John Lennon’s commitment to peace and peaceful change took the form of a variety of ‘events’, including “Bed-ins,” with conceptual artist Yoko Ono. In a Montreal hotel room in 1969 Lennon recorded “Give Peace a Chance”
Having spent several months in India studying Transcendental Meditation under the direction of the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles returned to London in April 1968. John Lennon’s song “Revolution” expressed his response to the social events that were unfolding. He chides those who uncritically embrace ‘ideological,’ socio-political solutions, while expressing his own ambiguity to ‘revolution’ – “you can count me out / in”.
In late 1968 Bob Dylan was living in seclusion with his family near Woodstock, a small town in upper New York State. In late December of 1967 Dylan released an album of musically austere, Biblically influenced songs that were parables and allegories of Dylan’s own search for salvation against the backdrop of the moral landscape of a collapsing America. Dylan references the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 21 verses 5-9: “And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and all the graven images of her gods He hath broken unto the ground.”
The Beatles songs became increasingly sophisticated, both in theme and musical complexity. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band released on June 2, 1967, was considered a high-water mark of artistic achievement. Just a few weeks after, on June 25, 1967, the Beatles recorded “All You Need is Love,” live on the “Our World” program, which was the first ‘global’ television broadcast. It was viewed by over 400 million people in 25 countries. The song captured the spirit of the “Summer of Love.”
Bruce Springsteen wrote: “I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind.” It was a ‘revolution in the head.’ In 2011 Rolling Stone magazine placed the song at the top of their ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time.’
On Sunday evening, February 9, 1964, just over two months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Over 73 million people watched the Beatles perform. Overnight, fashion and hairstyles would change dramatically, as would the sound of popular music. Their ongoing influence in the 1960s was far reaching.
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