The Beatles

The Beatles, English rock music group formed in the late 1950s and disbanded in 1970. The members were John (Winston) Lennon, 1940–80, guitar and harmonica; (James) Paul McCartney, 1942–, guitar and piano; George Harrison, 1943–2001, guitar and sitar; and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), 1940–, drums. All were born in Liverpool, England. Influenced by such American performers as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley, The Beatles dominated rock music in the 1960s, eventually disbanding when they felt their possibilities as a group were exhausted. The lyrics and music for most of their songs were written by Lennon and McCartney.

The group burst on the international rock music scene in 1961. Their initial appeal derived as much from their wit, Edwardian clothes, and moplike haircuts as from their music. By 1963 they were the objects of wild adoration and were constantly followed by crowds of shrieking adolescent girls. By the late 1960s, "Beatlemania" had abated somewhat, and The Beatles were highly regarded by a broad spectrum of music lovers.

From 1963 to 1970 the group released 18 record albums that clearly document its musical development. The early recordings, such as Meet The Beatles (1964), are remarkable for their solid rhythms and excitingly rich, tight harmony. The middle albums, like Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966), evolved toward social commentary in their lyrics ( "Eleanor Rigby," "Taxman" ) and introduced such instruments as the cello, trumpet, and sitar. In 1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band marked the beginning of The Beatles' final period, which is characterized by electronic techniques and allusive, drug-inspired lyrics. The Beatles' musical experimentation in the recording studio involved all of the members as well as their most important collaborator, their producer and audio engineer George Martin (1926–2016). The group acted and sang in four films: A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help! (1965), Magical Mystery Tour (1968), and Let It Be (1970), which are notable for their exuberance, slapstick, and satire. They also were animated characters in the full-length cartoon, Yellow Submarine (1968). After they disbanded, all the band members continued to compose and record songs. In 1980, Lennon was shot to death by a fan, Mark Chapman. McCartney was knighted in 1997.

See John Lennon, In His Own Write (1964, repr. 2000) and J. S. Wenner, ed., Lennon Remembers: The Rolling Stone Interviews (2000); B. Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise (1964); H. Davies, The Beatles (1968, repr. 1996); W. Mellers, Twilight of the Gods (1974); P. Norman, Shout! (1981); R. DiLello, The Longest Cocktail Party (1972, repr. 1983); T. Riley, Tell Me Why (1988); M. Lewisohn, The Beatles Recording Sessions (1988), The Beatles Day by Day (1990), The Complete Beatles Chronicles (1992), and The Beatles: All These Years (Tune In, Vol. 1, 2013); I. MacDonald, Revolution in the Head (1994); M. Hertsgaard, A Day in the Life (1995); The Beatles Anthology (video, 1995; book, 2000); B. Miles, Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now (1997); B. Spitz, The Beatles: The Biography (2005); P. Norman, John Lennon: The Life (2008) and Paul McCartney: The Life (2016); P. A. Carlin, Paul McCartney: A Life (2009); K. Womack, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

The Beatles: Selected full-text books and articles

John Lennon: A Biography By Jacqueline Edmondson Greenwood, 2010
An Insider's Account of the Beatles' American Invasion By Brown, Peter Newsweek, Vol. 162, No. 6, February 7, 2014
The Beatles and Wales By David Jones St. David's, 2002
Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954-1984 By Jim Curtis Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987
Librarian's tip: Chap. 11 "On Beatlemania"
The Space between the Notes: Rock and the Counter-Culture By Sheila Whiteley Routledge, 1992
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "The Beatles"
American Popular Music: Readings from the Popular Press By Timothy E. Scheurer Bowling Green State University Popular Press, vol.2, 1989
Librarian's tip: "Iconic Modes: The Beatles" begins on p. 151
The Beatles as Musical Experimentalists. (Forum on the Arts) By Thurmaier, David Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Vol. 83, No. 2, Spring 2003
Rock and Roll: A Social History By Paul Friedlander Westview Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "The Beatles: Because the World Is Round It Turns, Me On"
Cultural Revolution? The Challenge of the Arts in the 1960s By Bart Moore-Gilbert; John Seed Routledge, 1992
Librarian's tip: "The Beatles, 1964" begind on p. 206
John, Paul, Jorge, and Ringo: Borges, Beatles, and the Metaphor of Celebrity Crucifixion By Timmons, Nathan Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Vol. 23, No. 3, Fall 2011
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