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Black History Month

The Lasting Influence of the Beatles

Years after the Beatles broke up, their music and legacy still inspires.

by Jennie Wood
Let It Be

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On March 20, 2013, one of the most popular television series in the U.S., American Idol, dedicated an entire night to the music of the Beatles. It wasn't the first time the hit television show had done so, but the fact that the Beatles still captured so much attention forty-three years after they broke up was proof of their enduring legacy.

Here, There and Everywhere

The lasting impact of the Beatles' sound has been heard in a wide variety of musical artists throughout the years. Florence and the Machine used an echo vocal effect made popular by John Lennon on their song "Breaking Down" from the album Ceremonials (2011). Celebrated indie rock musician Shannon Wright used Beatles-inspired effects both vocally and musically on "Everybody's Got Their Own Part to Play" from her 2007 album Let in the Light.

The Beatles lasting influence has reached beyond music. Their films left a lasting impression as well. A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles' first film, was a mockumentary with a plot revolving around the Beatles making their way to a television show appearance in London. Released when Beatlemania was at its peak, the film was a huge hit and well received by critics. Later on the film inspired one of the most popular jukebox musicals of all time. Magical Mystery Tour, which first aired on BBC TV in 1967, confused viewers and critics. However, the film was important for being an early inspiration for music videos. The Yellow Submarine, an animated film released in 1968, celebrated the music of The Beatles. Well received by the public and critics, the film helped establish animation as a serious art form.

On Screen and in Print

Long after the band broke up in 1970, movies based on or inspired by them continued to be made. Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis chose the Beatles as the topic of his very first film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Zemeckis also co-wrote the film, which was a fictionalized account of the day the Beatles' first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. The 1994 film Backbeat was set during the Beatles' early days, when they were developing their sound and style by playing clubs in Hamburg, Germany. The film focused on the dynamic between John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, an original member of the Beatles. Later on, the movie was made into a stage play. Nowhere Boy, released in 2009, was a British film set during John Lennon's early years. The movie focused on Lennon's adolescence, the beginnings of his first band, The Quarrymen, and how that band became the Beatles. The film was based on a biography written by Julia Baird, Lennon's half-sister.

The Beatles influence has been well documented in books. The amount of books that have been written about the band and their music alone shows their impact. The Beatles Anthology, published in 2000 to go with a box set of DVDs, was a definitive biography and included photos from the band's personal archives. It also included interviews from the 1990s with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. A Hard Day's Write, published in 2005 and written by Steve Turner, included stories behind every Beatles song. Published in February 2013 to celebrate the fifty year anniversary of the release of their first song, "Please Please Me", The Beatles: It Was 50 Years Ago Today celebrated the band's lasting legacy.

The Beatles in the Digital Age

Forty years after their break up, the Beatles continued to sell records. In late 2010, their entire music catalog became available on iTunes. Between November 2010 and July 2012, the Beatles sold 585,000 albums and 2.8 million singles on iTunes. As of July 23, 2012, they had sold 2.3 billion albums worldwide. The Beatles were the number one artist on Billboard's Hot 100 50th anniversary list, a chart that spanned Billboard's first 50 years, from 1958 through 2008.

Because of their huge success and legacy, the Beatles set the bar in terms of milestones for other artists. In 2011, singer-songwriter Adele made headlines when she had two top-five hits on both the U.K. singles and album charts because it was the first time that had happened to a living artist since the Beatles in 1964. The Daily Mail Online headline read: Adele beats Lady Gaga and matches The Beatles.

Fifty years after the release of their first single, the Beatles continue to make an impact. The evidence of that impact can be found in current musical artists as well as the number of books still written about the band. Films inspired by and based on the Beatles are still being made. Artists continue to be measured by the band's success and popular television shows like American Idol still pay tribute to the Fab Four. In 2013, the Beatles' influence can be felt in every aspect of pop culture and shows no signs of slowing down.


Source: RIAA, Apple Records, EMI
More about the The Beatles

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