Is Paul McCartney really dead? Again?
By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 6/14/10
It is all over the web today: Like they said in the Sixties, Paul McCartney is really dead. He was killed in a car accident in 1966. And that English-looking fellow going around playing football games and Bar Mitzvahs and advising President Obama is a double (named “Faul”) put in there by Her Majesty’s Secret Service or something to prevent mass suicides.
Hard to say. But it must be tough for McCartney if that is really him still walking around. The hair is the same as in 1966, suggesting he is maybe one of those visitors from the place-where-time-stops on “Buffy,” who we in the real world call the “undead.” Maybe he is one of them. And anyway, what kind of loser would still want an award for work he did 40 years ago? Unless it was the “luckiest man ever by random happen chance come to the attention of the singular, historic genius John Lennon on a bus” award. I can’t even remember that far back. Then whenever he appears someplace like the White House people begin to wonder again if it is really him or if the real him is really dead.
It is just the opposite with John Lennon. John Lennon really is dead. But like Elvis, people keep claiming that he is still alive.
It is hard to think of another artist in all of history who has the reputation for being dead. Although some say David Letterman is really dead.
It was a trying time, the Sixties. A time of going up, much as today is a time of coming back down. In 1964, two years before the real McCartney allegedly died, the great surrealist artist Rene Magritte painted a famous picture of an Englishman in a bowler hat with a green apple in front of his face. Apple was of course, the Beatles corporation, and a green apple was its symbol. But Magritte titled his painting “Son of Man” – from the Book of Daniel, indicating the arrival of the Awaited One; i.e., the Savior. So as you can see, it caused conversation. Then we went to the moon, which we had never done before and it somehow seemed a parallel to the rise of The Beatles arc which reached crescendo with the Vedic claim, “I am he . . .” – that man-in-the-bowler-hat/Awaited One thing again. And everyone was stoned then which made it all that more confusing.
“I was the Walrus, but now I’m John,” Lennon wrote in pain at the end of the astonishing journey. It was a journey of enlightenment for tens of millions, a journey to the East, and a journey back. It was a journey that transformed the West, for if there was no John Lennon then to find a path, there would be no Dalai Lama today speaking regularly at Emory University.
William Butler Yeats writes: “What portion in the world can the artist have/Who has awakened from the common dream/But dissipation and despair?”
Such was the lot of John Lennon. He had become the bodhisattva in exile who never smiled for the cameras again when he returned from India. But on this sacred journey of transformation McCartney, clownishly scrapping and bowing today before queens and presidents and milking it for every dollar, wrote a few sweet tunes, but was only along for the ride.