Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The Beatles “live on”?

On NPR this week, the featured This I Believe essay is by a twelve-year-old girl called Macklin Levine, from New York City. She calls her essay “The Beatles Live On”, and it starts like this:

I believe in The Beatles. Although they don’t exist anymore, their music is very much alive, even to a 12-year-old like me. As old as the songs are, you can learn a lot about yourself from the lyrics. Listening to them with others and singing along has been important to me and to my family.

Listening to The Beatles was always important to me, too. When I was young, I had two record albums that my parents gave me, and that I played over and over, never tiring of them. One was the soundtrack album of My Fair Lady; the other was Meet the Beatles, their first recording on Capitol Records. “LPs”, we called them then, and these were both in mono sound, not stereo.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you,
Tomorrow I’ll miss you,
Remember I’ll always be true.
And then while I’m away,
I’ll write home every day,
And I’ll send all my loving to you.

But wait; what was that that Macklin Levine said? “As old as the songs are,” eh, what?

No, no, no, these songs are not old. You’re mistaken, Macklin. Yip Harburg’s songs are old. Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, their songs are old. Not The Beatles!

You’re giving me the same old line,
I’m wond’ring why.
You hurt me then.
You’re back again.
No, no, no, not a second time.

Ah, but, yes... yes... perspective, Barry, perspective. That album just turned 45 years old. That album is 33 years older than Macklin. It’s likely older than Macklin’s dad, who died too young. But it all seems timeless to me. It seems such a short time ago that I put that record on the player for the first time, at the age of seven.

Little child,
Little child,
Little child, won’t you dance with me?
I’m so sad and lonely,
Baby take a chance with me.


This reminds me of a flight home from Paris. There was a young woman in the seat next to me, who was reading a book. When she took a break from it I asked her what she was reading, and she showed me the cover: Slaughterhouse Five. Kurt Vonnegut. “I loved that book,” I said. “I read it in high school.”

“Oh,” she replied, genuinely surprised. “I didn’t know it was that old.”

The Beatles don’t exist anymore but their music will live in everyone forever. I believe in The Beatles because their music brings people together, and gives us hope.
I don’t know that I agree that they don’t exist any more. Is there a difference, really, between them and their music? As long as their music is here, don’t they still “exist”? They don’t make new music, of course, and two of the people are dead. But are The Beatles really the people? Or is it the art that’s the real essence, the real existence?

In any case, their music certainly does still bring people together.

Oh, please, say to me,
You’ll let me be your man.
And please say to me,
You’ll let me hold your hand.
Now let me hold your ha-a-and,
I wanna hold your hand.

1 comment:

WM Irwin said...

Looking back, it seems strange how pressured the Beatles (and other recording artists) were back in the sixties to produce so many albums PER YEAR. No wonder that they got tired of each other and broke up! Still, even though they had a relatively short life span compared to today's successful acts, their cumulative output still exceeds most, both in quantity and (especially) quality.