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Publisher's Summary

Since the age of 21, Paul McCartney has lived one of the ultimate rock 'n' roll lives, played out on the most public of stages. Now Paul's story is told by rock music's foremost biographer, with McCartney's consent and access to family members and close friends who have never spoken on the record before.

Paul McCartney: The Life reveals the complex character behind the façade and sheds new light on his childhood - blighted by his mother's death but redeemed by the father who introduced him to music. This is the first definitive account of Paul's often troubled partnership with John Lennon, his personal trauma after the Beatles' breakup, and his subsequent struggle to get back to the top with Wings - which nearly got him murdered in Africa and brought him nine days in a Tokyo jail.

Listeners will learn about his marriage to Linda, including their much-criticized musical collaboration, and a moving account of her death. Packed with new information and critical insights, Paul McCartney: The Life will be the definitive biography of a musical legend.

©2016 Philip Norman (P)2016 W.F. Howes

Critic Reviews

"If you’re not a fan of Paul McCartney when you start this book, you will be when you’re done. Narrator Jonathan Keeble recounts McCartney's life story... It would have been criminal to have an American read Philip Norman's tell-all book. Keeble's delightful British accent makes it sound real.... Overall, McCartney comes across as a great musician, caring father, and incredible human being." (AudioFile)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Better than average McCartney bio

I don't know why reviewers and critics are slamming this book. I just finished the 30-some hour book and was entertained throughout--mostly. Yes, the Beatles portion is a retread. But a biographer whose subject is one member of the Beatles and not the Beatles is going to gloss over the nitty-gritty of that oft-told tale.

Paul McCartney did not authorize the biography but he gave his tacit consent. So Norman had access to family members, friends and business associates who otherwise might not have spoken to him.

The story, for me, picked up when Paul met Linda. That's where Norman seems to find a thread that leads out of the oft-told tale and into the more nebulous realm of Paul's post-Beatles life. I've listened to Peter Ames Carlin's, Howard Sounes' and Paul du Noyer's McCartney bios and this is my favorite so far. Although du Noyer's book did a wonderful job digging into Paul's music, which the other biographies don't do as well.

Norman presents a likeable Paul who has faults and foibles, and a creative streak and inventiveness that carry him through "I Saw Her Standing There", "Eleanor Rigby" and "Hey Jude" up to Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005) and New (2013).

Norman doesn't spend a lot of time on any album or song. But he weaves their stories through the history of Paul's life. I thought Paul's arrest for marijuana possession and subsequent time in a Japanese jail was well-told. Other subjects gone over are the various post-Beatles business blahs, Wings lineup changes, Linda's photography and cookbooks, Give My Regards to Broad Street, Paul's relationships with the Beatles' members and the Beatles' wives/widows, Stella McCartney's fashion career, Linda's death, Paul's messy divorce from Heather Mills, his classical works, his role in the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and his marriage to Nancy Shevell.

Thankfully Norman never forgets that Paul is a musician and songwriter, and the Beatles and McCartney music lies at the heart of this book.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Hanover, MA, United States
  • 09-17-16

A Critic's View Changed through Research and Writing

Some biographies are hagiographies, full of little more than a fan's praise. Some reveal a negative bias that turns the reader off. Philip Norman's Paul McCartney is neither of these. Having started with the notion that John was the better song writer and the heart of the Beatles, readers can sense his measure of Paul's life and work growing throughout this book. Thorough, balanced, and committed to rendering as true of a picture as one can gain while the subject is still living, Norman delivers on his promise. Outstanding work and a great book to listen to.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Good bio but not much music

Paul McCartney didn't come off well in Philip Norman's two previous books about the Beatles (Shout! - about the band as a whole, and a bio of John Lennon). To some extent this one is an act of contrition.

There are strengths and weaknesses to Norman's approach - the biggest weakness being his lack of attention to music. Some might consider that a deal-breaker, but I have my own opinions on the music, and I'm just as happy he focused on other things.

If this is the first book you've read about the group, the history of the Beatles is going to fly by at a breakneck pace: at the point where the Beatles have finally and irreversibly broken up, there are still 14 hours left in the audiobook. At least he's not just recycling material from the previous books.

There were a number of surprises, at least for me. I didn't know that Paul and Linda McCartney were mugged at knifepoint in Nigeria: Paul had gone there for a recording project. Manuscripts of new songs were stolen, but Paul was able to reconstruct them from memory.

