There was a bit of joking around amongst some in the sports media recently concerning the fact that Sacramento Kings’ basketball player DeMarcus Cousins had never heard of Paul McCartney. Well, I didn’t know who DeMarcus Cousins was before this story broke, and I attended McCartney’s appearance at the Tacoma Dome during his “Back in the US” tour in 2002, so it is all “square.” I know great music that stands the test of time, and the Beatles were the greatest “pop” act of all-time, because virtually every song they recorded had “hit” potential (well, maybe not “Revolution #9,” a recording which still testifies to the greatness of the band); most musical acts are fortunate to record even one song that people remember. When there is a need of a song that reflect a certain feeling or emotion in a film, the rap or hip-hop “songs” that Cousins’ listens to just don’t fit the “bill”—the “old” songs have to be taken out of mothballs to provide that.
On one of the national sports radio programs there was a discussion about whether the Beatles were “over-rated” because they only “lasted” a decade. Yes, the Beatles were a “phenomenon” and “revolutionized” the culture during their time in the spotlight. But they were a “product” of their times, and other bands like the Rolling Stones hung around a lot longer than they did, and U2 was more “relevant” because they contributed to various “causes.” I mean, how does that detract from the Beatles greatness? In six-and-half years they had 20 number one hits and 33 top-tens in the U.S. How is that not a mindboggling statistic? How does that make them “over-rated? After the group split, their “relevance” did not suddenly “disappear”; John, Paul, George and Ringo combined for 15 number one and 41 top-ten hits as solo acts—even lowly Starr had a string of seven straight top-ten hits, and his number one hit “Photograph” is my second favorite Beatles’ solo hit (behind Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”). 35 number one hits and 74 top-ten hits from 1964 to 1989; how is this not impressive beyond any reasonable measure? How is this not evidence of the greatness of the band and its musical output?
None of this happened by “accident.” No other act had a core group that everyone knew their names and what role they played in the band’s success. Save for Elvis Presley, the Beatles left everyone else in the dust. They were a cultural phenomenon of their time, but their music lives on—the lack of education and the ignorance of many notwithstanding. Today’s so-called “musicians” could learn a great deal from the past about what real art is.