November 16, 2009 Music Legend Paul McCartney Named Recipient of Third Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song

Contact: Matt Raymond, (202) 707-0020

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today 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 Gershwin Prize is also meant to draw attention to the musical collections in the Library of Congress, especially the vast popular-music collection, and to encourage students, teachers, scholars and researchers to use this free public resource in their scholarly investigations.

The first Gershwin Prize was awarded in May 2007 to Paul Simon, and the second to Stevie Wonder in February 2009. The two concerts were broadcast nationally on PBS and featured musical performances by Tony Bennett, James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Marc Anthony, Martina McBride, Diana Krall,, and Art Garfunkel among others. Stevie Wonder’s prize festivities also included the performance of a special commission, “Sketches of a Life,” in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium.

“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.

Since writing his first song at the age of 14, Paul McCartney has dreamed and dared to be different. In the ’60s, as the writer and co-author of The Beatles’ greatest songs, he changed the world of music. Legendary albums include: “Please Please Me,” “Revolver,” “Help!,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The White Album.” Paul 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 as “The Fireman” (a collaborative project between Paul and revered producer Youth) with their 2008 “Electric Arguments” album.

Paul McCartney is also an accomplished, award-winning classical composer. His 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.

Paul 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 Paul with an honorary doctorate of music. As he received his diploma, President Richard C. Levin told him, “Your songs awakened a generation, giving a fresh sound to rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm and blues. We admire your musical genius and your generous support of worthy causes.”

Equally renowned as a live performer as he is a songwriter, Paul McCartney has spent much of the last five years performing sold-out concerts to millions of people all over the world including places he had never previously visited, winning rave reviews along the way. Standout moments have included 2003’s performance to more than 500,000 people outside the Coliseum in Rome and Paul’s first show in Red Square in Moscow. In 2004 he gave the Glastonbury Festival its most legendary moment to date. In 2005, he made history again as he performed live to the International Space Station to wake up NASA astronauts. Paul performed a string of secret and surprise gigs in intimate venues in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris throughout 2007.

Also a year to remember was 2008, with Paul performing a series of special one-off event concerts. He started by headlining the Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield Stadium, then gave the Ukraine its largest-ever outdoor music event in Kiev, with more than 400,000 people lining the street to watch his “Independence Concert.” He found time to join Billy Joel on stage for the “Last Play At Shea” show in July, marking the last concert ever at New York’s famous Shea Stadium, then traveled to Quebec City for yet another huge, headline-making event as he performed to 300,000 people in the city’s national park, The Plains of Abraham, to help celebrate Quebec City’s 400th anniversary.

The final special one-off event concert took place in September, when he played his “Friendship First” concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. This was Paul’s first-ever visit to Israel. The Beatles were banned from performing there at the height of Beatlemania in the ’60s.

Paul kicked off 2009 by teaming up with Dave Grohl to perform “I Saw Her Standing There” at the Grammys, where Paul was nominated for two awards. In April, Paul performed in New York at the David Lynch Foundation’s benefit concert, “Change Begins Within.” He was joined on stage by Ringo Starr for a special finale. Paul also headlined the Coachella Festival (his first U.S. festival appearance) and performed a show to mark the opening of The New Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, a gig that sold out in seven seconds, setting a new sales record with tickets selling at a rate of 600 per second. July 11 took Paul to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for his first-ever concert there, which took place on the Halifax Commons. The mayor of Halifax described the show as the largest and most exciting concert in its 260-year history.

Following Halifax, Paul embarked on a five-week tour of the United States: “Summer Live ’09.” The tour commenced with the inaugural run of shows at New York’s Citi Field Stadium, which was the site of the former Shea Stadium where The Beatles made history in 1965 when they played a concert that set the precedent for the modern-day stadium rock show. Critics hailed the Citi Field performances, seen by more than 120,000 people, as the concert experience of a lifetime. The tour concluded in Dallas on Aug. 20.

Paul is currently working on a number of new projects, including the release of the multi-disc CD/DVD “Good Evening New York City” on Nov. 17 (United States) and Nov. 23 (United Kingdom).

A freeman of The City of Liverpool and Lead Patron of The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Paul McCartney was appointed Fellow of The Royal College of Music in 1995 by The Prince of Wales. In 1996 Paul McCartney was knighted by H.M. the Queen of England for his services to music.

Paul McCartney is also committed to a number of charities including PETA, LIPA, One Voice, The Vegetarian Society, Nordoff Robins, and Adopt-A-Minefield.

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.

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.

Given the Library’s long association with the Gershwin family and the profound effect the brothers had in the evolution of American music, it is fitting that the Library memorialize this relationship in the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

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.” Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized website at


PR 09-230
ISSN 0731-3527