Paul McCartney And John Lennon's Rocky Relationship Explained

Of all the famous friends that have had a falling out over the years, there's one friend breakup that hits fans especially hard: Paul McCartney and John Lennon. The musicians, who rose to an insane level of fame along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr as the Beatles, forged an immense bond at a young age. Together, they became two of the most recognizable faces in the world, and despite vows to always have one another's back, that ultimately wasn't the case.

Despite reaching peak popularity in the '60s, The Beatles' music is still incredibly popular today. Arguably just as talked about is McCartney and Lennon's close friendship that dramatically fizzled out over the years. From internal fighting within the band to rumors of Lennon's girlfriend, Yoko Ono, leading to the feud, the two musicians had endured a rocky relationship over the years, all the way up to Lennon's untimely death in 1980.

So, what really went down between the bandmates and once-best friends? Keep reading to learn all about McCartney and Lennon's tumultuous relationship.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney forged a close bond at first

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met in 1957, it was a seemingly casual, no-frills affair. Of course, as any Beatles fan knows, the meeting would ultimately kickstart one of the most powerful musical duos in history.

According to Biography, Lennon's then-band, The Quarrymen, were playing at a church party when McCartney came rolling up on his bike, interested in the music. A fellow Quarrymen member introduced McCartney to Lennon, and after hitting it off, the two crafted the idea of the rock and roll group, the Beatles.

Of course, a musical connection wasn't the only thing that formed between the duo. McCartney and Lennon also formed a close friendship, and they immediately bonded over having lost their mothers at a young age. "We had a kind of bond that we both knew about that, we knew that feeling," McCartney explained during an interview with Stephen Colbert in 2019. 

As their friendship blossomed, both McCartney and Lennon felt a strong sense of protection over one another, too. During a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, McCartney described being on the same "escalator" with Lennon as they rose to fame. "Each year goes by, and you get the cooler clothes. Then you write the cooler song to go with the cooler clothes. We were on the same escalator – on the same step of the escalator, all the way. It's irreplaceable – that time, friendship and bonding," he explained. 

The Beatles' demise led to a rift in Paul McCartney and John Lennon's relationship

While the Beatles spent several years as one of the most popular and successful bands in the world, their reign slowly started to come to an end by 1969. Many factors played into the band's breakup, and the breakup itself also played a big factor in the demise of Paul McCartney and John Lennon's friendship. 

Apparently, a breaking point for the Beatles came in 1969, when McCartney felt frustrated about his bandmates' lack of urgency at preparing for a live show. "I don't see why any of you, if you're not interested, got yourselves into this," McCartney said to his bandmates, according to Rolling Stone. "What's it for? It can't be for the money. Why are you here? I'm here because I want to do a show, but I don't see an awful lot of support."

When McCartney was met with nothing but blank stares from his fellow bandmates, the inevitability of the Beatles' demise became apparent. According to Biography, the group would break up a year after this incident, and once the Beatles were over, tension and rivalry soon entered McCartney and Lennon's relationship.

John Lennon's girlfriend, Yoko Ono, may have affected his relationship with Paul McCartney

John Lennon met Yoko Ono in 1966, and the two quickly entered both a romantic and artistic partnership, according to Rolling Stone. Apparently, Lennon became keen on bringing Ono in during the Beatles' recording sessions, which were normally private affairs, and this got on some of his bandmates' nerves — especially Paul McCartney's. 

In his 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, McCartney opened up about feeling "threatened" by Ono's presence in the studio. "She was sitting on the amps while we were recording. Most bands couldn't handle that. We handled it, but not amazingly well, because we were so tight," McCartney explained. "When John got with Yoko, she wasn't in the control room or to the side. It was in the middle of the four of us."

While Ono's relationship with Lennon may have created a rift in his relationship with McCartney, she certainly didn't destroy their friendship, nor is it fair to say she broke up the band. Ono was a successful artist in her own respect, and once the Beatles officially broke up, Lennon became very interested in collaborating exclusively with her. Meanwhile, McCartney forged on with a solo career, making him and Lennon musical rivals.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon had mended their relationship before Lennon's death

While John Lennon and Paul McCartney's friendship did have an intense falling out, the two were ultimately on good terms before Lennon's death in 1980

While speaking with The Times in 2020, McCartney opened up about where he and Lennon's friendship left off and how they found their way back to one another. "[Me and Lennon] had certainly got our friendship back, which was a great blessing for me, and I now will often think, if I'm writing a song, 'OK, John — I'll toss it over to you. What line comes next?' So I've got a virtual John that I can use," McCartney described of still remembering the late musician. 

During an interview with Stephen Colbert, McCartney also talked about how he loves when "people revisit you in your dreams," and how Lennon would often pop up in his. "I have a lot of dreams about John. And they're always good."

Apparently, in one of his last interviews before being shot and killed outside of his apartment in 1980, Lennon also expressed gratitude for his friendship with McCartney. "He's like a brother. I love him," Lennon had said, via CNN. "Families — we certainly have our ups and downs and our quarrels. But at the end of the day, when it's all said and done, I would do anything for him, and I think he would do anything for me."