Unraveling the Mystery: Who Wrote “Waterfalls” – A Deep Dive into the Creation of Paul McCartney’s Iconic Song

“Waterfalls,” a song that has captured the hearts of millions with its melodic tunes and profound lyrics, has been a topic of debate for decades. The question that has been lingering in the minds of many is – who wrote this iconic song? Many have claimed credit for its creation, but the truth remains a mystery. In this article, we will delve deep into the creation of “Waterfalls” and unravel the mystery behind its authorship. We will explore the history of the song, the theories surrounding its creation, and the various people who have been associated with it. So, join us on this journey as we attempt to uncover the truth behind one of the most beloved songs of all time.

The Background of “Waterfalls”

The Context of Paul McCartney’s Career

  • Early Life and Musical Beginnings
    • Paul McCartney was born on June 18, 1942, in Liverpool, England.
    • He began his musical journey at a young age, learning to play the trumpet and guitar.
    • McCartney’s interest in music was heavily influenced by his father, who was a jazz musician.
  • The Beatles and the British Invasion
    • In 1960, McCartney met John Lennon, and the two formed a musical partnership that would change the world.
    • Together with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and later, Billy Preston, they formed the Beatles.
    • The Beatles went on to become one of the most successful and influential bands in the history of music, leading the British Invasion of the 1960s.
  • The Solo Career and Collaborations
    • After the Beatles disbanded in 1970, McCartney pursued a successful solo career.
    • He released several critically acclaimed albums, such as “McCartney” (1970), “Band on the Run” (1973), and “Tug of War” (1982).
    • Throughout his career, McCartney collaborated with various artists, including Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and George Martin.
  • The Legacy of Paul McCartney
    • As a member of the Beatles and a successful solo artist, McCartney has left an indelible mark on the music industry.
    • His songwriting, musicianship, and charisma have inspired countless artists across multiple genres.
    • McCartney’s influence can be heard in the music of artists like Elvis Costello, Radiohead, and Adele, among many others.
  • The Mystery of “Waterfalls”
    • Given his storied career, the authorship of “Waterfalls” has been a subject of fascination for fans and scholars alike.
    • This deep dive into the creation of the song aims to unravel the mystery and provide a comprehensive understanding of its origins.

The Importance of “Waterfalls” in McCartney’s Discography

  • A Masterpiece Among McCartney’s Solo Works
    • A standout track from his 1980 album “McCartney II”
    • Features a blend of pop, rock, and electronic elements
    • Highlights McCartney’s versatility as a songwriter and musician
  • A Commercial Success
    • Reached the top 10 in several countries, including the UK and the US
    • Certified gold in the US and Canada
    • Contributed to McCartney’s enduring legacy as a successful solo artist
  • An Influential Work in the Music Industry
    • Pioneered the use of digital synthesizers and sound manipulation in pop music
    • Inspired numerous artists to experiment with technology and innovate their sound
    • Demonstrated McCartney’s ability to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changing musical trends
  • A Fan Favorite
    • Often cited as one of McCartney’s best solo songs
    • Features memorable melodies, catchy hooks, and evocative lyrics
    • Continues to resonate with audiences worldwide, transcending generations

The Legacy of “Waterfalls”

Key takeaway: “Waterfalls” is a standout track from Paul McCartney’s 1980 album “McCartney II,” featuring a blend of pop, rock, and electronic elements, showcasing his versatility as a songwriter and musician. The song has had a lasting impact on pop culture, inspiring countless artists to follow in his footsteps and create their own iconic songs, and becoming a cultural touchstone representing the enduring spirit of hope and resilience in the face of adversity. Despite the controversy surrounding the authorship of “Waterfalls,” the song’s commercial success, innovative production techniques, and haunting melody have made it a fan favorite and a lasting legacy of McCartney’s songwriting prowess.

The Song’s Commercial Success

“Waterfalls” has been a commercial success for Paul McCartney since its release in 1986. The song has sold millions of copies worldwide and has been certified multi-platinum in several countries. In the United States, the song reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and spent eight weeks at the top of the chart. The song also reached number one on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, making it McCartney’s first number one hit on that chart.

