Legendary British singer-songwriter Paul McCartney was announced as a winner of the 2018 Wolf Prize on Monday, paving the way for an expected visit by the former Beatle to Israel at the end of May.
The Wolf Foundation also announced eight other winners of the annual award, also known as the “Israeli Nobel Prize,” since about a quarter of previous laureates have gone on to win Nobel Prizes later, in parallel fields.
President Reuven Rivlin hosted a special event at his Jerusalem residence announcing this year’s laureates, saying that, “together with the prize committee, I and many Israelis share the eternal love for the works of Sir Paul McCartney and the Beatles.”
The five awards, in music, agriculture, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, totaling $100,000 in each field, will be divided this year among nine winners from five countries, the foundation said.
“Sir Paul McCartney is one of the greatest songwriters of all time,” the foundation said in a statement. “His versatility underlies an extraordinary wingspan, from the most physical rock to melodies of haunting and heartbreaking intimacy. His lyrics have an equally broad range, from the naive and the charming to the poignant and even desperate. He has touched the hearts of the entire world, both as a Beatle and in his subsequent bands.”
Comparing the 75-year-old to classical music masters Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, and Claude Debussy, among others, the foundation added that “there is little doubt that his songs will be sung and savored as long as there are human beings to lift up their voices.”
The prizes will be awarded to the winners by Rivlin at an official ceremony at the Knesset in Jerusalem at the end of May. The foundation said this year’s laureates are “expected to arrive in Israel for the award ceremony and a series of related events at the end of May.”
Delighted to host the announcement of this years Wolf Prize. Congratulations to musical legend Sir @PaulMcCartney and all the winners in the fields of sciences and the arts. pic.twitter.com/RNd7ayyI71
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) February 12, 2018
McCartney is required to come to Israel if he wants to receive the prize. The ex-Beatle played a warmly received concert in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park in September 2008.
With some 60 gold records and sales of more than 100 million singles in the course of his career, McCartney is arguably the most commercially successful performer and composer in popular music. The 1965 Beatles track, “Yesterday,” written by McCartney, has been played some six million times on US radio and television, far outstripping its nearest competitor. With over 3,000 cover versions, it is also the most-recorded song ever.
“More than a rock musician, McCartney is now regarded as a British institution,” said the Wolf Foundation. “Like warm beer and cricket, he has become part of British identity.”
The only other living Beatles member, drummer Ringo Starr, announced last month that he is to perform in Israel on June 23 at Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim arena with his All Starr band.
Along with McCartney, the Wolf Prize for Music will be awarded to prominent Hungarian conductor Adam Fischer, who was described in the statement as “an inspirational conductor and eloquent defender of human rights.”
The Wolf Prize for Agriculture will be granted to Prof. Gene Robinson from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, for “leading the genomics revolution in organismal and population biology of the honeybee,” the statement said.
The Wolf Prize for Chemistry will be shared by Prof. Omar Yaghi, from the University of California, for “pioneering reticular chemistry via metal-organic frameworks and covalent organic framework” and Prof. Makoto Fujita, from the University of Tokyo, for “conceiving metal-directed assembly principles leading to large highly porous complexes.”
The Wolf Prize for Physics will be shared by Prof. Charles Bennett from the IBM Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and Prof. Gilles Brassard from University of Montréal, Canada, “for founding and advancing the fields of Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Teleportation.”
The Wolf Prize for Mathematics will be shared by Prof. Alexander Beilinson and Prof. Vladimir Drinfeld, both from the University of Chicago, “for their groundbreaking work in algebraic geometry, representation theory, and mathematical physics.”
The Wolf Prize is distributed annually in five out of eight disciplines (the disciplines change on a rotating basis). The Wolf Foundation began its activities in 1976, with an initial endowment fund of $10 million donated by the Wolf family. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded prizes to 329 laureates, 14 of whom are women. Over the years, 21 Israelis have won the prize, with 176 laureates coming from the US — the biggest number of laureates — followed by the UK, with 29.