By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — As the 50th anniversary of the debut of the Beatles’ arrival in America was celebrated last week, it was another occasion to reminisce about the “good music” of our history.
The landing of this young English group with their mop-head hair and quartet of voices blending together in the pop sensation music sent waves of hysteria across America, just as the young Elvis had done a few years prior.
Personally, I don’t remember watching that specific Ed Sullivan show. It wasn’t because I was too young to remember, but rather either that I just don’t recall it or I didn’t watch it.
But the songs that sent the Beatles into music history across the world is still a significant part of society. From the flirty, happy-go-lucky love songs of the 1960s to the movie themes to the more intense “acid rock” that marked the late 1970s, the songs of Paul McCartney and John Lennon will forever hold special meaning to millions of people across the world.
I smile every time I hear the more popular favorites, but I find myself more often looking at the “B” songs — those recorded on the flip side of the now-gone 45 rpm vinyl records. As cassette tapes and CDs evolved, I still pick the less popular songs such as “As My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Nowhere Man” that only true music lovers recognize. “Help,” “The Yellow Submarine,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” depict the movie credits that this band can claim although Sgt. Pepper’s release created intense controversy due to its subject matter.
The Beatles themselves became controversial often, beginning with Ringo Starr’s unforgettable misquote of “We’re more popular than God!” to the drug experimentation and the eventual breakup of the group that was most frequently attributed to John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono.
Nearly everyone who ever listened to the Beatles has a favorite song from some era of the group or solo careers of these musicians and songwriters who shared their emotions and experiences with the world. The lyrics and music of “Let It Be,” “Imagine,” and “War Is Over” are some of the greatest testaments for world peace and inner strength ever penned.
My classic rock music, though not appreciated when my kids were younger, are now some of the very songs that my children listen to now. Both have told me one of the greatest things I ever did was to teach them about “good music.” Whether it be the four-part harmony of my Baptist upbringing or the classic rock song that tugs at a special part of my heart, music is indeed the universal language.
Those memories are why I endure some of the outrageous performances of the annual Grammy Awards each year and this year was no exception. Pitting the two surviving Beatles back on stage together brought down the house and was truly a touch of class that will be difficult to top.
The contributions of this group paved the way for many new artists, musicians and musical styles. The breakup of the Beatles didn’t end the music — it just gave us different perspectives. The deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison didn’t end the music — it only made it stronger.