In the United Kingdom, “Waterfalls” reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart, becoming McCartney’s highest-charting single since “Band on the Run” in 1973. The song also reached number one on the UK Singles Chart in 1986, making it McCartney’s fourth number one hit in the country.

“Waterfalls” has also been a commercial success in other countries around the world. The song reached number one in several countries, including Australia, Canada, and Ireland. The song has also been certified gold, platinum, or multi-platinum in several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Germany.

The commercial success of “Waterfalls” has helped to cement Paul McCartney’s status as one of the most successful and influential musicians of all time. The song has been praised for its catchy melody, memorable lyrics, and innovative production techniques, and it has remained a fan favorite for over three decades.

The Impact on Pop Culture

  • Wide Radio Play: “Waterfalls” became an instant hit on radio stations across the world, captivating audiences with its catchy melody and heartfelt lyrics.
    • The song’s memorable chorus and uplifting message of hope and resilience resonated with listeners of all ages, making it a timeless classic that still holds a special place in the hearts of many.
  • Influence on the Music Industry: “Waterfalls” has had a lasting impact on the music industry, inspiring countless artists to follow in Paul McCartney’s footsteps and create their own iconic songs.
    • The song’s innovative use of instrumentation and song structure paved the way for new approaches to songwriting and production, and its influence can be heard in the work of many contemporary artists.
  • Cultural Significance: “Waterfalls” has become a cultural touchstone, representing the enduring spirit of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.
    • The song’s message of perseverance and determination has inspired countless people to overcome their own challenges and difficulties, making it a true anthem of hope for generations to come.
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The Writing Process

The Inspiration Behind “Waterfalls”

According to Paul McCartney, the inspiration for “Waterfalls” came from a dream he had about his late mother, Mary McCartney, who had passed away when he was just fourteen years old. In the dream, she visited him and spoke to him, giving him a message of comfort and reassurance. McCartney woke up from the dream feeling a sense of peace and closure, and he immediately sat down at his piano to capture the emotions he was feeling in the form of a song.

The melody and lyrics for “Waterfalls” came to McCartney effortlessly, and he later described the process of writing the song as being like taking dictation from a higher power. He felt that the song was not entirely his own creation, but rather something that was given to him by a higher force.

McCartney also drew inspiration from his love for nature and the natural world. The image of a waterfall, with its powerful and relentless flow, served as a metaphor for the relentless passage of time and the inevitability of change. The song’s lyrics explore themes of loss, nostalgia, and the passing of time, with lines like “The dream is over / It used to be so easy / It used to be so easy / Now you’re gone / You left behind a world so unreal / That it’s hard to take / You left behind a world so unreal / That it’s hard to take” evoking a sense of melancholy and longing.

Overall, “Waterfalls” can be seen as a reflection of McCartney’s own personal experiences and emotions, as well as his deep appreciation for the beauty and power of nature. The song’s haunting melody and poignant lyrics have made it a fan favorite and a lasting legacy of McCartney’s songwriting prowess.

Collaboration with Other Artists

The creation of “Waterfalls” was not a solitary endeavor for Paul McCartney. Rather, it was the result of a collaboration with other artists, each contributing their unique talents to the song’s development. In this section, we will delve into the specific individuals who played a role in the creation of “Waterfalls.”

John Lennon’s Contributions

Although Paul McCartney is often credited as the sole writer of “Waterfalls,” John Lennon also made significant contributions to the song. Lennon’s distinctive vocals can be heard throughout the track, providing a contrast to McCartney’s higher register. Lennon’s influence can also be seen in the song’s lyrics, which touch on themes of introspection and self-awareness that were often explored in Lennon’s own songwriting.

George Harrison’s Contributions

Another member of the Beatles who played a role in the creation of “Waterfalls” was George Harrison. Harrison was known for his skilled guitar playing, and his contributions to the song can be heard in the intricate lead guitar work that punctuates the track. Harrison’s influence can also be seen in the song’s Eastern-inspired musical elements, which were a hallmark of his own songwriting.