He spent a scary time in jail, in Japan, for one of the stupidest weed-packing incidents in history: he himself wonders why he placed his plastic bags of marijuana in his suitcase, with no attempt to conceal them, and with a high probability - given his previous conviction on marijuana charges - that his luggage would be searched.

The bulk of the book, post-Beatles, focuses on Paul and Linda, and it sounds like they had a wonderful relationship and a great family. But there are flashes of the overbearing control-freak Paul who appeared in the documentary "Let It Be". One morning, when he brought his kids to school, he found that the teachers were on strike. "MY teachers never went on strike," he huffed. The various musicians who came and went in Wings were mostly paid a weekly salary, with no dividends from their successes. Paul, in these chapters, seems to want people who will play their instruments exactly the way HE would play them, with no surprises - and not much opportunity for the playful improvisation that marked his partnership with Lennon.

The closest he came to that was a recording session with Elvis Costello - and then he decided to drop most of that material and use his own stuff instead.

Anything you might want to know about Heather Mills and her marriage to Paul is in here as well.

So.... I wouldn't read this as a first book about the Beatles, but that's not what it's designed to be. It's there for people like me (and maybe you) who've read a lot about the band and want to know more about them as individuals. It's definitely the best-researched and best-written book about Paul among the three I've read.

Jonathan Keeble does an excellent job with the narration, as he usually does. His attempts at giving voice to the different people involved are mostly low-key - suggesting the tone, a little of the accent, not trying to be an impressionist.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • so
  • 06-21-16

Very interesting book.

It really bring Paul down to earth. At first I thought that about that old saying "never meet your hero's, you'll be disappointed" but thinking Paul was squeaky clean was the real mistake from the start. It was very real and you could empathize with him during Linda's decline and the mess with Heather. Overall, riveting and incredibly informative. If your a Beatles fan and a Paul fan like me, you will love it.

Jeff O

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Interesting And Informative

A great read and the narration is superb! Full of information of Paul McCartney's life!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Outstanding Book! Covers every part of his life

The thing I loved most about this book is how he really didn't pick a side. Philip Norman says that right up front he is a Lennon fan over McCartney. But, it doesn't get in the way of telling the true story. He goes into the good and the bad sides of Paul and really gives the reader a key insight into the life of the "cute" Beatle. I found it really refreshing that he wasn't constantly bashing or praising him. It seemed as though he was just telling the story how it is and letting the reader decide what was just and unjust of Paul's actions.

He goes into full detail of the music, the love, the relationships with the other three Beatles, and even the depressed side of Paul that we hardly see. He proves to everyone that Paul is just a normal man with a unique gift.

The one thing I wish he would have done differently is when he talked about Paul's second wife. He focused so much on that and not the fact that in those years he was writing some amazing albums, where Norman just writes a quick paragraph about each and then moves on. I feel like there were so much sadness and emotion in the songs written at the time that he should have and could have written much more about. Other than that, this book is one of the best biographies I've ever written and truly loved it.

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Excellent work

Absolutely one of the best books written about a famous musician. I love the details presented by Phillip on Paul’s life.

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Excellent

Narrator was excellent! Sounded just like each Beatle, when he quoted them. Want to listen to it all over again.

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Worth the time!

Would you listen to Paul McCartney again? Why?

I have read almost everything ever written about The Beatles including several McCartney bios. This is definitely the most detailed and most interesting. If you read only one, this is it.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

I prefer the Barry Miles / Tune In bios

This bio is fine and covers some oft-missed career points. If "Tune In" is the new gospel in Beatles lore, a good amount of the early history in this book is inaccurate. The Jane Asher period is better covered in Barry Miles' McCartney bio. The Band on the Run period is better told in Geoff Emerick's book. The best part of this book covers post-Band on the Run Wings through Paul's drug bust in Japan. The drug bust story is very interesting and compelling, and well worth the price of this bio. On the downside, there is a lot of celebrity name dropping throughout the book, especially post-1980, which I find boring. The biggest drag with this Paul bio is the Heather Mills divorce, which seems to gobble up the last 1/3 of the bio. Having been through a divorce myself, I found this part thoroughly depressing, sad and even catty. I felt like I was invading Paul McCartney's private misery for 100+ pages. Poor man. The narration is excellent throughout the audiobook.