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Voices: Springsteen, Grohl, Lennon and… Depp. What was Paul McCartney thinking?

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Glastonbury 2022 has already gifted us some real highlights, from Olivia Rodrigo and Lily Allen’s highly charged and blistering response to the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade and roll back 50 years of reproductive rights, to Greta Thunberg calling out the “forces of greed” on the Pyramid Stage. Billie Eilish was the youngest ever solo headliner, and wowed in true Gen Z fashion.

The oldest headliner was, of course, Paul McCartney – you know, that bloke from The Beatles. I grew up listening to McCartney’s voice, in the car and on vinyl. We were very much a Beatles household, and as a small child I’d be twirled around the living room to the sound of “Twist and Shout”. McCartney always seemed more of a stable genius, the less flashy and more unassuming glue holding the band together; the man behind “Let It Be” and “Blackbird”, the twanging pleasure of “Get Back” – and enduring beauty of “Hey Jude”.

McCartney fans were rewarded with a two-hour-and-50-minute set on Saturday night that spanned his 60-year career. He played 36 songs in total, to a massive crowd said to be the festival’s biggest since Dolly Parton in 2014. Some fans staked out their places 12 hours before the backbone of The Beatles was scheduled to start his set.

Paul McCartney would’ve captured the audience alone, but with such a long set, it was inevitable that he’d bring out some really big names to share the stage with. Beloved rock legends Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl joined him and, later, he duetted with isolated vocals from the late John Lennon – taken from “I’ve Got A Feeling”, at The Beatles’ 1969 rooftop concert.

The wrong note in an otherwise landmark performance from someone who has shaped the direction of music forever was McCartney’s decision to play a video of Johnny Depp on the jumbo screen. It’s a clip he’s used before, including on tour in the US, while the hateful circus of the Depp v Heard defamation trial was ongoing, and broadcast live from a Virginia courtroom like a must-see soap opera of private tumult turned public humiliation.

However you feel about Depp and his court case against ex-wife Amber Heard, it’s undeniable that he isn’t in the same league as musicians such as Springsteen or Grohl, and his video inclusion certainly doesn’t pack the emotional punch of Lennon’s.

Sure, he’s dabbled in music throughout his career – appearing on the soundtracks of at least two of his own films, and featuring on songs by Iggy Pop, his first wife Vanessa Paradis, Aerosmith, Oasis, Shane MacGowan and Marilyn Manson, the shock rocker currently accused by at least five women, including actor and musician Evan Rachel Wood, of sexual assault, psychological abuse, and/or various forms of coercion, violence and intimidation. Manson denies all allegations. Depp also formed “supergroup” Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry, and he was on tour with Jeff Beck when the verdict was announced in Virginia.

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Depp has since released a new song with Beck, a “self-righteous nose rub” from their forthcoming joint album 18, about – what else? – the pitfalls of fame. He’s wasted no time in capitalising on the public support, driven by social media, that he enjoyed during his civil trial. McCartney’s decision to use the music video for his 2012 track “My Valentine”, featuring Depp playing guitar and reciting the song’s lyrics in sign language, will be part of the bolstering of Depp’s newly revitalised image.

McCartney’s use of the Depp video can only be interpreted as a public declaration of support. It’s a shame, but not unexpected. Men back up their friends, even in cases where their mate lost a UK libel case about being described as a “wife beater” – the abuse allegations were deemed “substantially true” by the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Seeing the Beatle and the Boss on stage together was a real highlight, but perhaps it’s time to move on from the old white blokes – and make way for more vibrant, fresher voices. Ones who don’t need to feature videos of men who send texts about women like this one: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will f*** her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead...”

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