Paul McCartney Shares Story Of The Song From Dustin Hoffman’s Dare

Music and inspiration can strike from the most unexpected places, even from a challenge laid down by a Hollywood legend.

In a recent episode of the podcast McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, the ever-intriguing Paul McCartney unveils the story behind a song born from a playful dare. The song in question, “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)”, holds a unique place in his musical journey, not only for its spontaneous birth but also for its connection to the iconic artist Pablo Picasso.

This seemingly simple dare, issued by none other than the esteemed actor Dustin Hoffman, sparked a creative fire within McCartney, leading him to craft a song that would become a lasting testament to his ability to turn the unexpected into musical gold.

An Unexpected Muse In Jamaica
1973 brought an unexpected meeting for Paul McCartney. While vacationing in Montego Bay, Jamaica, he crossed paths with actor Dustin Hoffman, then filming Papillon with Steve McQueen. An invitation to dinner at Hoffman’s house led to a unique challenge for the musician.

Following the meal, Hoffman shared a newspaper article about the final words of renowned painter Pablo Picasso, who had passed away that year at age 91. The article revealed Picasso’s poignant farewell: “Drink to me. Drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.”

Intrigued by the story, Hoffman decided to test McCartney’s songwriting talent. He proposed a challenge: could McCartney write a song based on these very words? Accepting the dare without hesitation, McCartney proved his creative prowess.

With guitar in hand, he sprang into action. As he recalled in a podcast interview, “I hit a chord and started singing a melody to those words.” Witnessing this impromptu song creation, Hoffman was left speechless with admiration. He excitedly called out to his wife, sharing the magic of McCartney’s musical ingenuity.

Witnessing A Musical Birth
The podcast went deeper into this remarkable story with an audio clip from Hoffman himself. He vividly recounts witnessing McCartney’s instant songwriting magic firsthand.

“I swear by all that’s holy that he began singing this song of the story that I had just told him about Picasso,” Hoffman recalled, his voice filled with awe. “It just came out of him. … It’s right under childbirth in terms of great events of my life. I mean, I was at the birth of something.”

Hoffman further emphasizes the immediacy of McCartney’s creative process. “The fact is that he didn’t come back the next day. He didn’t even start fiddling around.,” he explains. “It was literally immediate. I finished the story and he strummed his guitar.”

McCartney On The Song’s Journey
The podcast also features McCartney reflecting on the serendipitous journey that led to “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)”.

“I like that that it was probably just something ordinary that was said earnestly,” McCartney mused. “you know, farewell to his friends,” McCartney noted. “Well, it becomes his last words.”

He continues, tracing the song’s evolution: “Then it becomes a quote in an article. Then Dustin reads it and makes it more than a quote, and suggests it’s a poem, it’s a lyric. Then he shows it to me, and I agree with his suggestion, and I put music to it. So it’s a nice little way for things to happen.”

Diving Deeper Into “Picasso’s Last Words”
While the song starts as a simple acoustic singalong, “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)” takes an unexpected turn on the Band on the Run album. The track undergoes a surprising transformation, incorporating a montage of snippets from other songs like “Jet” and “Mrs. Vanderbilt”.

This unexpected change adds a unique flavor to the piece, before the familiar melody and lyrics return. However, the closing act presents a final twist. The song’s final iteration features a more ornate backing track and a different rhythm, leaving a lasting impression on the listener.

Interestingly, a recent reissue of Band on the Run offers a glimpse into an alternate version of the song. Included are stripped-down, “underdubbed” mixes of most tracks, including “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)”, allowing fans to experience the song in a different light.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *