Were Paul McCartney and John Lennon Best Friends?

Rock music has given us many iconic songwriting duos, from Simon & Garfunkel to Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin. Yet, none of those other songwriting duos are quite as legendary or acclaimed as John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Many of the greatest and most influential rock songs ever were composed by the two, but does this mean that they were best friends? Let’s take a look back at this fascinating friendship that went down in the history books.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon on guitar.

Humble beginnings

John and Paul in 1963.

July 6th, 1957 is as important to the history of music as July 4th 1776 is to the history of the United States. That was the day that the fifteen-year-old Paul was introduced to the 16-year-old John, who was then a member of a skiffle band called the Quarrymen. The two began chatting and Paul taught John how to tune his guitar. To show that he was a capable musician, Paul also played John a few songs by rock and roll legend Little Richard.

Later that day, Paul watched the Quarrymen perform and felt that John was the only member of the group with any magnetism. John was likewise impressed with Paul due to his encyclopedic knowledge of music. George Harrison would join the group months later. All other members of the band would depart, but the trio stayed together, hired a drummer, and renamed themselves the Beatles.

According to Cynthia Lennon, John’s first wife, John and Paul were pivotal in each other’s work. She said that, even when John and Paul were not in the same house, they would call each other on the phone and collaborate. John would later say that their early work was always collaborative.

The band falls apart

Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Paul McCartney in the audience at the London Pavillion

Of course, the two men would ultimately take different artistic paths. By 1969, John Lennon felt that he was confined by the expectations that were placed upon him as a member of the Beatles. Paul, on the other hand, had a very different attitude towards the group; being a member of the Beatles was his greatest joy. Yet, Paul understood that John was less and less interested in the band and he didn’t want to force John to do anything that he did not want to do. Frictions between the members of the group and John’s wife Yoko Ono would cause them to disband, but that wouldn’t stop John and Paul from seeing each other and even collaborating at different points during the remainder of John’s life.

A transcendent friendship

Paul and John in Greece

The question remains: were the two best friends? In keeping with public perception, they were. Last year, Paul took part in a protest against gun violence in New York City. When asked why he did so, Paul said that the issue of gun violence was important to him because he lost one of his very best friends to gun violence; he was referring to the infamous murder of John Lennon by the gunman Mark David Chapman. Paul also noted that the protest took place a short distance from the site where Lennon had been murdered decades prior.