Paul McCartney has long spoken of the impact his mother, Mary, had on his life. She was the inspiration for one of The Beatles‘ greatest hits, “Let It Be.” Mary McCartney’s death at the age of 47 occurred way before McCartney set on his path to becoming a global superstar. However, the smell of an ordinary beauty product will always remind him of his beloved mother, who died when he was just 14 years old.
Mary McCartney was Paul’s greatest muse
Of all the women in McCartney’s life, his mother, Mary, was his greatest muse.
A two-volume collection coffee table book titled Lyrics: 1956 to the Present drove this point home. McCartney discussed the thought process behind 156 of his songs. He admitted in the book that the loss of his mother was “something I never got over.”
McCartney channeled his feelings into words and music. Mary would inspire numerous songs, including “Yesterday,” “I’ve Lost My Little Girl,” and “Let It Be,” to name a few.
The Beatles bassist said that “Yesterday” was an attempt to deal with this significant loss.
In the book, as reported by People Magazine, McCartney wrote the following message regarding the song and how “strange” it was that his family never spoke in depth about the reasons behind Mary’s untimely death from cancer.
“It was so strange that the loss of our mother to cancer was not discussed. We barely knew what cancer was, but I’m now not surprised that the whole experience surfaced in this song where sweetness competes with a pain you can’t quite describe,” McCartney said.
Paul McCartney said this smell always reminds him of his Mother, Mary
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mums around the world! – Paul x pic.twitter.com/CTeSqudbhf— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) March 27, 2022
In a personal history essay for The New Yorker Magazine, McCartney discussed how the writing of many of his most famous songs came to be.
In discussing the song “Eleanor Rigby,” McCartney directly linked a beauty product often used by his mother to one of the song’s lines. The smell brings a smile to his face to this day.
“My mum’s favorite cold cream was Nivea, and I love it to this day,” McCartney penned. “That’s the cold cream I was thinking of in the description of the face Eleanor keeps ‘in a jar by the door.’ I was always a little scared by how often women used cold cream,” he explained.
McCartney and John Lennon bonded over their commonalities
McCartney and John Lennon bonded over two common threads that ran through their lives.
The first was songwriting, a talent McCartney honed shortly after Mary’s death. He met Lennon several months after, in the summer of 1957. Around that time, he wrote his first song, “I Lost My Little Girl,” which he said was in direct response to his mother’s passing.
“[It] gave us something in common that was itself wholly uncommon,” McCartney explained in Lyrics. “I went to a school with a thousand boys, and I’d never met anyone who said he’d written a song. We took each other by surprise. And then the logical extension was, ‘Well, maybe we could write one together.’ So that’s how we started. And we became versions of each other.”
Just a year into their friendship, McCartney and Lennon connected further via tragedy after Lennon’s mother, Julia, was struck and killed in July 1958.
“We both understood that something had happened that you couldn’t talk about,” he also shared in the book. “But we could laugh because each of us had gone through it. It wasn’t OK for anyone else. We could both laugh at death, but only on the surface.”