Fifty years ago, in April, The Beatles broke up. But they remained so relevant that even the coronavirus crisis is borrowing from it. Their fun romantic song I Wanna Hold Your Hand has now been remastered to I Gotta Wash My Hands.
Another song that has acquired a new dimension altogether now is Here Comes the Sun, penned by George Harrison for a change, an oft-overlooked member of the band. A US hospital plays the song every time a patient recovers from coronavirus.
New Yorkers have been singing The Beatles’ songs during the lockdown.
So, how does a band that was together only for seven years still remain a glue between people and generations, even during a pandemic?
Decades of after-shock
The band was arguably the most popular band in the world. The first time John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison were seen as a band was on 22 August 1962 and the last photograph of the four Beatles was taken exactly seven years later on 22 August 1969.
But they still managed to leave albums that the world would tune into decades later. Every new generation has fans of The Beatles, some phase of Beatlesmania and some controversial opinions on John Lennon-Yoko Ono.
Not to mention the Indian fans who still get a kick out of the fact that the band visited the country and that there is a Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh.
I, personally, discovered the Beatles only when I was 15, but thank god I did. When one is under lockdown and working from home, the songs that you grew up listening to offer you a strange sort of comfort. Hearing Lennon sing “Nothing is real/ nothing to get hung about” from Strawberry Fields Forever, offers you the solace you need that, perhaps, in the end it will be okay.
For many now, The Beatles has become an enigma. American essayist Adam Gopnik puts it best, “There is something eerie, fated, cosmic about the Beatles — those seven quick years of fame and then decades of after-shock.”
Now, 50 years, 213 songs and 13 studio albums later — The Beatles endure on. One of the reasons The Beatles still endures is a good marketing strategy. In 2019, the group’s music was streamed 1.7 billion times and interestingly enough, by those in the 18-24 age group. And coronavirus has given it another lease of life.
Aside from the songs, the Beatles continue to grab headlines in other ways. Some good, the late George Harrison’s foundation donated $50,000 to the battle against coronavirus. Some, well, not so good, McCartney recently came under fire for blaming the ‘wet markets’ of China for the virus and also saying, “They might as well be, you know, letting off atomic bombs because this is affecting the whole world”.
Poetry through lyrics
McCartney and Lennon together were a force to be reckoned with. While the music was obviously a strong selling point, the poetry that their lyrics conveyed were intrinsic to The Beatles. These lyrics are evocative, poignant, and chronicled lives in such a stark manner that it’s like they’re talking about you and me.
This lyric could have easily been about before and after coronavirus: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away / Now it looks as though they’re here to stay / Oh, I believe in yesterday”.
The Beatles always have a sense of familiarity — pandemic or not. They make you feel happy, make you feel glad and make you feel normal — and right now when normal is in short stock, that is more than what you can ask for.
Views are personal.