paul Muldoon joined us on Zoom from New York…