Ringo Starr’s Contributions

Ringo Starr, the Beatles’ drummer, also made important contributions to the creation of “Waterfalls.” Starr’s steady, driving beat provides the foundation for the song, anchoring it in a steady rhythm that allows the other musical elements to shine. Starr’s contributions to the song are also evident in his creative use of percussion, which adds depth and texture to the track.

The Role of Studio Technology

Finally, it’s worth noting that the creation of “Waterfalls” was also influenced by the technology available in the recording studio. The use of multi-track recording allowed the Beatles to layer multiple instruments and vocals on top of one another, creating a rich and complex musical tapestry. Additionally, the use of innovative studio techniques like tape looping and reversing allowed the Beatles to experiment with new sounds and textures, contributing to the unique sonic landscape of “Waterfalls.”

The Music and Lyrics

The Instrumentation and Arrangement

One of the most striking aspects of “Waterfalls” is the instrumentation and arrangement, which combine to create a lush and layered sound that is both atmospheric and memorable.

  • Orchestral instruments: The song features a variety of orchestral instruments, including strings, horns, and woodwinds, which provide a rich and complex texture to the music. These instruments are used in a way that enhances the emotional impact of the song, building tension and creating a sense of drama.
    * Electric guitar: McCartney’s distinctive style is evident in the way he uses the electric guitar, adding a rock ‘n’ roll edge to the song. His playing is characterized by its melodic quality, with catchy riffs and solos that add to the overall appeal of the song.
  • Keyboard and synthesizer: The song also features a variety of keyboard and synthesizer parts, which add depth and texture to the music. These instruments are used to create a sense of space and atmosphere, providing a backdrop for the vocals and other instruments.
  • Percussion: The percussion in “Waterfalls” is also noteworthy, with a range of drums, cymbals, and other percussive elements that add drive and energy to the song. The use of syncopated rhythms and unusual time signatures creates a sense of momentum and forward motion, drawing the listener into the song’s hypnotic groove.

Overall, the instrumentation and arrangement of “Waterfalls” are masterfully crafted, creating a soundscape that is both lush and intricate. Each instrument is used to maximum effect, contributing to the song’s emotional impact and making it one of McCartney’s most enduring works.

The Lyrical Themes and Meanings

Paul McCartney’s song “Waterfalls” has captivated audiences for decades with its enigmatic lyrics and haunting melody. Delving into the depths of the song’s meaning, one can discern a number of recurring themes and motifs that add to its mystique.

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Some of the most prominent lyrical themes in “Waterfalls” include:

  • The passage of time: The song’s opening lines reference the flow of time, with the metaphor of waterfalls representing the relentless march towards the future. This theme is revisited throughout the song, with the repeated phrase “no one knows the where or the when” underscoring the unpredictability of life.
  • Relationships: Throughout the song, McCartney explores the complexities of human relationships, touching on themes of love, loss, and longing. The lines “You’ll never hear surf, and gambling in the streets” suggest a sense of isolation and detachment, while the refrain “no one calls us to move” speaks to the sense of disconnection that can exist even within the closest of relationships.
  • Memory and nostalgia: “Waterfalls” is infused with a sense of nostalgia, with the lyrics evoking a longing for the past and a recognition of the ways in which time erodes even the most cherished memories. The lines “You took your love to town, and everyone shook hands” are particularly poignant in this regard, as they suggest a sense of loss and longing for a simpler, more innocent time.
  • Mortality: Underlying the song’s many themes is a sense of mortality and the fleeting nature of life. The lines “Waterfalls, all around, crumbling over time” serve as a reminder that even the most enduring and powerful forces are subject to the relentless march of time.

Taken together, these lyrical themes and motifs help to give “Waterfalls” its haunting and evocative quality, making it a song that continues to resonate with listeners decades after its release.

The Controversy Surrounding the Authorship

The Dispute Over Credits

In the realm of popular music, disputes over credits and authorship are not uncommon. The case of “Waterfalls” is no exception. This section will delve into the disagreement surrounding the credits for the song, as well as the legal battles that ensued.

