Written by Patrick Lacombe
This past week marked the 50th anniversary of The Beatles coming to America. There were lots of celebrations and replays of the original Ed Sullivan show. There were news columns and stories about the new band and the style of music they brought to America some half century ago. I wasn’t able to partake in the original flood of youthful enthusiasm. But as I got older I did learn to appreciate the music that The Beatles brought here.
Music seems to speak to the current generation and doesn’t really last much past those years. But there was something about The Beatles that touched more than one generation and is still lasting years after the last song was recorded. Even if you didn’t like The Beatles music there was some way that it probably has touched your life. I have heard commercials set to their music, newer musicians have recorded their hits, and probably one of the most terrible things for a musician, hearing the music playing instrumental in an elevator.
Now even the most avid Beatles fans probably didn’t like everything that they produced. Granted there were some recordings that were a bit out there. A few probably never made it on a radio station and with good reason. But their most popular works seem to be standing the test of time. There have been other musicians that have had great success and their music has lasted over more than one generation. But those are not that common; it is a true talent that allows such lasting popularity. I was raised in a culture where classical music was common, I attended the Dallas Symphony several times. The great composers were the “Beatles” of their times. A concert then was a big event as there was no radio. But with recording and other methods of getting music to the masses, musicians could become enormously popular. This also allowed them to be more influential in current events and perhaps become musical activists.
The Beatles seemed to suffer from their success like many young stars. They found that they couldn’t speak freely without having their words examined closely. They also afforded themselves many luxuries that their money could buy, which altered a lot of what they did in music. And in the end they became less of a group and lost what had really made them so popular.
Today we see some musicians that have made themselves wealthy beyond belief, and we can see the same pattern forming. Tragically this sometimes ends a great musical career, other times it just becomes a great embarrassment. One currently on the scene now has seemingly showed how juvenile he can be and is in danger of being cast from this land of plenty. I am sure there is a talent there and it is sad that it is wasted at this point in time.
But as the Beatles’ generation looks back on that time, they can remember something special, something that will last their entire life. The Beatles seemed to firmly plant their music in our culture, much the way that Coke and Kleenex have seemed to become common. We hear a tune advertising some new product and realize that it was from a group of young Brits some half century ago. Somehow the appeal is still there. Perhaps it was the time, maybe just catchy music, a more memorable period or just a rare talent that seems to keep this music in our daily culture. Like them or not, we probably could use a few more musicians like that and less that seem to want to wear out their welcome with poor lyrics and absurd antics.