Ah, the swinging 60s. I didn’t come around for another 30 years, but if I could borrow Emmett Brown’s time machine, that’s the decade I’d choose to go back to. Or maybe the 70s for Abba, but that’s a whole other post.
I sometimes feel like I was born in the wrong decade. 70% of the music I listen to is from the 60s and 70s, and, gee, what I’d give to have grown up with Northern Soul and Motown.
I think a lot of the music we listen to when we’re kids is inspired by our parents. My Mum and Dad would spend Sunday mornings listening to Motown classics or, if my Dad made it downstairs first, we would awake to the sounds of classic rock albums by the likes of David Bowie and Rod Stewart. While my friends were listening to whatever happened to be in the charts, I was going home to listen to my parents’ records by The Four Tops and Thin Lizzy.
I can’t quite remember the day or where I was, but I remember hearing “Let It Be” by The Beatles for the first time and thinking: “What is this song?”, “Who sings it?”, and “How have I never heard it before?”
I think everyone has ‘their song’, right? Well that’s mine. I even have ‘Let it be’ tattooed on me, I know, I know, I’m a walking cliche. After hearing that song, my ‘obsession’ for The Beatles began.
When you delve into the life and works of The Beatles, it’s obvious their music changed everything that the industry had ever seen before; their lyrics were different, their lifestyles intriguing, and their fan base... insane. But if you delve a little more and look into how The Beatles were formed and how they came to be so successful, you soon start to see some patterns emerge—patterns we can all use as lessons in life. Here’s 5 of them...
Let it be: Of course, this would be number 1. Some people assume there’s a religious element to the song “Let It Be”; “Mother Mary comes to me.” But Mother Mary isn’t the biblical one, she’s quite literally Paul McCartney’s Mum. During a time of paranoid anxiety, Paul had a dream that his Mum, who was dead, came to visit him and told him to “let it be”. It’s a message of hope and of positivity. We can’t control everything in life, sometimes we need to let it be. Hence, “When I find myself in times of trouble...”. Now that you know that, you should listen to the song, it’s really quite beautiful. Life lesson: sometimes you gotta let it be.
Don’t doubt yourself: It’s so easy to doubt ourselves, but there’s a lot of people who will do that for you. When the world is doubting you, make it your goal to keep the faith. The Beatles are a rag to riches, they had their fair share of knock-backs. Record labels told them that “guitar groups were fading out”, but the guys kept persevering and convinced Polydor to give them a shot. The rest is history, as they say. Can you imagine modern music without the impact The Beatles had on it? Life lesson: keep the faith.
Don’t follow the crowd: At a time where bands played covers and had lead singers, The Beatles rejected all that. There was no clear lead singer in The Beatles and they chose to write their own songs. Before The Beatles, almost no performers wrote their own lyrics/songs—that’s hard to imagine nowadays in a world that demands authenticity. The Beatles never got lazy and kept taking risks even at the peak of their successes. Life lesson: take chances.
Practise: Do you know how The Beatles got really good? They performed 8-hour stretches at strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany. EIGHT-HOUR PERFORMANCES. The trip is legendary now. When they returned to Liverpool, their local fans couldn’t believe how much better they sounded. I’m not saying we should all perform our talents for 8 hours in strip clubs, unless that’s your thing, but the message is there: practise until you’re good, then practise until you’re great, then practise some more. Life lesson: stay focused, keep at it.
Don’t be threatened by others: This is something I’ve wanted to scream at people in the past, normally in working environments. John Lennon formed the band that eventually became The Beatles and he was unquestionably the initial ‘leader’, but when Paul McCartney and George Harrison came along and wanted in on the band, he embraced them because he knew intuitively that their talent could make him and the group better. He wasn’t afraid to let them flourish and that’s something a lot of people could learn from. Be open to the talent of others — it just might help you become the next big thing. Life lesson: encourage talent; embrace everyone’s skills.
We all know their music is unparalleled. The sheer diversity and depth of their music cannot be rivaled. Gifted writers, artists, actors, and activists—they were quite exceptional, these four guys from Liverpool.
I think one reason that they continue to affect lives and change lives is that they taught us, and maybe still are teaching us, some life lessons we all need to hear from time to time. Who said they were just four decent singers, right?
Photographed: My photo from the Lennon Wall in Prague.