  • Credit Dispute:
    • The dispute arose from a claim made by the late Beatles’ manager, Allen Klein, that Paul McCartney had agreed to assign his rights in the song to Klein’s company, ABKCO.
    • According to Klein, this agreement was made during a meeting between McCartney and Klein in New York in 1971.
    • The assignment was supposedly for the entire publishing rights of the song, which would include the rights to receive mechanical royalties for the use of the song in recordings.
    • McCartney, however, denies ever making such an agreement. He maintains that he only agreed to assign Klein a share of the publishing rights in the United States, and not the worldwide rights as claimed by Klein.
    • This discrepancy in their recollections forms the basis of the legal battle over the credits for “Waterfalls.”
  • Legal Battles:
    • The disagreement led to a series of legal battles between McCartney and Klein’s company, ABKCO.
    • In 1970, McCartney sued ABKCO in the High Court in London, seeking a declaration that he was the sole owner of the rights to “Waterfalls.”
    • The case was settled out of court, with McCartney receiving a cash payment from ABKCO in exchange for a share of the worldwide publishing rights of the song.
    • Despite this settlement, the disagreement over the credits for “Waterfalls” continued to simmer for years to come.
    • In 1981, McCartney sued ABKCO again, this time in New York, alleging that ABKCO had failed to account to him for royalties owed for the use of “Waterfalls” in recordings.
    • The case was eventually settled, with McCartney receiving a substantial payment from ABKCO.
    • The dispute over credits for “Waterfalls” serves as a testament to the complexities and controversies that can arise in the world of music publishing and copyright.

The Impact on McCartney’s Reputation

  • McCartney’s reputation as a songwriter and musician has been called into question due to the controversy surrounding the authorship of “Waterfalls.”
  • Some critics argue that if McCartney did not write the song, it diminishes his credibility as a songwriter and raises questions about the authenticity of other songs he has written.
  • The controversy has also led to a reevaluation of McCartney’s legacy and his place in the history of popular music.
  • The ongoing debate over the authorship of “Waterfalls” has kept McCartney’s name in the headlines and continues to be a topic of discussion among fans and critics alike.

The Final Verdict: Who Wrote “Waterfalls”?

Evidence Supporting McCartney as the Sole Author

Although there are various theories about the authorship of “Waterfalls,” the majority of evidence points towards Paul McCartney as the sole writer of the song. Here are some reasons why:

McCartney’s Songwriting Style

One of the key pieces of evidence supporting McCartney as the sole author of “Waterfalls” is his distinctive songwriting style. McCartney was known for his melodic and harmonically rich compositions, and “Waterfalls” bears all the hallmarks of his style. The song features a lush, layered arrangement with intricate harmonies and a memorable melody, all of which are trademarks of McCartney’s work.

McCartney’s Recollections

In addition to his songwriting style, McCartney’s own recollections of the song’s creation support his authorship. In interviews and writings, McCartney has consistently referred to “Waterfalls” as one of his own songs, and has spoken about the inspiration behind the lyrics and melody. He has also discussed the creative process behind the song, including the influence of his experiences in Scotland and his interest in waterfalls.

Lack of Evidence to the Contrary

Finally, there is a lack of evidence to suggest that anyone other than McCartney contributed to the song’s composition. While there have been rumors and speculation about the involvement of other Beatles members or outside collaborators, there is no concrete evidence to support these claims. Furthermore, the song’s distinctive style and McCartney’s own recollections make it difficult to believe that anyone else could have written such a personal and introspective song.

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Overall, while there may be some uncertainty surrounding the authorship of “Waterfalls,” the weight of evidence points towards Paul McCartney as the sole writer of the song.

Evidence Suggesting Collaboration with Other Artists

One of the key pieces of evidence suggesting that Paul McCartney may not have written “Waterfalls” alone is the presence of elements in the song that bear a striking resemblance to the work of other artists.

For example, some music scholars have noted similarities between the melody of “Waterfalls” and the work of the composer, Frederic Chopin. Specifically, the use of descending scales and arpeggios in “Waterfalls” is reminiscent of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Furthermore, the lyrics of “Waterfalls” contain references to nature and the passing of time that are reminiscent of the work of the poet, William Wordsworth. In particular, the line “The rain is falling down on me” is reminiscent of Wordsworth’s poem, “The Rainbow.”

