50 years ago last night, the Beatles debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show and 73 million people tuned in to hear the Fab Four sing their sensational music that had exploded onto the American music scene. I was 8 years old and glued to our black and white Philco television set, mesmerized by this new sound and look.
Last night, several of my friends on Facebook were commenting on the Grammys' 50th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles that was televised on CBS. I was torn between watching Olympic figure skating or watching some of today's most talented musicians pay tribute to Paul and Ringo, the surviving members of The Beatles, as well as paying tribute and acknowledging the incredible contributions of John and George. It was a great night to reminisce. But not everyone that grew up during that time were Beatles' fans. Some preferred other bands or musicians of that day while others may not have been really into music much during that time in their lives. Fan or not, I am sure that the contribution that The Beatles made to modern pop music is acknowledged nonetheless.
I wrote a blog a couple of years ago soon after Don Cornelius of "Soul Train" fame had, sadly, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I wrote then:
Music is an incredibly powerful thing. Every culture has music traditions and, just in my lifetime, I have witnessed the way that music can influence the world around us.
The segregated American society that made up a large part of the 20th century is an historical fact, painful though it is to be reminded of. But there has been one thing that seems to have transcended the racial divide that existed and, in some ways, still exists today...and that is music. From the white, Celtic-influenced Appalachian music that birthed bluegrass, rockabilly, and country music....to the gospel music sung in rural churches, to the black, rhythm and blues music from the Delta, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit...the combination of all which birthed what we call Rock and Roll music. The soul music sound of African-American Detroit artists, on Barry Gordy's Motown Records kept the dance halls rocking and swaying to some incredible music and vocal harmonies.
The older, white generation didn't embrace much of this music...sometimes because it was just so different from the music they enjoyed but also because of racial prejudice. Sadly, many included the "N-word" in describing this new music. But for the younger Baby Boomer generation, I believe the blending of these musical genres and the appreciation for and enjoyment of these new musical sounds went a long way in bridging the racial divide.
As a white kid that loved the likes of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and the Everly Brothers; I also loved the sounds of the Coasters, the Drifters, Sam and Dave, Ray Charles, James Brown, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Supremes, Wilson Pickett, and Marvin Gaye. And just when rock and roll seemed to be losing its way, along came the mid-60's British invasion of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, The Animals, The Kinks and dozens of others that had listened to all that America had blended together musically, and reintroduced it to us.
Whether or not The Beatles were your favorite band in the 60's matters not. Like other forms of art and food and fragrance, we all have our personal preferences. Thank goodness we have so much to choose from. I enjoyed last night because it brought back a flood of great memories. Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Oh, and my favorite Beatles song? That's a very tough one. There are too many to list but two songs have likely had more plays on my iPod than the others- "No reply" and "I don't want to spoil the party" (and they are both from the Beatles- For Sale album.) What is your favorite?