Beatles ~ Penny Lane (1967) ~ covered by Elvis Costello

“Penny Lane” remains for me one of the finest songs of any genre ever written. Lennon and McCartney borrowed from the classical art song playbook.

Paul McCartney and President Obama
“Sir” Paul McCartney and President Obama at the 2014 Gershwin Awards

The Library of Congress each year awards the Gershwin Prize for lifetime contributions to popular music. This clip is from the White House ceremony in 2010 when Paul McCartney received the award (you’ll see him at one point sitting next to President Obama).

“Penny Lane” is a pop song that is “real art”, along the lines of Gershwin and others of the past. Lennon and McCartney borrowed from the classical art song playbook — shifting between major and minor keys, penning lyrics both enigmatic and nostalgic, offering complex counterpoint atop a steady accompaniment. Here Elvis Costello covers the tune in tribute to Sir Paul and is almost overshadowed by an amazing riff on the piccolo trumpet by a military service band member.

Personal connection: My wife and I saw Paul McCartney perform in 2016. He remains an excellent and extremely durable artist. He performed music from his many incarnations, played 3 instruments (guitar, bass, and keyboards), and delighted everyone in attendance.

A couple of years earlier we saw Elvis’s wife, jazz singer-pianist (and equally great talent) Diana Krall perform locally as well.