Well, along with a big bunch of other people, I’ll be watching the 50th anniversary tribute of The Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan when it airs this Sunday. And along with what I suspect will be a healthy majority of ‘em, I’ll have my fingers crossed that it’s not too corny, schmaltzy or over-done. Unlikely, but it is possible.
But whether I shed tears of nostalgic joy or wince in embarrassment, I’ll tell you this: aside from being born, The Beatles are the single biggest fact of my life.
I’m not talking about teenybopper infatuation, mindless celebrity idolization, or stalker-like obsession. The Beatles tapped into something bigger than themselves, something enervating, life giving, transcendent – and it touched millions of us in profound ways.
Friends, teachers, work colleagues – even family – come and go. Many earned my respect, gratitude and love. Some influenced my thinking, and who I became. A few provided excellent role models. The Beatles did something even bigger: they defined my culture.
I was two months shy of my tenth birthday on February 9, 1964, and a week or so short of sixteen when Paul announced that The Beatles had broken up. So growing up, they were a dominant news item, the biggest positive, a cosmic force. The Space Program, Civil Rights, Vietnam, pending nuclear Armageddon … they were all out there. But for many of us, these things were only visible and understood through music and pop culture, which was dominated by The Beatles. They were the lens through which we watched the world. They were the shoes we would put on so we could walk in it.
Sometimes what The Beatles did was sad. Sometimes it was embarrassing, even painful. But mostly they were joyful and they were always magical. They changed all of us, and their impact is still being felt.
As Bob Wooler wrote in the very first article ever written about The Beatles (in Mersey Beat on August 31, 1961), “I don’t think anything like them will happen again.”