MONTREAL — Ex-Beatle and perennial love-advocate Paul McCartney summoned Quebec nationalists on Thursday "to smoke the pipes of peace" over their opposition to his free concert this weekend.
Several artists and politicians have been questioning McCartney’s participation in Quebec City’s 400th anniversary celebration because of his British roots.
But McCartney told Radio-Canada he was unmoved by their claim his presence evokes painful memories of Britain’s conquest of New France in 1760.
"I think it’s time to smoke the pipes of peace and to just, you know, put away your hatchet because I think it’s a show of friendship," he said.
McCartney appeared eager to deflate the political rhetoric that nationalists are trying to attach to Sunday’s show on the Plains of Abraham, site of the pivotal 1759 battle between British General James Wolfe and France’s Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm.
"The kind of thing I read about in the schoolbooks when I was a kid was . . . who was General Wolfe?" he said jokingly. "I still haven’t figured it out."
Sounds like Paul that's for sure.... like how totally ignroant he was on the background of the seal hunt..... another moron.... keep dropping your cid buddy, Lucy in the sky with diamonds is on her way for you.
McCartney said he disagrees with the suggestion that he shouldn’t play in Quebec City just because Wolfe’s troops happened to defeat Montcalm’s on the Plains.
"What, are you saying nobody but French people should play in Quebec?"
By that logic, he said, Britons and Germans should never visit each other’s country because of the world wars.
"Hey, I’m friendly with German people," he said.
As the 400th-anniversary celebrations continue, nationalists in the province have been seizing on various elements they feel are either too federalist, too anglophone, or both.
The most recent controversy was kick-started earlier this week by Quebec painter Luc Archambault, who circulated a petition decrying the "dangerous" presence of music with English lyrics.
But Archambault’s campaign appeared to lose momentum on Thursday as he backed down from the tempest he stirred.
"I greatly admire McCartney . . . and I am counting on him as a socially engaged artist to be receptive to my proposal," he said.
He added he is not opposed to McCartney’s concert itself, but said Quebec artists should be given the same amount of attention.
The Parti Quebecois’ culture critic, who signed the petition, also distanced himself from earlier anti-McCartney comments.
Pierre Curzi issued a news release Thursday to say he too is a Beatles fan and only wanted to remind McCartney about the precarious state of the French language in Quebec.
McCartney told Radio-Canada he has been working on expanding the few lines of French he used in the 1965 hit "Michelle."
The Liverpool native is expected to make use of his French, however limited, during the show. He also said he plans to spend part of the day seeing the city’s sites.