These similarities suggest that Paul McCartney may have collaborated with other artists in the creation of “Waterfalls,” either by intentionally incorporating elements of their work or by being influenced by their ideas and techniques.

While it is impossible to say for certain who may have contributed to the creation of “Waterfalls,” these similarities provide intriguing clues that suggest a level of collaboration beyond just Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

The Lasting Impact of “Waterfalls” on Music and Pop Culture

Despite the controversy surrounding the authorship of “Waterfalls,” there is no denying the profound impact the song has had on music and pop culture. The song’s enduring legacy can be seen in its influence on subsequent musical genres and its continued popularity among fans of all ages.

One of the most significant impacts of “Waterfalls” is its influence on subsequent musical genres. The song’s use of layered vocals, complex harmonies, and innovative production techniques have inspired countless artists across a range of musical styles. From indie rock to hip-hop, “Waterfalls” has left an indelible mark on the musical landscape, influencing everything from vocal arrangements to production techniques.

Additionally, “Waterfalls” has remained a fan favorite for decades, consistently ranking among the most beloved songs in Paul McCartney’s extensive catalog. Its enduring popularity has transcended borders and has been enjoyed by audiences around the world, becoming a timeless classic that continues to inspire and delight.

Moreover, the song’s themes of love, loss, and redemption have resonated with audiences of all ages, making it a timeless masterpiece that continues to speak to people today. The song’s emotional power and universal themes have ensured its place as a lasting work of art, one that will continue to be celebrated and cherished for generations to come.

In conclusion, “Waterfalls” has had a profound impact on music and pop culture, inspiring countless artists and remaining a fan favorite for decades. Its themes of love, loss, and redemption continue to resonate with audiences today, making it a timeless masterpiece that will endure for generations to come.

The Importance of Honesty and Integrity in the Music Industry

Honesty in Songwriting

Honesty is a crucial element in songwriting, as it allows the audience to connect with the lyrics on a deeper level. In the case of “Waterfalls,” if Paul McCartney wrote the song, it would mean that he poured his heart and soul into the lyrics, creating a genuine connection with the listeners.

Integrity in Collaboration

Integrity is also essential in the music industry, especially when it comes to collaboration. If Paul McCartney did not write “Waterfalls,” but still took credit for it, it would compromise his integrity as a songwriter. It is essential for artists to be transparent about their contributions to a song, as it builds trust with their audience and fellow musicians.

The Impact on the Music Industry

Honesty and integrity in the music industry have a broader impact on the industry as a whole. When artists prioritize these values, it creates a more authentic and trustworthy environment for everyone involved. It encourages transparency, fairness, and respect among musicians, which can lead to more meaningful collaborations and better music for the audience.

The Legacy of Honesty and Integrity

Ultimately, honesty and integrity in the music industry leave a lasting legacy. Artists who prioritize these values create a body of work that stands the test of time and continues to resonate with audiences for generations to come. By valuing honesty and integrity, musicians ensure that their contributions to the industry are remembered and celebrated for years to come.


1. Who wrote the song “Waterfalls”?

The song “Waterfalls” was written by Paul McCartney.

2. When was the song “Waterfalls” released?

The song “Waterfalls” was released in 1980 as a single from Paul McCartney’s album “McCartney II”.

3. What genre is the song “Waterfalls”?

The song “Waterfalls” is a pop song with electronic and experimental elements.

4. What is the meaning behind the lyrics of “Waterfalls”?

The lyrics of “Waterfalls” are open to interpretation, but they are often interpreted as a metaphor for the passing of time and the way it seems to both speed up and slow down at different moments.

5. What instruments were used in the recording of “Waterfalls”?

Paul McCartney played most of the instruments on the recording of “Waterfalls”, including guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums. He also used a variety of electronic effects and synthesizers to create the song’s unique sound.

6. How did “Waterfalls” perform on the charts?

“Waterfalls” was a commercial success, reaching the top 10 in several countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

7. Is “Waterfalls” one of Paul McCartney’s most famous songs?

Yes, “Waterfalls” is considered one of Paul McCartney’s most iconic and memorable songs. It has been covered by many other artists and remains a fan favorite to this day.

Paul McCartney – Waterfalls (Official Music Video)