The emergence of rock and roll and rhythm and blues happened in America the nineteen forties and fifties, creating the cradle into which the Beatles would be born. The young band of British teenagers who got their start playing in a seedy club in the red light district of Hamburg, Germany, pumping out tune after tune based on American rock and R&B influences for rowdy crowds six or seven hours per night, almost every night, would eventually turn out to be one of the most, if not the most, influential music bands of modern time, the Beatles. Over the course of only a couple years, the band turned into a small European favorite into the global musical explosion evoking Beatlemania across the continents. With their unique style, youthful energy, and amazing musical genius, this group of young men was able to take music heritage and transform it into something new and unique, rich with meaning and soul.
Ever since the worldwide breakthrough of the Beatles in the early sixties, the planet has not been the same, capturing the hearts and imaginations of people everywhere. The impact of the Beatles upon society transcends the musical sphere and pervades all areas of global popular culture. Schinder and Schwartz (2008) described the band as a group of “cheerful, wisecracking moptops” whose initial musical style was a “highly original, irresistibly catchy synthesis of early American rock and roll and R&B”, evolving into sophisticated new frontiers of “folk-rock, country, psychedelia, and baroque pop, without sacrificing the effortless mass appeal of their early work.” The six year span of the Beatles artistic development and presence in 1960s popular culture contributed to and fed from the social and cultural changes of those tumultuous times. Even many of the most resistant individuals were charmed by the Beatles’ “effervescent energy and cheeky humor”, the sometimes edgy nature of the group always mellowed out by their somehow innocent wit. The Beatles had a way of delivering messages of love and friendship in radiantly positive and fun ways, messages which were desperate to be heard, interweaving into their songs powerful remarks to society, to the unethical capitalism in business and militant violence of governments.
The titles and lyrics of the Beatles’ songs lend insight into the charm and energy of the band, having graced the world with truly inspirational back to back hits. Some of the most popular songs were entitled, Twist and Shout, She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Yesterday, Help, Yellow Submarine, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness is a Warm Gun, and Free as a Bird. The delivery of the music and playfulness of the band members created an endearing and powerful aura which swept people off of their feet, members crooning wild words of love, peace, heartache, satire, and activism. While the Beatles were highly successful in presenting themselves as lovers and friends to the public, they were also successful at being activists for political change and open to their inner sadness, anger, and pain. This development happened over time, their early, lighter and more poppy works evolving into more complex, emotionally charged tunes. As the band music became more “adventurous and experimental, the Beatles’ humor and charisma made it easy for mainstream audiences to embrace even their most eccentric experiments.”
The birth and rising of a band such as the Beatles doesn’t happen all the time. The band was born at a time when rock and R&B was young and in its developmental stages, and the social, cultural, and political climate of the time was a real challenging of authority and the youthful cry of love and action. The passion of the massive generation of youth, the teenaged baby boomers, was charged with a desire to be free, to be kind, to be wild, to do what they wanted to do, and the Beatles were perhaps the most vibrant, visible, and audible icons of what it meant to be liberated, honest, giving, sharing, and fun, and well as strong, sarcastic, sad, and icy when necessary. These feelings permeated their music and charged the words that they sang, and to this day, there was perhaps never such an influential group musicians. The beat and tempo of their songs ranges from fast to slow, high to low, and the emotions ranged with them, energized to bluesy, passionate to saddening, thumping out musical variations and varieties, pulling influences from all sources and genres and creating something magnificent. It must be recognized that their youthful energy and the youthful energy of a huge population of teenagers lent to the magic of their work. They had the vibrance of their own adolescence rocking out to a massive amount of adolescent audience members, and the energy of the young reverberated during this generation of love.
The musical contributions of the Beatles has to be explored as a mixing of genres, a mixing of emotions, and a mixing of cultures during a time of political, cultural, and social upheaval and change when many of the people on the planet were young and ready to branch out into the world and explore new territory. The Beatles painted a beautiful picture of this time through their music, touching on heartfelt experiences of romantic love, the harrowing effects of war, the friendly need to play, the desire to influence and affect others, and the resistance to the constraints of an older and more traditional fading generation. Through the mixing and creation of rock, R&B, folk, country, pop, and psychedelia, the Beatles left a legacy of powerful sounds and words in their wake and touched the lives of billions of people. There aren’t many bands who have even come near to the amount of musical genius and cultural contributions which were dedicated to the world by the Beatles, and there may never be another time which was so rich with creative genius and youthful, political revolution.
Schinder, S. & Schwartz, A. (2008). Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever. Greenwood Publishing Group.