Opinion: Sir Paul McCartney and “Ukraine Shall Overcome”


By Denny Freidenrich

Sir Paul is back in the news. It’s not because he will be playing SoFi Stadium in May; rather, he has just written a letter to Starbucks urging the company to end its surcharge for plant-based milk options.

I’m a regular milk guy, so who knew?

I applaud the former Beatle for his attention to this matter, but it seems to me there is an even bigger issue at hand. Simply put, there are millions of Ukrainians who have no milk at all to drink (be it from cows or plants). Sadly, in many cases, you can add food and water to that list as well.

The humanitarian crisis in war-torn Ukraine is unspeakable. To date, some 10 million men, women and children have been displaced due to Russia’s constant bombing. I doubt many took bottles of milk with them when they were forced to flee their homes.

First and foremost, Paul McCartney is a performer. When he sings, people all over the world listen. More often than not, those who attend his concerts know all the words to his songs, so they sing along with him.

With this last thought in mind, wouldn’t it be great if the former lad from Liverpool embraced the revised lyrics to “We Shall Overcome” and performed “Ukraine Shall Overcome” during his upcoming national tour? Talk about coming full circle.

Pete Seeger and Joan Baez often performed the 1960s civil rights anthem at the same time the Beatles were dominating the charts. But my message isn’t about “Yesterday” folks, it is about today.

If you ask me, Sir Paul is in a unique position to tie together his interest in plant-based milk options and the plight of millions of Ukrainians searching for a new life.

I urge the living legend to perform “Ukraine Shall Overcome” at SoFi with members of the LagunaTunes Community Chorus and local entertainers Dr. Eric Alcouloumre and Maureen O’Sullivan-Bryant (all of whom already have recorded their own versions). If this happens, I am confident millions of people around the globe will harmonize with him or them.

Who knows, Starbucks’ customers might even drink more plant-based milk products when they do.

Denny is a Laguna Beach resident. He recently rewrote the lyrics to “We Shall Overcome.” The iconic song was ruled in the public domain in 2018. 

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