Beatles’ Music Remains Timeless
by Louisa Moore on Friday, February 21st, 2014
February 7th marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first visit to the United States. The popularity of the group, whose music had skyrocketed to the top of the British pop charts the year before, spread to the U.S. in late 1963 and early 1964 as American teenagers began listening to and falling in love with the Beatles. Although the Beatles came for a concert tour that year, the band’s most memorable appearance was on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” their first television performance in the US. They led the “British Invasion,” a huge influx of British bands into America, some of whom are still famous, like the Rolling Stones, while others are mostly forgotten, like The Dave Clark Five.
The Beatles both reflected history and influenced it. In November 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and the country moved into a period of mourning. When the Beatles came a few months later in early 1964, they triggered a response in Americans, helping the country to move forward. Their infectious song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” spread across the U.S. like wildfire. It energized a generation that protested the Vietnam War and advocated for women’s liberation and civil rights.
Growing up when the Beatles rose to fame, my parents remember this time well. My mother, who had the opportunity to attend a Beatles concert in London, says she can only remember the deafening screams of the girls in the audience drowning out the music. My father, who is not much of a pop music fan, says “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” has special meaning for him. The song was released around his twentieth birthday, and the opening lyrics begin, “It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper told the band to play…” His college roommates marked his special day by blasting what my father calls “the Beatles birthday song.”
Everyone has these stories about the Beatles, and not just those who were teenagers when the group was active. Everyone has some kind of connection to the band. The 1998 movie The Parent Trap featured “Here Comes the Sun,” my first exposure to the Beatles. However, I knew a lot of their other songs beforehand, such as “Hey Jude” and “Help!” In the time before iPods and iTunes, my siblings and I would turn on my parents’ old record player and play their old Beatles LPs, belting out the lyrics to songs like “Paperback Writer” and “Eleanor Rigby.” I responded to the energy of the Beatles’ songs before I could understand the cleverness of their lyrics and originality of their scores.
Part of what makes the Beatles so appealing is the timelessness of their lyrics. We can all relate to their songs. As students, we can cry out for “Help!” with our history term papers, and we can tell our friends to “Drive My Car.” For me (and others), this group has stayed together. Yes, they have suffered some terrible losses. They broke up in 1970; John Lennon was killed in 1980; George Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001. But in our minds, they have remained together. When I think of the Beatles, I think of John, Ringo, Paul, and George.
The Beatles changed music in the United States and around the world. Many consider them the greatest rock band of all time. And this 50th anniversary of their arrival in the US music scene is a time to “Come Together”. So turn on “I Want to Hold Your Hand” – the original song that started it all in America – and enjoy the innovation and catchiness of this classic band.
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