The Beatles have influenced the world in unimaginable ways. “Beatlemania: extreme enthusiasm for the Beatles, as manifested in the frenzied behavior of their fans in the 1960s” (Oxford Languages). The Beatles have sold over 600 million albums worldwide (CBS). 600 million is an unfathomable number but in the case of the Beatles, it makes complete sense. The Beatles were a group of British men composed of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. These men met through the involvement of different bands. In 1957, at age sixteen, John Lennon had formed a group called ‘The Quarrymen’ and met future Beatle, Paul McCartney, at the Quarrymen’s second performance. Paul, aged fifteen, ended up joining John’s group shortly after meeting. About a year after Paul joined the Quarrymen, his friend, George Harrison auditioned to join the band. At first, John thought George was too young to be in the band, because George is three years younger than John. With some pushing from Paul, and being that he was such an impressive guitarist, John allowed George to join the band as the lead guitarist. So, then there were three. The three men went all around the Liverpool area playing rock and roll to whoever would listen. After going through a few different band’s names, they were inspired by John’s friend to be called ‘The Beatles’. Obviously, the name stuck. By 1962, the Beatles brought Ringo Starr in as their drummer and had gotten a record deal with a label called ‘Parlophone’. Even though the famous Beatles were only together for eight years, they took the world by storm. Less than two years later, the Beatles had their big break: The Ed Sullivan Show in New York. After their debut performance, there was no going back. For a multitude of reasons, the Beatles have left the most lasting impact on society than any other band.
When the 1960s are brought up, the Beatles are thought of right away. The Beatles undoubtedly defined the 1960s decade as a whole. They were huge activists and helped lead a social and cultural revolution. First off, they were huge influencers on liberal values. In an article from Spinditty, author Danielle Frendo acknowledges their impact: “While ‘My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is one of the songs which reflects the band’s stance in the political world. Lennon was known to be very aware of what was going on in society and how people were dividing themselves into extreme groups according to their different values. His concern about social conflicts is best illustrated in his solo ‘Imagine’”.
Those are only a few examples of songs that took a left-leaning stance. Other songs like ‘Taxman’ and ‘Revolution’ were also extremely anti-war, with ‘Revolution’ being directly about the Vietnam War. ‘Imagine’ (not directly by the Beatles, but directly affiliated), is one of the most popular songs ever created. It is a peace anthem, with the lyrics: “Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger. A brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you”. Along with pushing liberal values, the Beatles spoke out about civil rights as well. Paul McCartney wrote the song ‘Blackbird’ about the hardships happening in the southern of the USA. In his biography, written by Barry Miles, McCartney describes his thought process behind this song: “I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird…so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith; there is hope”. Paul saying this was an unprecedented move for this time period. This greatly impacted the generation of people who listened to the Beatles, proving another reason why the band was so influential.
Other than outright helping move along with the civil rights movement, the Beatles admired black musicians and music style and exposed black culture to large audiences. In fact, in the ‘We’re History’ article by Hugh Willett, he explains how often the Beatles were inspired by black musicians: “McCartney covered ‘That’s Alright (Mama)’ (on a BBC radio show on July 2nd, 1963), but the Beatles covered far more songs from black groups to showcase on their LPs. …all of the covers from ‘Please Please Me’ (‘Chains’, ‘Boys’, ‘Baby It’s You’, ‘A Taste of Honey’, ‘Twist and Shout’, and ‘Anna (Go to Him)’) were done originally by black artists…”.
With it being the 1960s when all of those songs came out, there were still huge issues with civil rights, and since the Beatles were so huge, this was a great step forward in the equality movement. Another way the Beatle’s embraced equality is that they could have been feminists, but in the 60s it was not necessarily called feminism, as that was not an established term quite yet. Women were not portrayed well in rock and roll in the 60s (and 70s too). They were sung about as if they were objects unintelligent. The Beatles began to change the way women were being portrayed. In an interview with Kenneth Womack, he talks about how they did this: “They [the Beatles] created a very specific type of female character who would think for herself and did not need a man. And that is revelatory, really. We have many songs that begin to appear at that point that are highly progressive about women living their own interests and aims and pleasure, as opposed to serving some undefinable other” (Pazzanese).
Now, it is not to be said that the Beatles were the best examples of women empowerment, but they were way ahead of all the other musicians at the time than all of the surrounding musicians at their time. Nowadays, people can appreciate how they indirectly influenced a feminist movement, but that was not exactly on their radar. They were more focused on peace and anti-war movements, as mentioned before. The last point about the Beatles social and cultural impact is their influence on idealism and transcendentalism. Many of their songs speak to philosophical ideas. The way that the Beatles got to thinking about some of these big ideas were done through ingesting drugs; which was very controversial. Lauren Simpson-Green explains the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ in an article in Fractal Enlightenment: “This song might signify the Beatles as front-line leaders of the progressive movement in the sixties and the reference to strawberry fields seems obvious, especially with Lennon as the lead songwriter… The song also references the popular belief that the universe is a hologram, or entirely illusory. Life is an experiment, an exploration and reality malleable”.
This is one example of many others that the Beatles wrote in their career. Transcendental ideas were extremely popular in the 60s, because of the hippie movement and the ramping up of protests relating to the Vietnam War. Their songs resonated with so many people because of their incredible lyricism and deeper meanings. The lyrics were a comfort to people who did not want to go along with the status quo of their generation, making the Beatles into a phenomenon.
