Paul McCartney & Kanye West. Where My Generation Is Getting It Wrong.

It seems that one internet explosion leads to another. Wasn’t it Issac Newton who said that? I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant, if he didn’t just say it outright.

Last week, the net blew up with the news that Kanye West and Paul McCartney had recorded a song together. Then came the word that some Kanye West fans had communicated the idea that they had no idea that McCartney existed before he recorded with West. And then it started – a Mount St. Helens level eruption by the over fifty set (or the section of the over fifty set that knows how to use “The Twitter”) excoriating the younger generation for not knowing exactly who that talented guy performing with Kim Kardashian’s current husband was.

I know he’s someone, isn’t he? (image by rich007, CCbySA3.0)

And you know what? They’re right to do that, to a point.

How Is It Possible To Not Know?

It isn’t reasonable to expect one generation to have a firm grasp on the scope and history of their predecessors’ popular music. But it is reasonable for them to have some knowledge of the musical icons of earlier eras. I wasn’t alive when Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman were at the peaks of their popularity. But I’m well aware of the contributions they made to the arts.

The Beatles were a huge influence on music and culture around the world. Knowing a little about them and who Paul McCartney is should be a given. It isn’t a matter of liking or disliking his music; McCartney is a historical figure.

Apparently it isn’t a given. That’s a shame. But those of us who remember the Beatles are not placing all the responsibility for this whole kerfuffle where it belongs.

The Sins Of A Few

First off, we’re not talking about an entire generation here. My guess is that if you sampled a college campus you’d find a significant number of students who could tell you who Paul McCartney is. But in today’s society, we indict vast groups of people based on the behavior of a few individuals. Just in the past few weeks, we’ve done it to police officers, black people and now those under a certain age.We’ve been wrong every time we’ve done it.

My generation tears into a younger one for failing to honor one of our icons. In the process, we tear down an icon of theirs – Kanye West. Not cool.

You see, just as it is important for our icons to be respected, it is important for us to respect the icons of others – yes, even the generations that follow ours. It isn’t about liking the music; what little I’ve heard of Kanye West’s music was horrific. But somewhere, there is a nineteen-year-old who both loves Mr. West’s music and knows who Paul McCartney is.

At this point in this piece, I’ve taken to task:

  • Younger people who don’t know who Paul McCartney is.
  • Kanye West, for producing horrible music.
  • Members of my generation who’ve ripped an entire age cohort based on the ignorance of a few.

That leaves one person in this whole mess who seems to have avoided scrutiny – Sir Paul McCartney.

Just Say No, Paul

“Hey Juuuude…” (image by Jorge Royer CCbySA3.0)

Let’s face it, the man has enough cash on hand to keep the power company from turning the lights off in his house. He’s got a legacy of great music that stretches back to the ’60’s. With that legacy comes respect, adoration even. My God, the man is a Knight. A Knight!

The question that folks my age are refusing to ask themselves is “why?”. Why would a man such as this even consider soiling his reputation by associating himself with a Kanye West recording?

It is a shame that some didn’t know who he was before he recorded with a rapper.

Isn’t it just as much a shame when someone we’ve all put on a pedestal kicks the pedestal out from under himself? I’m pretty sure Issac Newton said that. Maybe he planned to, but died first.

41 Comments on “Paul McCartney & Kanye West. Where My Generation Is Getting It Wrong.”

  1. Bex Walton says:

    Oh goodness, I am SO glad someone else feels the same about this as me. Why is no one pointing the finger at Sir McCartney?! Yes Kanye’s music isn’t to my taste and I get that other people like him (each to their own) but what on earth is Paul thinking? Excellent points and excellent post, thanks!

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you! Yeah, it just kept hitting me that a lot of blame was going toward everyone but him. No one put a gun to his head…or did they?

      • Bex Walton says:

        Haha, exactly. I have disliked Kanye since his Rolling Stone cover of him wearing a crown of thorns… I mean seriously, how egotistical must you be?! Messiah complex. But then Paul probably has one too; could be the reason they got together.

  2. lbwoodgate says:

    Nicely said. Kudos

  3. My 11 year old knows who Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, and The Rolling Stones are. He also knows Kanye West, Avicii, and Mumford and Sons. Some people are set in the style of music they will listen to, and some have eclectic taste.
    As to why, musicians have been collaborating with artists(in regards to Kanye, the term is used loosely) from other genres for decades. It’s a way to be heard by the different generations.
    Our generation is no different than our parent’s generation, except that we have the internet, so our opinion can be seen by millions instead of just the teenager(s) in our own household.

    • omawarisan says:

      “My 11 year old knows who Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, and The Rolling Stones are.”

      I don’t think I’m stretching here – you are a success as a parent. You can’t stop now, but you’re doing it right.

  4. shoutabyss says:

    I saw a TV report the other day where they quizzed millennials. “Who is Paul McCartney?” Most of them didn’t know. I don’t want to live in a world where Kanye West is known and Paul McCartney is not. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    • omawarisan says:

      With ignorance like that, you know it could be baaaaaaad!

      Ok, to clarify, not you, them. I want do start doing video responses so the tone of these things come through better.

  5. Didnt Kanye West come out with some nonsense about the biggest regret of his life being that he’d never be able to see himself perform live!

    Im surprised there’s room for anyone to share the same recording studio/music video with an ego that size!

