GUEST COMMENTARY: Beatles changed popular music

The author is a freelance writer and editor of UpstateLive.com. This is the second of a two-part series written in conjunction with Paul McCartney’s show July 5 at the Times Union Center. Part one appeared last week.

One of the reasons the Beatles remain so important is because of the cultural role they played at a critical point in history.

In the wake of World War II, the rise of the baby boomers, the exponential growth of globalism — aided by both the beginnings of satellite telecommunications and the initiation of commercial transatlantic jet travel — and the emergence of acoustic-magnetic recording and a convergence of audio playback technologies, the Beatles were the most successful performers out of the gate. Their recordings, indeed their career, helped to define the popular-music industry in such a way that they shaped the very artistic vehicles used by artists today.

Yes, Lady Gaga is building on Lady Madonna in a way.

So explains the appeal McCartney has upon today’s youth. The fingerprints left behind by The Beatles of yesterday are still evident, if not through music than by avant garde choices in fashion. Though it can be safely assumed that part of McCartney’s popularity is fueled behind a Baby-boom generation that ages along with him, the simplicity of and the diversity within the group’s catalogue of music has an appeal for everyone.

Today, Beatle Mania is no longer an event, but a shared phenomenon enhanced by the many means in which fans use to listen to music.  The same tools used to disseminate details on current events, draws generations together in a shared memory.

“They were modernists in an era when parents wanted things to return to an imagined happier pre-Cold War era,” said Dr. Gordon Thompson, the music department chair for Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. “In an era of presidential assassinations, brutally repressed civil-rights marches, and an increasingly angry and dangerous world that seemed right on our doorstep, the Beatles irreverently espoused innocence. Rather than duck and cover in fear of an atomic bomb, the Beatles told us to live and be funny doing so.”

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