John Lennon's birthday: Paul McCartney celebrates at NY high school

John Lennon's birthday: Paul McCartney celebrated Lennon's birthday, which is also McCartney's wedding anniversary, with his wife and a few hundred high school students.

Mike Mitchell/Christie's/Reuters/Handout
Paul McCartney (l.) and John Lennon of The Beatles perform on stage during their first tour of the US in this photograph taken by Mike Mitchell and auctioned by Christie's in New York on July 20, 2011.

Paul McCartney celebrated his second wedding anniversary – and John Lennon's birthday – with his wife and a few hundred high school students on Wednesday.

The 71-year-old performed at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, which was opened by Tony Bennett.

McCartney told the crowd that he connected with Lennon through songwriting. "We weren't trained," he told the teenagers. "You guys have an advantage."

McCartney said, "Happy anniversary, Baby," to Nancy Shevell before going into his latest song, called "New." He said the song was inspired by his wife as the students turned to her and gushed.

The event with iHeartRadio was to celebrate McCartney's album, also called "New," out next week.

One student asked McCartney when he felt he officially made it in the music industry. McCartney said when the Beatles recorded their first single, "Love Me Do."

The students cheered, and McCartney said: "You shouldn't know about that."

The crowd, which included some adults, was feverish as McCartney performed a 13-song set from his Beatles, Wings and solo catalogue, including "Hey Jude," ''Eight Days a Week" and "Jet."

"This beats going to class," said McCartney, who performed on the piano and the guitar along with a four-piece band.

McCartney was energetic with the students, most of whom were a bit nervous when they asked questions.

One sophomore asked why McCartney decided to continue being a musician after all of his successes.

McCartney said people frequently ask him, "Can you just retire?"

"I say, 'Thank you very much. No,'" he said.

He added that he could be home watching TV but he'd rather be with the students and performing on stages.

Bennett, who attended the event, launched the school in 2001. McCartney talked about funding and updating the Liverpool school he and George Harrison attended.

"I used to say that half of the Beatles went to that school," he said to laughs.

McCartney ended the day with inspiration to the arts students: "You rock on. You be great."

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