The Truth Behind The ‘Paul McCartney Is Dead’ Conspiracy Theory

There are a lot of conspiracy theories that have originated from the rock scene, such as Depeche Mode’s singer being a vampire, or the Eagles’ greatest hit ‘Hotel California’ being about devil worship, or that Bob Dylan stole ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ from a student, or that Jimi Hendrix was murdered.

The list of conspiracy theories could go on and on but there’s one that still has a lot of advocates; that Paul McCartney is dead. ‘Paul is dead’ is an urban legend that first emerged in the mid-’60s and although the famous rockstar seems quite alive, some believe that the clues they’ve found prove the opposite.

Where Did The ‘Paul McCartney Is Dead’ Theory Originate From?

The rumors that McCartney is dead first started spreading in 1967. According to some, he had died on Wednesday, November 9th, 1966, after a songwriting session with the band. The story goes that Macca stormed out of a meeting with his bandmates while working on the band’s masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and while driving fast in a fit of rage, he was killed in a car crash.

As the Beatles were enjoying mainstream success, the remaining band members decided to host an audition and replace McCartney with a lookalike named either William Shears Cambell (referenced on Sgt. Pepper) or William Sheppard (referenced in ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’). The fans supporting this theory claimed that it was the band members’ artworks that gave them the clues they needed.

What Did The Beatles Say About Paul McCartney Being Dead?

Following the rumors, the band members decided to have a little fun, in specific, it was John Lennon who came up with some of the ideas. For instance, in ‘Glass Onion’ Lennon sings ‘here’s another clue for you all / the walrus was Paul‘ which was perceived as a reference to the album cover of the band previous album ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ in which three band members are wearing a white bunny costume, but only one of them is wearing a black walrus costume.

In a later interview, Lennon admitted that he purposefully sang that lyric to confuse their fans but that he was referring to the song ‘I Am The Walrus.’ Another detail that fans perceived as a clue was the back cover of the band Sgt. Pepper album, in which all band members except Paul McCartney are facing the photographer. Although these were considered to be proofs, the rumors started declining after Macca publicly stated that he’s not dead.

However, the rumors were reignited in 1969 when Tim Harper, an editor of the student newspaper of Drake University penned an article considering the conspiracy theory. In addition to the clues mentioned above, he also said that when ‘Revolution 9’ is played backward, it can be heard that the singer says ‘Turn me on, dead man.’ As around that time Paul McCartney had started distancing himself from the band and was focusing on his family, the rumors went international, until his press release.

You can check out the album covers below.

Is Paul McCartney Really Dead?

In October 1969, Macca, his wife Linda, and their two daughters decided to travel to Scotland and spend time at his farm near Campbeltown. Soon after that, due to the increasing rumors about his demise, Paul started getting visits from reporters who wanted to do interviews so as to bring an end to this conspiracy theory, but it didn’t help that much.

Life magazine also paid an announced visit to the happy family, but McCartney wasn’t glad to see them intruding on his farm, and thus he swore and threw a bucket of water at them. However, fearing that the photos of his aggressive behavior could damage his reputation, he agreed to pose for a photo with his family and answer the reporter’s questions.

In the interview, Paul McCartney said:

“Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.”

Although both Macca and the Beatles did their best, there are still numerous people who firmly believe the rockstar is dead. In fact, in 2009, Time magazine included ‘Paul is dead’ in its list of ten of ‘the world’s most enduring conspiracy theories.’ McCartney stopped trying to convince his fans but instead parodied the hoax with the cover art and title of his live album Paul Is Live, which was released in 1993.