Oct. 23, 2013 at 12:01 PM ET
After years of bitterness, Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono have decided to just let it be.
In the new issue of Rolling Stone (on newsstands Friday), the Beatle opens up in a remarkably candid cover story, telling RS that whatever walls stood between himself and John Lennon's widow have been torn down.
"She's badass," McCartney says, revealing the key to their reconciliation was "Time, the great healer. I thought, 'If John loved her, there's got to be something. He's not stupid."
That's a big emotional step for the Beatle, who told Rolling Stone in 2001 that he avoided Lennon tribute events because it was "difficult" to see Ono — partly because she'd refused to allow the credits on the Beatles' "Anthology" album series to read " 'Yesterday' by Paul McCartney and John Lennon" (instead of the other way around).
John is still ever-present in McCartney's mind, Paul reveals, admitting he still sometimes acts like his old songwriter partner is working with him today. "If I'm at a point where I go, 'I'm not sure about this,' I'll throw it across the room to John," McCartney tells RS of his writing process. "He'll say, 'You can't go there, man.' And I'll say, 'You're quite right.' ... We'll have a conversation."
Another member of the Fab Four ultimately had an impact on McCartney's decision to let go of his grudges. "George [Harrison] would say to me, 'You don't want stuff like that hanging around in your life,'" McCartney reveals of the late Beatle, who died in 2001.
But that doesn't mean that McCartney would go so far as to forgive Lennon's murderer, Mark David Chapman, whose next appearance before the parole board comes in August 2014 (he was convicted in 1981 and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison). "Whether it was evil or just deranged — it was unforgiveable," McCartney says. "I think I could pretty much forgive anyone else. But I don't see why I'd want to forgive him."
McCartney, now 71, is releasing his 24th post-Beatles album, "New" — a joint effort he worked on with Adele's superstar collaborator Paul Epworth, Amy Winehouse's producer Mark Ronson, Giles Martin (yes, the son of legendary Beatles producer George), and Ethan Johns, who's worked closely with Kings of Leon.
Why continue to pump out music at a pace rockers half his age can barely maintain, and play epically long shows that rival Bruce Springsteen's marathons? McCartney says he's nowhere near done — not yet.
"I've always got the critic in my mind," he tells Rolling Stone. "He keeps me on my toes — 'Don't get too blasé about it.' I don't want to become too smug, to think I'm great."
And he has another critic even closer to home: his 9-year-old daughter Beatrice, who's become a sounding board for his new songs (McCartney shares custody with his ex-wife, Heather Mills). He remembers plucking a mandolin while fiddling around with ideas for his 2007 single "Dance Tonight" and discovering Beatrice was, well, dancing tonight. "I was hitting the floor, singing, and she came running in, dancing around," he remembers. "I went, 'Whoa, there's my proof.'"
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