Last night we watched the CBS-TV special marking the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was refreshing to hear today’s top pop artists doing some amazing renditions of the old Beatles favorites – Maroon 5, Dave Grohl, Pharrell Williams singing with the cast of The Beatles LOVE show, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart reunited as Eurythmics, Dhani Harrison performing alongside Joe Walsh and Jeff Lynne, Stevie Wonder… They all gave incredible performances. My two favorites were an OUTSTANDING rendition of “Yesterday” by Katy Perry, and John Mayer & Keith Urban doing a knockout version of “Don’t Let Me Down”. Oh yeh – don’t let me forget the killer version of “Let It Be” by Alicia Keys & John Legend on piano duet! And of course, Ringo & Paul did some numbers each before teaming up. A really wonderful, heart-opening, fun show. (But what was up with Johnny Depp?!)
Of course, who doesn’t like the Beatles’ music? It is unique that a rock band’s appeal spans so many generations, being loved by young and old alike. They had such musical diversity and a huge output during their decade-long career, from fun-loving happy love songs to brooding commentary on the changing times to psychedelic experiments, all the while re-defining what rock ‘n roll was, busting musical genres, and breaking boundaries in the recording technology of the day as well.
I consider the emergence of The Beatles in the 1960’s a spiritual phenomenon. Just 77 days after the brutal assassination of America’s most beloved President John F. Kennedy, a record-breaking 73 million households tuned in to the Ed Sullivan show at 8pm on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964 to watch The Beatles’ debut performance in the US. (By comparison, just 28 million people tuned in to watch the Grammies last month.) Little did Americans realize that with the death of the President and the rise of the new cultural phenomenon of The Beatles, also came the death of short hair for men, strict gender roles, stay-at-home moms, sexual repression, men singing falsetto & doo-wop, womens’ white shoes/purses/gloves in spring & summer and black shoes/purses/gloves in fall & winter. What did the Beatles bring that was so powerful it changed our entire way of life?
A therapist friend of mine, who is an avid follower of Carl Jung & Rudolf Steiner, told me that the Beatles represent the Perfect Quaternity – the Four Temperaments. That is a proto-psychological theory (popularized by Greek physician Hippocrates in the 4th century BC) that suggests that there are four fundamental personality types, sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable), choleric (ambitious and leader-like), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful). Paul McCartney is the sanguine, John Lennon the choleric, George Harrison the melancholic, and Ringo Starr the phlegmatic. Together, the Fab Four made up the Perfect Whole – a powerful energy for Transformation – ushering in a new Spirit for the times.
Another friend in San Francisco, Steve Wagner, is working on a documentary entitled “All You Need is Myth“. He and his co-writer Jade Sylvan hosted a live multi-media presentation in Somerville, MA yesterday, in honor of the Beatles’ 50th Anniversary on Ed Sullivan as well. In the presentation, they explore the Beatles’ deep mythic impact and wide-ranging cultural significance. The film they are working on shows the mythology (a la Joseph Campbell) behind not just the Beatles, but many of the rock gods of the day. Their intention is to bring to light the enduring spiritual resonance of the Beatles, showing how their legendary story contains archetypes, symbols, and narratives that parallel classic savior mythologies of the past, while offering a new mythic vision for the modern age.
I can see how the Beatles served as a savior archetype after the intense disillusionment following Kennedy’s public “execution”. Although I was raised Catholic, I fell away from the church when I was 11, but I often think of all the Christians still waiting for the return of the Savior – the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I often wonder – what if Jesus already came and we didn’t recognize him? History does have a tendency to repeat itself. I mean, if Jesus would have come in the 20th century, he would have been modern, wouldn’t he? Different than the Bible stories I grew up with, he would have acted differently, dressed differently, he would have used mass communication to get out his message of peace and love. Come to think of it, we had such a character in the 70’s – John Lennon. And Yoko Ono bears some resemblance to the Mary Magdalene archetype. Could it be we crucified him once again?!