How The Beatles’ ‘I’m Down’ Is Connected to 9/11

Paul McCartney played The Beatles’ “I’m Down” to survivors of 9/11. The song was inspired by a 1950s rock star.

Thanks to his activism, Paul McCartney has a place in world history. He incorporated The Beatles’ “I’m Down” into a well-known response to the 9/11 attacks. One of Paul’s longtime collaborators discussed the experience. Interestingly, a famous comic actor was involved.

Paul McCartney played The Beatles’ ‘I’m Down’ at a famous 9/11 benefit concert

Rolling Stone reports that, for the past 22 years, Rusty Anderson has been playing guitar alongside Paul. He appeared at The Concert for New York City, a benefit concert designed to raise money for those affected by the 9/11 attacks. Paul and Anderson played The Beatles’ “I’m Down” together during the concert.

Anderson explained what the experience was like. “Incredible,” he said. “You can’t process it. You just want to do a good job. It was also surreal since I thought, ‘You go up on stage and it’ll be the big Woodstock lights. It’ll feel intoxicating and you’ll get into the groove and the moment.’”

What Rusty Anderson was thinking when he was playing The Beatles for 9/11 survivors

Another major celebrity introduced Paul and Anderson’s performance. “If you’ll remember, Jim Carrey introduced us,” Anderson said. “Then we go onstage, and then I realized that because this whole thing is really about the firefighters, all the people in the call of duty, our fallen comrades, and just incredible valor. The job all these people did after 9/11. All these firefighters were in the front. They had these filming TV lights aimed at the audience.

“You could see every single face, which is unusual,” he said. “It’s almost like when you play a big show, the lights go to a certain people and everyone else is a soup. This one, I felt like I was in a giant classroom.”

Paul McCartney revealed that a 1950s rock star inspired ‘I’m Down’

In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, the cute Beatle discussed the origin of “I’m Down.” He recalled writing the tune because he was a fan of Little Richard. During his school days, Paul would get up on a desk and sing Little Richard’s two most famous tunes: “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.”

Paul knew he could mimic Little Richard’s voice well and he pulled out his Little Richard impression for “I’m Down.” In Paul’s recollection, he wrote the song himself without any input from John Lennon. At best, Paul said, John might have written 10% of the track.

Looking back on “I’m Down,” Paul was proud of it. He called the song a “rock ‘n’ roll shouter,” and noted that it worked well as a live number. Paul said it’s difficult to write a song that works as well onstage as “I’m Down” does. Two famous rock bands went on to record their own versions of “I’m Down”: Aerosmith and Beastie Boys. While “I’m Down” isn’t one of The Beatles’ more well-known ditties, covers helped keep it alive.

Without Little Richard’s influence, one of the most famous concerts of the 2000s just wouldn’t have been the same.

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