June 18, 1942– My first album, not from my parental unit’s collection of Broadway Original Cast LPs, but purchased for myself with money I had earned from mowing lawns, was Meet The Beatles (1964). My first live concert was The Beatles, in Seattle, summer 1966, making my parents drive 300 miles so that I could hear them do 11 songs, but not being able to hear the tines over the screaming. Beginning at age 10 & lasting into my 60s, I have had a major case of Beatlemania. 51 years ago, The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show & 73 million American TV viewers tuned in, including me. The band & their brand had a significant impact on American culture & our public life. The Beatles served as the ideal transition between the structured, staid 1950s & the free floating counterculture of the late 1960s & early 1970s.
The Beatles brought a message of love, tuneful songs about to the excitement & disillusionment of relationships, & with hairstyles that drove our parents nutty. The Beatles brought a much needed cultural jolt to our lives. Their songs, style, & sensibility liberalized American culture & celebrated free expression & artistic creativity. As President William Jefferson Clinton perfectly stated:
“If you think the 60s were a bad time, you’re probably a Republican; if you think the 60s were a good time, you’re probably a Democrat.”
The Beatles helped Americans deal with the struggles, sadness, & sorrow surrounding the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, taken just 3 months before they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Young people had one icon lost & then found new icons that they could easily identify in The Beatles. Their presence & their music left all of us feeling free-spirited, rebellious, & emotionally charged.
Sir Paul McCartney, who turns 73 years old today, was the “Cute Beatle”. John Lennon was the smart one, George Harrison the shy one, & Ringo Starr was the clown. Very young, The Beatles had decided on a contract that gave all songs the credit: Music & Lyrics by Lennon/McCartney, although most songs were written by individuals in the band. McCartney penned Yesterday, a song referenced by Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton when she did a kick-off of her campaign last Saturday in NYC. McCartney performed that tune alone at a recording studio June 14, 1965 & it was released later that year on a record, a kind of technology from the last century where music was recorded in analog on flat vinyl disks, I know it sounds zany. Yesterday is the most recorded song in history with more than 2200 cover versions.
When The Beatles imploded, McCartney went solo & eventually formed another, Wings. He clashed with Yoko Ono, married a talented photographer, Linda Eastman, who he lost to that damn cancer in 1998, became a vegetarian, & fathered 5 talented good-looking children, including an innovative fashion designer named Stella McCartney, maybe you have heard of her. Despite a series of rumors that today would have been Tweeted, memed & Facebooked in an instant, McCartney did not die in 1966. Despite all the clues, Paul Is Not Dead. But he did enduredthat dreadful divorce from Heather Mills, which may have made him wish he were dead. But, he released a live album Paul Is Live (1993) & released more than 30 solo albums, that’s not even counting the ones released by Wings or his first band.
McCartney is a 2 time inductee to the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame, a winner of 21 Grammy Awards, received The Gershwin Prize, a Kennedy Center Honor & an Oscar. He has written 32 #1 hit songs & collaborated with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Elton John, & Kanye West. McCartney is rightfully considered the most successful songwriter in history.
“& in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.”
As much as I loved him 50 years ago, I am not certain I would have predicted the “Cute Beatle” from that band that all the kids really dig would go on to be one of the world’s most famous & successful figures, or that he would tirelessly take on the issues: animal rights, seal hunting, land mines, vegetarianism, poverty, & music education, & that he would still be out on tour in summer 2015. Maybe I’m Amazed!