    • omawarisan says:

      He might have. I saw him perform via the net while I was waiting for Springsteen and U2’s performance in Times Square a few weeks ago.


      If not seeing himself is his regret I can put him at ease; he’s not missing much.

  6. The state of music today is sad and maddening. Pioneers and great songwriters/performers are being forgotten.. no talent hacks like kanye can spew their sexist, racist, homophobic, violent, drug related vitriol and young people flock to his shitty music. Rock seems to be dying, very few new true rock bands are hitting the scene. TV shows make stars out of young people based on their looks more than talent. Could a guy that looks like Neil Young or Tom Petty win one of those shows? The answer is no.. My kids are all 20 something and although they listen to the contemporary junk that is out there, they also listen to the Stones, AC/DC, Hendrix, Aroesmith, etc… They listen to as much 80’s and 90’s music as I do. I followed that twitter topic and could tell from the lack of proper english who the people were that were posting. A few of my faves: was “big ups to yeezy (kanye) for promiting new talent Paul McCartney” and “don’t know who Paul McCartney is, but he gon be famous cuz yeezy shouted him out” I am assuming they have been raised on nothing but rap, so they have no clue that guys like Paul and Buddy Holly, Elvis and Hendrix,etc paved the way for these artists today to have the creative freedoms..

    • omawarisan says:

      Interesting that you brought up Hendrix. I watched a documentary on him last night (it’s on Netflix and is very good). There was a part about how influential the old blues guitarists were on him…he learned about them via his dad’s record collection.

  7. theblogwoman says:

    All of your points are spot on – knowing icons seems like a must. And I think the message that stands out here is we do need to be careful of bashing today’s headliners. That’s what he is, a quickie, a media fling. If Kenye and his music are still around in 50 years, I will upgrade him to icon.

  8. pegoleg says:

    C’mon, you know this one – you’re a writer. A really talented writer. Sir Paul is willing to put his rep on the line because he wants the affirmation, the rush that comes from knowing that he is still relevant. That people like his stuff. That’s WAY more important than the money.

    Although having said that, having a couple billion dollars and a shiny knight suit would be pretty cool, too.

  9. I think Newton died in an unfortunate pedestal-kicking incident. Or maybe it was an apple?

  10. knowing Paul McCartney is a given, even in faraway Nigeria where I live. it’s good to see two different generations of musicians blending well.

    • omawarisan says:

      It should be a given, but I’m not certain that things are as they ought to be. Sad.

      I’ll have to take your word on the blend. I just can’t face the way I think it’s going to sound.

  11. I get what you’re saying and agree we shouldn’t indict a whole generation. I look at my kids (age 14 and 17) and although they might recognize the name Paul McCartney (or the Beatles) I’m pretty confident they probably couldn’t tell me much about him. But to the younger generations defense if I were to go back to my teen years, late 70’s into the 80’s then go back 30-40 years from there I probably wouldn’t have known the prominent musicians either from that time either. But you are right, McCartney and the other Beatles really are historical figures and maybe that’s my fault for not teaching them better. As to why would Paul record an album with Kanye West?!? I always wondered about him recording with Michael Jackson too, who although a superstar never really produced any music that I enjoyed listening to. But regardless of our opinions of West (and all the other musicians out there making music today) he must have some talent going on or he wouldn’t be at the level he is at. Honestly its hard for me to judge anymore. Musicians like McCartney are probably much better judges of talent than we are even if today’s style of music isn’t what made them famous back in their day. I think maybe Pegoleg said it best – maybe its all about the relevance! Great post… got us all thinking!!

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you. Yeah, we’re in the same age cohort. If you’d have asked me about Benny Goodman I’d have known he was a clarinet player with glasses and the recordings I heard sounded tinny. I’m just looking for a glimmer of recognition, and I think it is there with most.

  12. In a related topic why would Tony Bennett record with Lady Gaga?

    • omawarisan says:

      I don’t know, but I’m not buying it.

      Wait, here is my theory. Have you noticed that artists put out an album of duets with a lot of other singers, and then they die? I think the only exception has been Willie Nelson. Anyhow, I think by doing an album with just one collaborator, Bennett extended his lifespan.

  13. You’re absolutely right, of course. Sir Paul needs to be a tad more selective about his projects and collaborations. Let’s stop this conversation before we end up talking about Lady Gaga teaming up with Tony Bennett or the ill-conceived duet featuring Marilyn Manson and Dolly Parton.

  14. Dan Hennessy says:

    I’m sorry : who’s Kanye West ? I know McCartney. He was a member of Wings .

  15. Yes, outrage and disgust was my first reaction and weighed in on the commentary. However, that is one question I did ask myself, “why would Sir Paul sing with Kanye?” As stated he definitely has enough money and fame. In this case I don’t buy the “relevance” angle. Kanye isn’t the kind of relevance that would be good PR for Sir Paul in the first place. Almost any other rapper would have been a better choice. So, in the end, I agree, it is all Sir Paul’s fault.

  16. BB says:

    Yes, yes, and yes! But (and I can probably guess the answer to this)…… is the song any good?!

  17. I haven’t seen a picture of Paul McKartney for some time, and I just realized that he is left-handed. I loved listening to him when I was a kid (Yes, I am in the over-50 group!)

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