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Paul McCartney was a fan of Bob Dylan’s music, and he felt that meeting the American musician marked a turning point in The Beatles’ career. Dylan has also expressed his appreciation for McCartney’s music, even joking that he wished the former Beatle would retire because of his talent. He reportedly didn’t always feel this way about McCartney, though. According to filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, who worked with Dylan several times, Dylan didn’t even like being in the same room with McCartney when he played music.

A black and white picture of Bob Dylan leaning against a window. Paul McCartney holds up his bass guitar.
Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney | Express Newspapers/Getty Images; Express/Express/Getty Images

The American musician met The Beatles in 1964

Dylan met The Beatles in 1964 at New York’s Delmonico Hotel. Here, he introduced the band to marijuana. 

“George Harrison, John [Lennon], and I were sitting in the main room of the suite, the lounge, drinking,” McCartney explained, per the book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles. “We were sitting there with our Scotch and Cokes, and Dylan had just given Ringo [Starr] a puff of it.” 

After Starr tried it, the rest of the band wanted some too. McCartney explained that he became convinced he had discovered the meaning of life

“I spent the whole evening running around trying to find a pencil and paper because when I went back in the bedroom later, I discovered the Meaning of Life,” he said. “And I suddenly felt like a reporter, on behalf of my local newspaper in Liverpool. I wanted to tell my people what it was. I was the great discoverer, on this sea of pot, in New York.”

The next day, however, McCartney realized that all he’d written was “There are seven levels.” He had no idea what this meant. 

Bob Dylan would reportedly walk out if he heard Paul McCartney playing music

After that first meeting, Dylan saw The Beatles a number of other times. According to The Beatles’ road manager, Neil Aspinall, he always paid the most attention to John Lennon.

“If ever Bob got together with the Beatles after that, John was always the one he zeroed in on,” Aspinall said, per the book John Lennon: The Life by Phillip Norman. “He knew who was the leader of the band.”

Pennebaker, who worked with Dylan on Don’t Look Back, Eat the Document, and a number of music videos, said Lennon was a good friend to the American artist.

“John was a very good friend of Dylan’s,” he said, per The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait by Daniel Mark Epstein. “John just loved him. And vice versa. They adored each other.”

According to Pennebaker, Dylan didn’t necessarily feel this way about the rest of the band, at least at first.

“And the rest of the Beatles?” Pennebaker said. “Paul would come in and play something and Dylan would get up and walk out of the room.”

Bob Dylan has said he is in awe of Paul McCartney

Dylan may have left the room at the sound of McCartney’s music when he first met The Beatles, but he developed an appreciation for the other artist. According to Dylan, McCartney is one of the few artists who leaves him awestruck

“I’m in awe of Paul McCartney,” Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2007. “He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. But I’m in awe of him. He can do it all and he’s never let up, you know. He’s got the gift for melody, he’s got the rhythm. He can play any instrument. He can scream and shout as good as anybody and he can sing the ballad as good as anybody, you know so … And his melodies are, you know, effortless. That’s what you have to be in awe … I’m in awe of him maybe just because he’s just so damn effortless.”


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He even joked that he wished McCartney would retire.

“I mean I just wish he’d quit, you know? [Laughs] Just everything and anything that comes out of his mouth is just framed in a melody.”