Paul McCartney Surprises University’s Songwriting Class

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Though they’re both among the acknowledged best in their respective fields, it came as a surprise to all when the name of the collaborator for Paul McCartney’s upcoming book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, was first revealed. His name is Paul Muldoon, and he’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a professor at Princeton University.

Muldoon is the book’s editor and their unlikely alliance came about in an unusual manner. In 2015, Muldoon attended a production of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera as a guest of Robert Weil, the editor-in-chief of book publisher W.W. Norton/Liveright. “The idea of a McCartney book focused on the song lyrics came up in the first interval,” Muldoon wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.

“By the time the opera was over, the deal was pretty much done,” he added. Muldoon and McCartney met soon after that and then another two dozen times over the next five years. The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present is scheduled to be published on Nov. 2, 2021.

Paul Muldoon (Photo: Beowulf Sheehan via Princeton University)

Muldoon was born in Northern Ireland in 1951. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He earned the Pulitzer Prize in 2003, and has been described by The Times Literary Supplement as “the most significant English-language poet born since the second World War.”

He is presently a Professor at Princeton University. On Feb. 16, 33 students were attending his songwriting workshop. Muldoon told the class that a guest would be listening to their songs. “At first his camera was off and all we heard was a distant British voice,” Liam Seeley, a student in attendance, told the school paper.

To the students’ surprise, when the guest turned on his video feed, there was McCartney. “Who wants to present first,” he asked.

The paper noted that “McCartney listened to and critiqued songs written and produced by each of the class’s eight bands. “It turns out that Paul McCartney is a natural educator,” Muldoon told the paper. “One of the things few people might realize about him is that he is quite likely to have been a teacher had he not become a rock star.”

“He gave criticism, but he very much treated them [our songs] as works in progress — citing lines that he found powerful and moving verses to the top,” Seeley said. Regrettably, there doesn’t appear to be any video of the event.

Of his regular two to three hour sessions with McCartney for the book, Muldoon told the Belfast Telegraph, “we talked in a very intensive way about the background to a half dozen songs” each time.

“In a strange way, our process mimicked the afternoon sessions he had with John Lennon when they wrote for the Beatles. We were determined never to leave the room without something interesting.”

Related: More details on The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present which arrives on Nov. 2

Watch the official trailer for the book

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  1. Julio Serna
    #1 Julio Serna 8 March, 2021, 09:23

    Gran reportaje no sabía de Muldoon, Gran personaje, en conjunto con McCartney, pues sólo saldría un resultado interesante y creativo. Gracias por subir este reportaje salido del norte de Europa.

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