Fifty years ago today, four British kids with mop-topped hair landed in JFK to a mass of screaming, hysterical teenagers. Fifty years ago today, a band defied the naysayers who claimed that guitar groups and rock and roll was dying. Fifty years ago today, The Beatles arrived in America and made history.
Often celebrated as the greatest artists of all time, The Beatles revolutionized music by incorporating different genres into their sound: pop, rock, folk, classical—even psychedelic as they experienced the drug-induced, hippie movement of the 60s. When you skim through their records today, it’s astonishing to hear the different elements they utilized over the years. But interestingly enough, it was American artists who first inspired John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison, bringing these four geniuses together to form the band. Such influences included Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. In other words, The Beatles were giving America back its own music. Fusing these artists’ sounds into their own, The Beatles skyrocketed to popularity. They dominated the airwaves, until they held the record for most singles (six) to appear on the Billboard Top 20. Their arrival and imminent success in America is also what prompted The British Invasion, the migration of rock bands from England to America. Essentially, it was The Beatles who gave us such rock legends as The Who, The Animals, and The Rolling Stones.
The impact that “Beatlemania” had on our country was unprecedented. Like all great musicians, they were hated by parents and lampooned by critics for their “disgusting” appearances and sound—which is just one of the reasons why young America embraced them. In a time of inequality, war, and conflict, The Beatles preached love and acceptance. It was these four kids from Britain who became the voice of a generation, using their platform and music to express civil rights, political values, and peace. Their list of accomplishments is extensive, almost countless; but here’s a brief glimpse of just some of The Beatles’ many accomplishments: Queen Elizabeth II anointed the group as Members of the Order of the British Empire in 1965. They have seven Grammy’s, an Oscar, and 6 Diamond albums in the US. They are the bestselling band in history, moving over 600 million albums worldwide—a number that can NEVER be beaten or replicated today.
And yet, even with their legendary status, social media has been tainted recently by questions like “Who are The Beatles?” or “Who is Paul McCartney?” Honestly, that’s obscene. How can there be teenagers out there who don’t know The Beatles? The group has had such a powerful impact on music, and 50 years is by no means ancient. Like Santa Claus or “Luke, I am your father,” The Beatles is something that every child in America just grows up knowing, as if we’re born with this knowledge already imbedded in our brains. Part of me wants to yell at these parents, “YOU HAVE FAILED TO PROPERLY RAISE YOUR CHILD!” And then another part of me wonders: is this lack of knowledge a result of social media and technology, of instant gratification? That if something isn’t hot or popular today, at this very moment, it’ll just quickly fade into obscurity? Will future generations cause some of the greatest artists of our time to become lost to history? In other words, will there even be a celebration for The Beatles’100th anniversary? Will there be anyone who even knows about it?
On a more positive note, this Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ famed appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. A record breaking 74 million people sat in front of their black-and-white TVs to watch them that night. In many ways, it was this performance that paved The Beatles’ path to success and glory. To honor this landmark event, CBS is broadcasting a 2-hour special on that same day and time: February 9 at 8 PM. The Beatles were pioneers, revolutionaries, innovators. They were gods amongst the people, and fifty years later, they continue to reign supreme.
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