Most of the Beatles’ early hits (1963-65) were genuine collaborations, but John was in large part the instigator, as Ian McDonald amply demonstrates in ‘Revolution In The Head’. It was only from ‘Rubber Soul’ onwards (okay I know about ‘Yesterday’) that their individual identities started to show through, and certainly Paul was the sole author of quite a few masterworks – ‘Drive My Car’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Hey Jude’.
But his Beatles songs do not a canon make, and after the split, that is for the subsequent forty years, how many memorable McCartney songs can you name? I can manage four: ‘Band On The Run,’ ‘Mull of Kintyre’, ‘The Frog Chorus’, and ‘Live And Let Die’. Nuff said. And now, here come the big boys.
It’s not that easy, because to qualify you need to have produced a substantial corpus of songs which are memorable both lyrically and melodically; and also, playing by the book, you have to be a soloist. Sadly, that rules out collaborations such as the Gershwins, Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Rodgers and anyone, Kern and anyone. There’s also a difficulty regarding length of service – it’s quite possible that Eminem will make it to the 21st century list, he’s just not old enough yet. Anyway, here goes:
Neil Young (maybe)
Obviously, I only know what I know. So, any other candidates? Please open my ears to them, before I climb aboard and sail off into the sunset towards that island.