Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Dec. 10, 2010
Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartneyby Howard Sounes
Da Capo Press, 640 pp., $29.95
In a strictly biographical sense, Paul McCartney's good fortune of living beyond "When I'm Sixty-Four" can't compete with a narrative that ends as tragically as John Lennon's. Even so, British journalist Howard Sounes' epic McCartney biography is essential. Beginning with the future Sir Paul's "common-sense" working-class Liverpool upbringing, Sounes charts McCartney's rise to fame through relationships with Dot Rhone – whose miscarriage preempted marriage – and actress/fiancée Jane Asher. Sounes credits Asher and her upper-middle-class London family for providing McCartney with "the education he might have had at college, if he had turned his back on pop music." Likewise, McCartney's decision to follow the counsel of wife Linda's attorney father Lee Eastman proved financially prescient. Musically speaking, Sounes makes a compelling argument that competition from Lennon was a prerequisite for the full flowering of McCartney's songwriting genius. Forensic evidence includes some of the laziest toss-offs from Macca's solo catalog, including 2001's post-9/11 atrocity, "Freedom." McCartney isn't immune to male-pattern boorishness, yet even the ugliest revelations from his ill-advised second marriage to Heather Mills seem positively quaint by tabloid standards. Sounes is no hagiographer, but in the end, his vivid rendering of McCartney reveals a fundamentally decent chap on balance.