Paul McCartney: "I don't really know my songs"

"Blackbird? Yeah, I know that one!"
"Blackbird? Yeah, I know that one!" (Image credit: Derek Storm/Retna Ltd./Corbis)

Don't know the words to all The Beatles songs? Don't feel bad: even Sir Paul McCartney admits that he struggles to remember many of his own famous compositions.

While speaking at a news conference in Washington DC. where he was being awarded the Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the former Beatles bassist told reporters that other than songs he's rehearsed for tours, he often can't recall how his own numbers go.

"To tell you the truth, I don't really know my songs," McCartney told reporters. "It's a funny thing. I think, the thing is, I've written so many songs. I wrote, I think, just short of like 300 with John, and I've written a lot on my own since. So if I'm at a party I'll tend to do something like Babyface or something silly like the old songs."

He continued, "I know my songs when I go on tour because I learn them to go on tour, but actually, I think there's just too many of them for me to retain."

McCartney elaborated that his repertoire of his own material remains fairly limited. "There's just a few that I'd do if I'm at a party. I'd do The Long And Winding Road because I remember that - Lady Madonna and things like that...and Blackbird.

"There are certain ones that I can conjure up but really, the truth is people say, 'Go on, do that one!' and I say, 'Sorry, I have no idea how it goes.'"

Previous winners of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song include Paul Simon in 2007 and Stevie Wonder in 2009. The award honors artists whose work and career are judged to have promoted song as a "vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.