Paul McCartney Did a Terrible Beatles Joke in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’

The Beatles are so famous they influenced a Pirates of the Caribbean film. The movie includes Paul McCartney singing a song from The Beatles’ Let It Be. Despite the scene’s accuracy to the time period, it feels like a cynical move from Disney.

Paul McCartney sings The Beatles’ ‘Maggie Mae’ in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’
In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards plays Jack Sparrow’s father. The most recent film in the series, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, features Paul as Jack Sparrow’s uncle. It’s basically the same joke, and it’s not any funnier the second time around.

The latter film features an actual Beatles song — sort of. When Paul’s character is first introduced, we hear him sing a snippet of the folk tune “Maggie Mae.” The Beatles covered that folk tune on their final album, Let It Be. The joke is that “Maggie Mae” is so old it might have existed during the epoch of Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course, it’s not clear when the song was written or when the Pirates films take place.

Paul McCartney’s presence in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ does nothing for the film
The joke isn’t funny at all. It’s a reference, but there’s no witty observation on The Beatles or pirates or “Maggie Mae” at all. The Pirates films have several references that don’t work as jokes. For example, in the first film, one of the characters is dressed like Captain Hook from Walt Disney’s Peter Pan. Sure, that was another pirate film from Disney, but there’s nothing comical about the callback.

On top of that, the reference feels a bit cynical. Beatles songs aren’t cheap, but “Maggie Mae” is so old it’s in the public domain. Disney didn’t have to pay a cent for the rights to use it. The company’s decision to have Paul sing this song rather than anything else in The Beatles’ catalog might have been about finances as much as it was about historical accuracy. On top of that, having Paul perform anachronistic music wouldn’t have mattered much, considering each Pirates film is an ahistorical fantasy.

How The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ performed in the United States and the United Kingdom
“Maggie Mae” was never a single, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The tune appeared on the soundtrack of the documentary Let It Be. That record topped the Billboard 200 for four weeks and stayed on the chart for a total of 79 weeks.

According to The Official Charts Company, The Beatles’ cover of “Maggie Mae” didn’t chart in the United Kingdom either. On the other hand, Let It Be peaked at No. 1 in the U.K. and spent 53 weeks on the chart. It’s fascinating that the record was considerably more popular in the U.S. than in The Beatles’ native U.K.

“Maggie Mae” isn’t one of The Beatles’ most famous songs, but Pirates of the Caribbean gave it some extra attention.

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