Paul McCartney is finally ready to write his memoirs, and will use music — and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet — to help guide him. The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present will be released 2 November, according to a joint announcement Wednesday from the British publisher Allen Lane and from Liveright in the United States.
McCartney, 78, will trace his life through 154 songs, from his teens and early partnership with fellow Beatle John Lennon to his solo work over the past half century. Irish poet Paul Muldoon is editing and will contribute an introduction.
"More often than I can count, I’ve been asked if I would write an autobiography, but the time has never been right," McCartney said in a statement. “The one thing I’ve always managed to do, whether at home or on the road, is to write new songs. I know that some people, when they get to a certain age, like to go to a diary to recall day-to-day events from the past, but I have no such notebooks. What I do have are my songs, hundreds of them, which I’ve learned serve much the same purpose. And these songs span my entire life.”
Financial terms for The Lyrics, which has a list price of $100, were not disclosed. Publishers have long sought a McCartney memoir, even though he has spoken often about the past and has participated in such projects as Barry Miles' biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, and the 1990s documentary and book The Beatles Anthology. The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards has been equally open about himself, but his 2010 memoir, Life, still sold millions of copies.
No Beatle has written a standard, full-fledged account of his life. Lennon published two works of stories, poems and drawings and was considered the most gifted with words, but he was murdered in 1980, at age 40. Ringo Starr's Another Day In the Life is centered on photographs and quotes, because, the drummer has said, a traditional memoir would require multiple volumes. George Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001, issued the scrapbook/retrospective I, Me, Mine in 1980.
According to McCartney's publishers, his songs will be arranged alphabetically, and will include McCartney's comments on when and where they were written and what inspired them. The U.S. edition of the book will be broken into two volumes, contained within a single box.
“Presented with this is a treasure trove of material from McCartney’s personal archive — drafts, letters, photographs — never seen before, which make this also a unique visual record of one of the greatest songwriters of all time,” according to Wednesday's announcement.
McCartney has often received more acclaim for his melodies than for his lyrics, but he has written some of the most quoted songs in recent history, including Let It Be, Hey Jude and Eleanor Rigby. Muldoon said in a statement that their conversations in recent years “confirm a notion at which we had but guessed — that Paul McCartney is a major literary figure who draws upon, and extends, the long tradition of poetry in English.”
Muldoon is known for such poetry collections as Moy Sand and Gravel and Horse Latitudes, and also has a background in music. He has given spoken-word performances backed by the musical collective Rogue Oliphant; published a book of rock lyrics, The Word on the Street; and collaborated on the title track of Warren Zevon's My Ride's Here. He even mentioned McCartney in a poem, Sideman: "I’ll be McCartney to your Lennon/ Lenin to your Marx/ Jerry to your Ben &/ Lewis to your Clark."