Paul is dead

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"Paul is dead" is an urban legend alleging that Paul McCartney of the English rock band The Beatles died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike. In September 1969, American college students published articles claiming that clues to McCartney's death could be found among the lyrics and artwork of The Beatles' recordings. Clue hunting proved infectious and within a few weeks had become an international phenomenon. Rumours declined though just as quickly after a contemporary interview with McCartney was published in Life magazine in November 1969.[2] Popular culture continues to make occasional reference to the legend.[1]

Contents

Beginnings

The origin of the rumour is unclear. Whilst there was some public concern for McCartney's well-being after a 1967[2] traffic accident involving his car, it is not known whether the rumour of 1969 is related to it.[3] Much like the rumours of Bob Dylan's death following a motorcycle accident, McCartney was the subject of the same sort of speculation.[1] In the autumn of 1969, The Beatles were in the process of disbanding; McCartney's public engagements were few and he was spending time at his Scottish retreat in order to contemplate his forthcoming solo career.[4][5]

On 17 September 1969, an article titled "Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?" was published in the student newspaper of Drake University in Iowa. The article described a rumour that had been circulating on campus that Paul was dead. At that point the rumour included numerous clues from recent Beatles albums, including the "turn me on, dead man" message heard when "Revolution 9" from the White Album is played backwards.[6] In wire reports published as early as 11 October, Beatles press officer Derek Taylor responded to the rumour saying "Recently we've been getting a flood of inquiries asking about reports that Paul is dead. We've been getting questions like that for years, of course, but in the past few weeks we've been getting them at the office and home night and day. I'm even getting telephone calls from disc jockeys and others in the United States."[7]

Growth

On 12 October, a caller to Detroit radio station WKNR told disc jockey Russ Gibb about the rumour and its clues. Gibb and other callers then discussed the rumour on the air for the next hour. Two days after the WKNR broadcast, The Michigan Daily published a satirical review of Abbey Road by University of Michigan student Fred LaBour under the headline "McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light".[8] It identified various "clues" to McCartney's death on Beatles album covers, including new clues from the just-released Abbey Road LP. As LaBour had invented many of the clues, he was astonished when the story was picked up by newspapers across the United States.[9] WKNR further fueled the rumour with a special two hour program on the subject broadcast on 19 October.

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