One of our most popular professors is Boston University’s Jeremy Yudkin, who has lectured for us many times on a number of subjects. A favorite is his lecture titled The Beatles, The Sixties, And Popular Culture, during which Professor Yudkin explores the 1960s, the power and the lasting impact of the Beatles. The video above and text below is an excerpt from the talk.
Jeremy Yudkin / Boston University
There’s almost no single truism about One Day University that applies to 100% of our “adult students” But here’s one that come pretty close…they’re all Beatle fans. This lecture titled The Beatles, The Sixties, And Popular Culture was presented by Boston University’s Jeremy Yudkin, one of the only professors in the country who teaches a full semester class on John, Paul, George and Ringo….
Many books have been released discussing individual geniuses, but there’s a recent book titled “The Power of Two”, written by Joshua Shenk that examines how genius is often combined into two people rather than in just one. He gives examples of Pierre and Marie Curie, as well as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who worked together at Apple so brilliantly. The actual subtitle of the book is “Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs”. I truly think that Paul McCartney and John Lennon were such a pair. In fact, when they eventually separated it was like a divorce, and Paul even referred to John as his former fiancé. The Beatles remarkable music, specifically the songs of Lennon and McCartney have been described as “single strands twisting into a mutually strengthening double helix.”
Between 1962 and 1970 The Beatles released 22 singles, several EPs and 11 albums. Sales records charted more than 50 top 40 hit singles. They were the first British pop group to achieve major success in the United States and they scored 22 number one hits in the USA alone. It is calculated that the band has now sold over two billion albums, and not long ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance in the United States. That evening the Ed Sullivan Show was watched by 73 million people – at that time over a third of the entire population of the country. And of course, The Beatles absolutely produced lots of different kinds of music. Folk, rock, country, rockabilly, soul blues, doo-wop – and they invented new genres like psychedelic. Stringed instruments and baroque trumpets and horns brought their music into the realm of art music and now three generations of fans have cemented. That evening the Ed Sullivan Show was watched by 73 million people, that essentially cemented their reputation as the most influential band ever.
The total number of songs in the Beatles Canon is 211. A survey of my students in my Boston University classes reveals that they have huge numbers of Beatles songs on their cell phones, in some cases more than any other group. All this is, of course, discussed a full 50 years after the band broke up. American and English culture of the 1960s is reflected more in the music of the Beatles than in that of any other group. The rise of the Beatles coincided with a vital shift in the relationship between the two countries and a change in the significance, relevance, and artistic ambitions of popular music.
And finally, here’s my thoughts about the huge amount of new music released by Paul McCartney post-beak-up – as recently as last month. I’m a fan, I know not everyone is though. His popularity as a solo artist is matched by only a handful of others in rock history. He topped the charts after the Beatles break-up nine times, a mark surpassed by just a few artists, including of course the Beatles.
Jeremy Yudkin is Professor of Music and and Director of the Center for Beethoven Research at Boston University. In 2009 he won the Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections for his book “Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop.” He has been nominated six times for Boston University’s Excellence in Teaching Awards.