An America deeply divided by helter skelter politics and war, the void littered with protest signs, bricks and racial epithets, is nothing new to Paul McCartney. The Beatles provided a soundtrack for a similar era 40 years ago.
As then, the man who sang that "Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friends" in "We Can Work It Out," is hopeful.
"It's a tough time, of course," McCartney said by phone last week as he motored through Sussex in the south of England. "But things get better.
"It's a good thing that America has done," he said of recently approved health care legislation. "From a British perspective it's hard to see why everyone is so hot under the collar. You have a lot of poor people over there who aren't under the umbrella. And now they are. That's the important thing about it."
McCartney, who's headed to Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, April 3, said he's been listening to a lot of music by another seminal figure of the turbulent ‘60s, Bob Dylan. But mostly Dylan's contemporary music, including his latest, "Together Through Life."
"I've always loved Bobby. He reminds you that you can be loose," McCartney said. "Bobby's loose if he's nothing else."
Also in heavy rotation in his ears these days: Kings of Leon, MGMT and Coldplay.
McCartney's show at Sun Life Stadium will lean heavily toward classics from the Beatles ("Paperback Writer" to "Let It Be") and Wings ("Jet," "My Love"), but he says the band will have a few new wrinkles for hard-core fans.
"We're at the point that we may have no surprises left," he demurred. "We'll just have to see what we have up our sleeve."
One guess is "(I Want to) Come Home" from the soundtrack to the recent Robert De Niro film "Everybody's Fine." Another is something from McCartney's experimental side project the Fireman, including the anthemic "Sing the Changes."
"The Fireman project is essentially about freedom," said McCartney, who revealed that a lot of the lyrics for Fireman songs were "made up on the spot."
McCartney believes the theme of "Sing the Changes" is particularly resonant just now.
"Don't be scared to change. Rejoice in change and try to retain a childlike sense of wonder," he said. "There's so much great stuff around, but it's easy to get blinkered."
McCartney has an advantage when it comes to childlike inspiration: 6-year-old daughter Beatrice. How does Dad, 67, keep up with her and her friends?
"You just get involved and enjoy yourself," he said. "They can teach you a lot. She's funny. She's got that sense of wonder - ‘Oh, what's that cloud doing?' - and they can help you get it."
McCartney does not envy older kids their modern predicament.
"We're in a fast and furious world, with everything competing for attention," he said. "In many ways I feel sorry for kids today. If you're a kid, you have all kinds of responsibilities, education-wise, and with so much media, social media coming at you …"
McCartney has enough friends on Facebook to fill Sun Life Stadium (more than 70,000) and then do a second night for his Twitter followers (more than 60,000). But he sometimes longs for the heyday of media that was even more social.
"Not to sound like a completely boring old fart . . . but growing up we had one phone in the house," McCartney recalled. "If you weren't in, you weren't in. You took your time. You had to look out the window. You had to observe life. Talk to people. I feel lucky that I had that grounding."
There are times when it makes him want to holler.
"Sometimes I'll be in a restaurant. A dark, romantic kind of place. And there's this young, good-looking couple at a table, and they're both on the phone!" McCartney said, incredulously. "And I want to yell, ‘Put down the phone, man!' Look at her! She's beautiful!' "
So keep your phone in your pocket at Sublime, the Fort Lauderdale restaurant favored by one of the world's most famous vegetarians. (The tour will go through nearly 500 vegetarian meals a day.)
"[Owner Nanci Alexander] does a great job. Sublime, in fact." McCartney said with a chuckle.
After Saturday's concert, the band has a day off before McCartney's first-ever visit to Puerto Rico for an April 5 concert at San Juan's José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum.
Does he speak Spanish?
"Un poco," McCartney said, before delivering a mellifluous scat, repeated several times: "Tres conejos en un arbol tocando el tambor. Que si. Que no. Que si lo he visto yo." (Rough translation: Three rabbits in a tree playing a drum. Could it be? Yes, I saw it with my own eyes.)
Hard-core fans may recognize the passage from "Movement II — School" in his 1991 classical work "Liverpool Oratorio." McCartney described it as a schoolboy classroom rhyme that has stayed in his head all these years.
Like a McCartney song sticks with the rest of us.
Crandell is a writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Set list (from show in Glendale, Az on Sunday, March 28):