I was in Lima on April 8th of this year for the last day of my eight-day trip to Peru. It happened to be Easter Sunday, and our group was taking a tour of the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (we were allowed inside even as the holiday service was taking place). Standing on the balcony level of the church and listening to our guide explain its rich history to us, my attention shifted when an instantly recognizable tune caught my ear. A woman with a lovely voice was singing a capella down below as part of the church service. No, it was not a familiar Christian hymn from my childhood (I was raised Jewish, more or less). It was “Hey Jude”!
At my first opportunity I brought it to our guide’s attention and asked him about it. Why were they singing a Beatles song during Easter Sunday service in Lima? He explained to me that while, yes, she was singing the melody to “Hey Jude”, the (Spanish) lyrics she was singing were about Jesus. Now, I pretty much hear the music of the Beatles (as do you) here, there, and everywhere I go – but at a church in Lima on one of the holiest days of the year? Would this not have been considered sacrilege a mere couple of decades ago? I thought Paul McCartney would have been tickled if he had been there to hear it. Myself, I couldn’t help but recall with amusement John Lennon’s infamous remark about the Beatles being more popular than Christ.
This anecdote, of course, is just one example of Paul McCartney’s immeasurable impact on the entire planet that we inhabit. Is there a person alive today who has brought more joy to his/her fellow human beings than Sir Paul has?
Rather than rattle off Paul McCartney’s already-much-ballyhooed unparalleled achievements in music during the span of his five-decades-long-and-counting career, I figured I would just write what amounts to more of a thank you letter to one of my (and, let’s face it, millions of others’) greatest musical heroes of all time:
Dear Paul, er- Mr. McCartney – I mean, Sir Paul…(sigh), okay, you know who you are!
I am unabashedly and unapologetically a hero worshiper by nature (“and what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know…”). I recognize the fact that the objects of my intense admiration are simply human, and flawed like all the rest of us. But my appreciation for the gifts and inspiration provided to me by certain people whom I’ve never met is so profound that I don’t mind calling them heroes. In fact, I actually think it’s pretty cool to still be able to have heroes at my age (nearly 40), and to still be reduced to tears when one of them takes the stage and I happen to be in the same building.
To say that your music, with the Beatles and otherwise, has been the “soundtrack of my life” would be to repeat an almost unpardonably overused cliché, but it would be absolutely true nonetheless. I haven’t tallied all of my hours of music listening over the course of my life, but I would be willing to bet that I have listened to no one else’s music as often as I have listened to yours. There’s a reason for this. Your music does something for my soul. You have not only provided me with countless hours of entertainment and unending fuel for my own musical aspirations and pursuits, but you have been, above all: a spirit-lifter, a gifted therapist, a trusted friend. To this day, hearing your voice and your melodies produces in me feelings of joy and/or indescribable comfort. How is it possible to not get sick of songs I have already heard thousands of times before? (This, perhaps more than anything else, is the litmus test for great music.) Okay, I see that I am getting gushy here. I’ll probably get gushier.
Thank you for not only continuing to make music through thick and thin, and not only for modeling the benefits of doing what you love and keeping a youthful spirit in the face of a world that leaves so many people weary, wary, jaded, and worse…thank you not only for generously sharing your innate musical talent regardless of what the critics have had to say about you, and for using your platform on the world stage to be an advocate for animals and the environment…but thank you for your unflappable cheerfulness and resilience. Thank you for being such a steadfast optimist and romantic. We really need that here. When you sing to us and urge us to “take a sad song and make it better”, insist to us that “it’s getting better all the time” and that “we can work it out”, and assure us that “there will be an answer”…it is nothing less than healing. You heal us.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for how much you have enriched, and continue to enrich, my life and the lives of countless others by unearthing so much incredible music from the ether for all of us to enjoy. You are a gift to the world. Happy 70th Birthday, Paul!!!
With much love, good wishes, and gratitude,
Eric C. Teplitz