You don’t listen to great songs. You experience them personally. They feel like they were written just for you. They take on different meaning each time you experience them because as your life changes and the context of the song changes.
Sometimes even a song you’ve heard a million times can sock you in the gut. This morning I had a few spare moments and watched the famous video of “Hey Jude” from The David Frost Show, in which the Beatles share a moment of joyous communion with fans on a stage. Even though I had seen the video many times, I thought, why not? About three minutes into the song, I felt myself getting choked up.
Who can say why? Maybe the power of the words and music renewed my spirit. Maybe seeing the faces of John and George reminded me of mortality and loss — and brother, I’ve lost some important people over the past few years. Maybe I wished I could have been in the room with the lucky fans singing along with the Beatles.
Perhaps all those explanations are true or none of them is. But I’m grateful a song can move me even if I can’t put my finger on the reason why. In fact, I’m glad I cannot explain my reaction. When a song becomes personal, it burrows its way into your soul to the point where you cannot properly elucidate the power of its connection, just as you cannot rationalize the power of religious faith. An emotional bond does not require explanation.
Try experiencing a beloved song you’ve not heard for a while. Does the moment still move you?
At a time when news headlines are dominated by disturbing stories about terrorism, social strife, and ugly politics, the world just found reason to rejoice: the Beatles are finally streaming their music.
After all, the Beatles don’t need streaming to continue succeeding commercially. People buy Beatles albums even as albums continue to suffer a drastic sales decline in the digital era. The Beatles anthology 1, released in November 2000, still sells 1,000 copies a week (amounting to 12 million copies sold in the United States to date), even though “there’s really no reason for anyone who owns all the records to get this too,” as Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote. (1 was also just re-released as a special edition featuring a Blu-ray surround-sound format in November 2015.) And through a relationship with Apple formed in 2010, the music of the Fab Four has continued to sell in digital format even as downloading gives way to streaming.
I believe the answer comes down to legacy. Especially Paul McCartney’s.
Those were the words the New York Herald Tribune used in dismissing the historic appearance of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show February 9, 1964. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but the Herald Tribune completely scoffed at one of the most famous moments in television history, which is widely regarded as ground zero for the launch of Beatlemania in the United States. Fifty years later, news media ranging from Rolling Stone to Late Night with David Letterman are celebrating that fabled night when 40 percent of the entire United States was glued to their television sets and willingly acquiesced to the music, charisma, and energy of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. But as I noted in a new presentation I’ve uploaded to SlideShare, Five Lessons Musicians Can Learn from Beatlemania, the Beatles had to endure their share of rejection and scorn from the mainstream news media even as the American record-buying public was embracing them. The band’s ability to rise above the critics and win over the influencers is one of the lessons I believe today’s artists can learn from Beatlemania.
To be sure, by early 1964, the Beatles were already the most popular act in their native United Kingdom and were rapidly ascending in the United States, thanks to the power of their single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” But mainstream influencers simply did not understand them — neither their music (which was too different and too loud), their appearance (their hair was just too long), nor their adoring fans (who were too emotional and devoted). After all, only one month before the Beatles arrived, the Number One song in the United States was “Dominique” by the Singing Nun. And then along came the Beatles, brimming with sex appeal, to sing “All My Loving” on Ed Sullivan. The Herald Tribune was not the only doubter. “Visually, they are a nightmare . . . musically, they are a near disaster,” scoffed Newsweek. “America had better take thought as to how it will deal with the invasion . . . Indeed a restrained ‘Beatles go home’ might be just the thing,” reacted the Baltimore Sun to Beatlemania.
The Beatles didn’t simply endure critics: they won them over. From the start, they always understood how to charm and wow the influencers who were so critical to building their fan base. In their home country, they famously Continue reading →