Unseen handwritten lyrics of Paul McCartney on display at British Library

Handwritten lyrics and personal messages from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney’s archive are on display in the British Library until March 13.

The free exhibition in the library’s entrance hall, Paul McCartney: The Lyrics, explores the life and songwriting process of McCartney, alias Macca.

McCartney said his parents were “the original inspiration” for many of his songs and a huge influence on the way he approached his music.

He said: “My upbeat attitude really goes back to my Liverpool upbringing. Music was a big thing in our house.

“Our family’s annual New Year’s Eve party was a joyous thing where everyone sat around singing. Dad was on the piano banging out these old songs that everyone knew. I am very lucky to have been born into such a happy family.”

Paul McCartney and John Lennon writing I Saw Her Standing There
The exhibition includes a photo of Sir Paul and John Lennon writing, “I Saw Her Standing There” in his home on Forthlin Road. Photo: Mike McCartney

His songwriting partnership with John Lennon was the richest songwriting collaboration in all of popular music, according to the Rolling Stones. 


Curator of Popular Music Recordings at the British Library Andy Linehan said that he hoped the display would inspire new audiences “young and old”.

Lineman said: “Handwritten drafts of song lyrics have a special quality – they show that initial spark of creativity – and this is a chance for everyone to see the workings and learn the stories behind the songs of one of the world’s most successful songwriters and performers.”

All the material, including a draft of A Hard Day’s Night scribbled on the back of a birthday card, Beatles’ manager George Martin’s score for Yesterday and an original drawing by McCartney for the Put It There single was kept immaculately by McCartney.

Put it There. The inspiration was his dad, Jim McCartney, who said this often. Photo: Jacobien van der Kleij

Songs such as Hey Jude, Some Day and Yesterday from the British Library’s Sound Archive accompany the previously unseen material from McCartney’s personal archive.

Philosophy student Theo George, 27, said: “It is a window into the intuitive nature of songwriting. In one quote McCartney likens this to “following a trial of breadcrumbs.

“Interestingly, the word ‘genius’ often describes an intelligence that taps into something unlimited and ‘brings it back’ into limited human symbols, as all great artists do.”

At the exhibition. Photo: Jacobien van der Kleij

The treasures on display can be seen alongside literary inspirations including Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens as part of the permanent Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library gallery, offering an insight into the Library’s collection, which exceeds 170 million separate items exploring the work of geniuses of every age of written civilisation.

The Library has one of the largest and most wide-ranging collections of popular music in the world. It contains commercial releases, interviews and live performances from all eras and genres together with magazines, fanzines and books to provide a comprehensive picture of popular music and its history.

Lineman said: “The British Library is more than just books; we also hold one of the most extensive collections of popular music in the world.”

The free exhibition coincides with the release of McCartney’s two-volume book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, in which McCartney recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career.

The music book span his career – from his earliest boyhood compositions through the legendary decade of The Beatles, to Wings and his solo albums to the present.

The Beatle, who continues as a solo performer, also announced on February 18 that he would hit the road for a “Got Back” tour for 14 dates.

He will kick off the tour in Washington on April 28 before performing in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Baltimore, New Jersey and more.


McCartney will also be headlining the Glastonbury Festival 2022 along with Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar.

He last played at the festival in 2004.

Paul McCartney onstage at Glastonbury festival, 26 June 2004
Paul McCartney onstage at Glastonbury festival, 26 June 2004. Photo: Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

He will top the bill on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday 25 June, one week after he turns 80.

+ posts

Leave a Reply

Verified by ExactMetrics