One of the most highly acclaimed bands in the history of pop, the Beatles paved the way for the success of British bands on American soil with their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9th, 1964. They played their American number one hit, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and the rest is American, British and media history. Known as the Fab Four, they originated in Liverpool, England with a musical style mixing a wide variety of genres. Everything of psychedelic rock toskiffle, a type of jazzy folk music.
John Winston Lennon
John Lennon was born in Liverpool, England, on October 9, 1940, to Julia Stanley and Alfred "Freddie" Lennon. Early in his childhood John was faced with a tortuous choice. His father, Freddie, had taken him for a long weekend at the beach when his mother, Julia found them and asked her five-year-old son to decide between them. He could either stay with Freddie or go with her. Five-year-old John was having fun with his dad and decided that he wanted to stay with him at the beach. Julia walked away crying and after seeing his mother in tears John ran after her and left with her. Not much later however she was run over and killed by a drunken off-duty police officer on July 15, 1958. John was seventeen. It's well known that John Lennon's pain and rage from his childhood set the tone for his music and his art.
John married Cynthia Powell in 1962. They had a son, Julian, born April 8, 1963. The couple divorced in 1969. Later, John married Yoko Ono and they had a son, Sean, born October 9, 1975. John died in New York City at the age of 40 after being shot to death on December 8, 1980 by Mark David Chapman.
James Paul McCartney
James Paul McCartney was born on February 18, 1942, in Liverpool. He was the eldest son of James and Mary McCartney, who died from breast cancer in 1955 when Paul was fourteen years old. Paul likely inherited his musical prowess from his father, who was a cotton salesman by day and a jazz musician by night. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were equally ambitious to make it to the top once the Beatles began to make a dent into the American music scene. They pushed each other to great heights as a songwriting duo.
Paul married Linda Eastman on March 12, 1969. They had three children: Mary, Stella and James Louis. Paul also adopted Linda's daughter Heather. After Paul left the Beatles, she and he formed the group Paul McCartney and Wings, later simply known as Wings. She died April 17, 1998 from breast cancer. She and Paul had one of the longest marriages in the music world.
In 2002 Paul remarried to Heather Mills. In 2003 their only child, Beatrice, was born. In 2008 the couple divorced.
George Harold Harrison
George Harold Harrison was the youngest of the group as well as youngest of the four children born to Harold and Louise French Harrison on February 24, 1943, in Liverpool. He was more interested in being a team player in the group than having the focus on him. He concentrated mainly on the lead guitar; and, his infectious hooks only improved Lennon/McCartney numbers. In time, he also became a fine songwriter, penning classics such as "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Here's Comes the Sun" and "Something."
George married Patti Boyd on January 21, 1966. They divorced in 1974 and she later married Eric Clapton. George's second wife was Olivia Trinidad Arias whom he married on September 2, 1978. They had a son, Dhani, born August 1, 1978.
For several years George suffered from various cancers including throat cancer and a reported brain tumour. On November 29th, 2001 George died from lung cancer.
Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey
Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey came from a fairly financially stricken background. He was born July 7, 1940, to Richard and Elsie Gleave Starkey, in Liverpool. His parents divorced when he was three years old. His mother remarried a man named Harry Graves who encouraged Ringos love of music. Ringo was ill throughout most of his childhood, even spending two years in a sanatorium for pleurisy. As an adult, he developed allergies and food sensitivities.
Ringo is not the oroginal drummer for the Beatles. He became quite lucky when the Beatles came to him when they sacked their former drummer, Pete Best, just weeks before they signed their big record label deal with EMI in 1962. Ringo's drumming style accommodated the Beatles sound because it was in the background and complemented the sound while not trying to dominate.
In 1965 Ringo married girlfriend Maureen Cox and had three children: Zak, Jason, and Lee. They divorced in 1975. He married Barbara Bach in 1981 and their marriage endures to present day.
The Music of the Beatles
The Beatles broke all records set by Elvis Presley, including concert attendance, chart records, movies, and merchandising. In 1964 the band had ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, five of which were the top five positions. They are also the only act ever to register twenty number one hits. The Beatles were the first group to shatter attendance records when more than 55,000 people showed up for the Shea Stadium concert in July 1965. They also shattered a television audience record when they made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 when approximately 73 million people watched the group which would soon be known as the Fab Four.
The Love Songs
The Beatles mostly wrote about two subjects: love and peace. One of their greatest love songs, "Yesterday," was a ballad that 25-year-old Paul McCartney wrote when he stumbled out of bed and went right to the piano and wrote the entire song. It's working title was "Scrambled Eggs."
"Something" was a love song George Harrison wrote about his wife, model Patti Harrison, which went to No. 1 in 1969 and is one of the 50 greatest love songs of all time. "All You Need Is Love", which went to No. 1 in 1967, was the unofficial anthem of the Summer of Love, and the peace movement. It was a song that was broadcast to a worldwide audience via satellite.
Despite the question, the Beatles weren't overtly political in their songs. However, they had more of a global message of peace and love. "Revolution", written by John Lennon in 1968, at the height of the Sixties social unrest, was without a doubt, political. Lennon wasn't sure if he supported violence to overthrow the government, which is why the song contains the lyric, "But when it comes to destruction, don't you know that you can count me in/out."
Other songs that might be considered political are in fact songs of social commentary. They include "She's Leaving Home", a song about a young girl leaving a privileged life behind; "Dr. Robert" a song about a pill doctor who made people feel good; "Tomorrow Never Knows" was about the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The Beatles, mostly as a whole, stayed away from making commentary on the Vietnam War other than to say, "War is bad." Their manager, Brian Epstein, felt delving into the area of politics would have been a huge mistep by the group. After the split of the Beatles though, John Lennon, as a solo artist became very vocal about the Vietnam War and his solo song, "Give Peace a Chance," was the rallying cry at anti-War protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Masters of Publicity
The Beatles were masters of publicity because they didn't take themselves seriously and gave "cheeky," but clever, answers to stale questions by journalists. They downplayed their achievements, constantly talked of how fleeting their fame would be.
"Whenever my chest starts to puff out or I think I'm something special, I just look over at Ringo and am brought back to reality," Lennon said at one press conference. When the Beatles stopped touring and began recording exclusively in the studio, they realized they could no longer be the loveable "mop-tops" as they got older. They had to convey that they were serious musicians with a serious message of peace and love. In late 1967, they announced that they would be taking off a few months to meditate with the Maharishi to learn Transcendental Meditation, which gave them the energy that drugs once gave them.
In May 1968, they made an announcement that they had formed their own corporation, which included their own two record labels (one for legitimate releases, the other for experimental records), publishing, film, inventions and media divisions. It was a multi-media concept 40 years ahead of its time. The ultimate public relations trick was by John Lennon, who announced that he was going stay in bed for a week with his new bride Yoko Ono to promote world peace. He brought the world media to his Amsterdam bedroom. The media thought they were going to see John and Yoko sleeping together as marrieds, but instead John and Yoko put their fingers up in the "V" sign and rang out, "Peace, brother."
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