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Another huge reason why the Beatles have influenced music so much is because they experimented with their music a whole lot. They used many different unconventional ideas such as reorganizing the pattern of songs and using interesting and new techniques. In their song ‘I Feel Fine’, the first intentional use of feedback sound is used. This was an extremely new idea, and they were not the first to release a song with this sound, but the first to feature it. Another time the band used a different technique is in their songwriting of the hit ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Almost all of their previous songs, before this one, were very upbeat and fairly positive, but this one is a depressing tale that does not have a pleasant ending. Lines like “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door, who is it for?”, “Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear”, and “died in the church and was buried along with her name, nobody came”, these are not typical lyrics for a rock song. Along with the melancholy storyline, this was one of the first top charting rock songs that did not have traditional ‘rock’ instruments like drums and guitars. This song has an eight-piece string section, which was very unconventional for a rock song; and it still is one of the most popular Beatles songs to this day.
It has been established that the Beatles rocked the world (figuratively and literally). But the impact they had on society is unmatched. A huge shock to American culture was the infamous 1964 ‘British Invasion’. The beginning of this was the performance that the Beatles gave on The Ed Sullivan show (mentioned earlier). A quote from directly after that performance describes the beginnings of the phenomenon well: “Early in 1964, Life magazine put it like this: ‘In  England lost her American colonies. Last week the Beatles took them back’” (Puterbaugh). The series of events in this time was called the ‘British Invasion’ because other British bands such as The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, The Searchers, The Hollies, The Animals, The Kinks and more were becoming huge in the USA. The Beatles presence was truly unbeatable, though. Then comes the phenomenon of Beatlemania, an Oxford Dictionary term, mentioned much earlier. Young Americans adored the Beatles, they loved everything about them. It was said by older adults that there was hysteria in the USA during the time of Beatlemania. But Beatlemania was one of the best events to happen in the 1960s. It truly unified an entire generation, they found solidarity in the band. There are many reasons why people loved the four men so much, but the biggest one was the fresh idealism that the Beatles brought to society.
With the phenomenon of Beatlemania happening in the USA, naturally, a Beatle ‘look’ was born. At first, the ‘mop top’ hairstyle was made extremely popular because of the group. Then it moved to collarless suits and pointed boots, then colorful clothing, then white suits. Whatever the Beatles wore everyone else wore it to. It can be confidently said that they helped define 1960s fashion. Another way the Beatles were influencing American culture was by their ‘unclean’ image. With Beatlemania infiltrating everything in the USA, the image of the band mattered a lot. But the men did not have the most ‘PG’ image. They did drugs, danced unconventionally, and did not censor themselves.
This is something that the young generations looked up to, and oftentimes the 60s are known as a time where teens were trying lots of psychedelics; this had a lot to do with the Beatles influence.
Another immense point of the Beatles influence is their impact on other musicians. In an article by Rob Hughs, in a classic rock magazine, many musicians are brought up that have been inspired by the Beatles. Brian Wilson, (of the popular band, The Beach Boys) has said to have been very inspired by them: “‘No one had heard that in rock‘n’roll back then’, Wilson said, referring to the Beatles’ use of sitar and other exotica. ‘It really did inspire the instrumentation I ended up using for Pet Sounds’” (Hughs).
Wilson is one of many musicians who have credited the Beatles. Many of these musicians were so inspired by them because of their talent in performing so many different types of music: country, pop, soul, psychedelic, etc. Thousands of artists have covered songs by the Beatles, with their hit song, ‘Yesterday’, being covered over 2,200 times (BBC). Music would not be the same if the Beatles had not come around.
Lastly, the long-lasting influence of the Beatles has kept their popularity nearly as high as it was in the 60s. They have been featured in hundreds of television shows, movies, books, video games, merchandise, and more. As of lately, there was the 2019 hit movie ‘Yesterday’, and even ‘The Beatles: Rock Band’ video game was released. With music apps such as Spotify and Apple becoming so popular, younger generations are listening to the original music released in the 60s. The statistics of the Beatles music is so incredible, they were streamed 1.7 billion times in just 2019 alone (CNBC). The music of the Beatles is still topping the charts to this day, with their 50th anniversary edition of ‘Abbey Road’ hitting number one on the U.K. charts and number three in the USA’s Billboard 200 (CNBC). Another promising percentage is written in a CNBC article: “The group doing 30% of that streaming is between the ages of 18 and 24, followed by 25- to 29-year-olds, at 17%. That means almost half of the streaming is coming from people under the age of 30” (Bukszpan). Because younger people are continuing to listen to their music, the Beatles will not be leaving the charts anytime in the near future.
To draw to a close, countless arguments support the fact that the Beatles have left the most lasting impact on society of any band. Whether it be the social and cultural revolutions they spearheaded, their unconventional writing style, their Beatlemania phenomenon, their influence on fashion and other musicians, or their current day popularity, every reason is admirable. The Beatles did change the history of the world, and defined an entire generation. Without them, the 1960s and beyond would not be the way it is today. As the original Beatlemania generation goes away, the Beatles will continue to thrive with younger generations for many years to come. The four teens from the United Kingdom never knew the impact they would have on the world, but it is now known that what they did that day on The Ed Sullivan Show only positively changed history forever.