Paul McCartney played Piedmont Park on August 15. I was there. Keep in mind, I am no lover of celebrity. I don’t want anyones autograph. Saw Andie McDowell walking through the airport. Didn’t care. Reality celebrities? They deserve to be trampled. I’m a Beatles fan since the 5th grade. When Paul took the stage at 8:45 pm in his blue nehru suit, for two songs I felt as if I’d been hit by a pole. I was maybe fifty feet from the mike. He easily could have seen me. Several songs in, Paul donned an acoustic guitar and introduced “Blackbird,” a song, he explained in his gentle intimate way, inspired by the civil rights movement. It began raining. Hard merciless rain, like standing in a shower. Hard enough to necessitate wiping it out of your eyes. Nobody around me even thought of moving. The water was cleansing and transformative.
I’ve been known to curse at other drivers, to feel annoyance at people who are slow in the grocery store. Not today. At several points I looked behind me, at the carpet of wet, elated people — over forty thousand — packed together and on hillsides, and I thought: These are my people. Here we all are. You see, when Paul and John got together as teens and started strumming guitars and writing songs (and from the get go decided to share the writing credit, Lennon-McCartney), it was a cosmic thing of enormous consequence. What are the odds the two most talented musicians of the twentieth century would be born within a year in Liverpool, England? And that they would meet George Harrison? And Ringo? And they would produce a vibration unmatched in it’s power, never to be matched. This very vibration I got under the right side stage speakers. Elation, yes, but deeper. Every person around me — the grey haired dudes with their daughters, the bespectacled moms, the hovering twentysomething dudes who toked furtively, the dancing sixteen year olds — was a fervent believer in Love, and take a sad song and make it better, and the love you take being equal to the love you make, all of it. Everyone around me was singing every word, a giant choir. I won’t go on. Either you get what I’m saying or not.
Here’s the other remarkable thing about Paul and his mates: They made it bigger than anyone ever had, then walked away. The stadium concerts and hype were a distraction from making music, so they gave it up. Could you do that? That same humble, fun-loving, self-deprecating genius was before me on the stage. All his tributes — to George, to John, to Linda — were totally heart felt. He did three encores. When Paul left the stage, when I could no longer see his white shirt between the tarps, I felt a sense of loss.
* *KNOWN THING No. 12: You may find a sage. He may have played the same Hofner bass the last forty years, have ruffled teen hair and be a billionaire.
* *KNOWN THING No: 13: When the rain comes, stand in it. Otherwise, you might miss a cool story about Jimi Hendrix.
** KNOWN THING No. 14: You can find your people. They may be rain drenched, singing Hey Jude at the top of their lungs, and become irritated if you step on their blanket.