James Paul McCartney and his father James "Jim" McCartney at age 64.
Tomorrow is Sir Paul's birthday and Sunday is Father's Day -- what better time to feature a song Paul wrote with his dad in mind?
"When I'm Sixty Four" has always been one of my favorites. Whenever I hear it, I feel a little 'goofy-happy,' probably because of its rooty-toot rhythm and slightly mocking tone. Ah, those bouncy clarinets! You may know that Jim McCartney had a big influence on Paul's musical upbringing. Self taught on the piano and trumpet, Jim played in ragtime and jazz bands in Liverpool during the twenties and thirties. He encouraged Paul to take music lessons and taught him to sing harmony.
Music was central in the McCartney household -- they listened to the radio and Jim's 78 rpm records, and of course, Jim played popular dance hall tunes on the upright piano (which Paul, reputedly, still owns). Paul's granddad Joe was also musical. An opera lover who was more of a traditionalist, he played the double bass and tuba.
Paul wrote the melody for "When I'm Sixty Four" with Jim's encouragement when he was just 16. When the Beatles were still the Quarrymen, the song was a "stand-in number" when the amps weren't working or the electricity went off. It wasn't until Jim turned 64 in 1966 that Paul decided to revise and record what would become the first completed cut for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart'sClub Band, widely regarded as one of the most important and influential rock albums in popular music. When Paul himself turned 64, his children sang the song to him as a birthday present.
When I first heard the song as a teenager, 64 seemed positively ancient. Now, not so much . . . ☺.