The Beatles' Message: Peace and Love

Monday, 10 Feb 2014 07:17 AM

By Jon Friedman

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In the 1960s, it wasn't quite enough that musicians delivered brilliant lyrics and groundbreaking sounds. They also had to deliver a message.

Bob Dylan galvanized young people to speak up for themselves. His best early songs championed civil rights and decried injustice. The Rolling Stones sparked feelings of rebellion. And The Beatles, the greatest band of the era and of all time, invariably promoted peace and love.

Yes, it now seems trite to repeat the title of the group's 1967 hit single, "All You Need Is Love." After all, the message corresponded to the raging Vietnam War. It somehow rings hollow today in the wake of global terrorism and violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other hot zones. But it is still the best message around.

The Beatles believed it. They have said over the years that they were proud that their songs brought people together and tried to promote positive feelings among the warring generations. When The Beatles recorded "She's Leaving Home," on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," they offered empathy for the heartbroken parents of the teenager who had packed up and split seemingly without a warning. They could easily have mocked the hapless mother and father in the song.

But instead, they a lyrical shoulder to cry on. Countless families were being ripped apart during the tumultuous late 1960s, just ask in the song.

Remember, too, John Lennon's first big song as a solo star was "Give Peace A Chance," in 1969. It may have been a coincidence that he chose this title, but probably not. Lennon morphed from a pop star to a peace spokesman. He and his wife Yoko Ono later created "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)," and it has since become one of the most played and widely beloved holiday season songs.

The Beatles could have done anything they wanted, once they made it big. They could have sung about any theme and it would have become the gospel to their loyal followers. But they pointedly chose peace and love.

It was the best gesture they could have made with their global power.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman —
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