Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has named music legend Paul McCartney as the recipient of the third Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. An all-star tribute concert is planned for spring 2010.
“As a great admirer of the Gershwins’ songs, I am highly honored to be given the Gershwin Prize by such a great institution as the Library of Congress,” McCartney said.
The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins. The first Gershwin Prize was awarded in May 2007 to Paul Simon, and the second to Stevie Wonder in February 2009.
“It is hard to think of another performer and composer who has had a more indelible and transformative effect on popular song and music of several different genres than Paul McCartney,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who made the selection.
Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool, England, on June 18, 1942. He was raised in the city and educated at the Liverpool Institute. In the ‘60s, as a member of The Beatles and writer and co-author of some of the group’s greatest songs, he changed the world of music. Legendary albums include: “Revolver,” “Help!,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “The White Album” and “Abbey Road.”
McCartney has continued to push boundaries over the last 30 years, first as a solo artist, then with Wings (with albums that included “Band On The Run” and “Wings at The Speed Of Sound”) and following that as a solo artist again, with recent highlights including 2007’s “Memory Almost Full.” Most recently he received critical acclaim with “The Fireman” (a collaborative project between McCartney and producer Youth) on their 2008 “Electric Arguments” album.
An accomplished, award-winning classical composer, McCartney’s most recent classical album “Ecce Cor Meum” (“Behold My Heart”) was released in September 2006 and won the 2007 Best Album Award at the Classical Brit Awards. He was awarded a special Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2008 BRIT Awards at Earls Court in London. He was given a standing ovation by the UK music industry as he received his award and closed the prestigious ceremony with an incredible performance. Months later, Yale University presented him with an honorary doctorate of music.
McCartney has spent much of the last five years performing sold-out concerts to millions of people all over the world to rave reviews. In July 2009, he joined Billy Joel and others on stage for the “Last Play At Shea,” marking the last concert ever at New York’s famous Shea Stadium—the venue for the Beatles’ historic concert in 1965.
A Freeman of the City of Liverpool and Lead Patron of The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, McCartney was appointed Fellow of The Royal College of Music in 1995 by The Prince of Wales. In 1996, Paul McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to music.
In making the selection for the prize, the Librarian of Congress turned for advice to leading members of the music and entertainment communities. This year’s advisory committee consisted of Rickey Minor, Carol Bayer Sager, Paul Simon, Jimmy Webb and Paul Williams. In previous years the Librarian has consulted with advisors from a diverse cross section of popular culture including Lorne Michaels, Allen Toussaint and Phil Ramone.
The Library of Congress is home to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, the world’s preeminent resource for the documentary legacy of the Gershwin brothers. It contains a wealth of materials that provide insight into their careers and personalities, including manuscripts and printed music, photographs, correspondence, business papers, scrapbooks and iconography. A permanent tribute to the Gershwins and their work, the Gershwin Room features George’s piano and desk, Ira’s typing table and typewriter, self portraits of both brothers, and a selection of musical manuscripts from Gershwin stage and screen shows such as “Lady Be Good,” “Funny Face,” “Girl Crazy” and “Of Thee I Sing.”
The creators and executive producers of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song are Peter and Bob Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr, who are also the creators and executive producers of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, now in its 13th year, which was presented to Bill Cosby on Oct. 26, 2009.