They broke up 50 years ago. How the Beatles still bring joy in scary times

Apr 12, 2020, 2:06 PM
the beatles finances...
25th November 1963: Liverpudlian beat combo The Beatles, from left to right Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon (1940 - 1980), and George Harrison (1943 - 2001), performing in front of a camera-shaped drum kit on Granada TV's Late Scene Extra television show filmed in Manchester, England on November 25, 1963. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

Jere Hester is a journalist and author of “Raising a Beatle Baby.” He is the editor in chief of THE CITY, a New York local news site. The opinions in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles at CNN.

    (CNN) — At Mount Sinai South Nassau on New York’s Long Island, the hospital staff reportedly spins “Here Comes the Sun” on the public address system every time a coronavirus patient is discharged.

Paul McCartney is set to play the upcoming “One World: Together at Home” charity special, joining a bill that includes 18-year-old superfan Billie Eilish, nearly 60 years his junior.

“Yellow Submarine” has gained new resonance as an intergenerational singalong, crooned by neighbors through windows-turned-portholes, socially distant, but inextricably linked.

They may have broken up 50 years ago, on April 10, 1970. But the Beatles still help us come together, especially when we need it most.

So how to explain the enduring grip of a group that invaded the US in 1964 when more than two-thirds of Americans currently alive — myself included — had yet to be born?

There are some obvious answers, starting with the music — a fab force that evolved at revolution speed, going from the proto-boy band pop of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in late 1963 to the psychedelia of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” over a span of 3½ years.

Then there’s the message, embodied in “All You Need is Love.”

And, of course, there’s the humor, born in earthy Liverpool and channeled into family friendly movies from “A Hard Day’s Night” to “Yellow Submarine” that grew on mom and pop, long hair and all.

All true. But it adds up to something much bigger.

A musical legacy to share

The Beatles’ greatest gift was giving us something to share, a legacy to pass along just as stories and songs were in days of old. We’ve done it with everything from vinyl records to eight-track tapes to CDs to iTunes to Spotify and back to vinyl again.

And we do it as much for ourselves as for our children.

Seeing and hearing the discovery of the Beatles through fresh eyes and ears is life affirming and offers a sense of renewal. Dig a little deeper, and the band’s journey — the struggles, triumphs, friendships, marriages, breakups and tragedies — is life’s path writ large, filled with lessons we’ll probably ignore and pitfalls we’ll stumble into anyway, because that’s human nature.

And their story makes John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr all the more human — and eternal — to us.

Somehow, the pop culture face of a turbulent decade that cleaved the generation gap has connected families across time.

You can see it in the Boomers who bring their children and grandchildren to McCartney and Ringo Starr concerts, and flock to Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles LOVE” spectacular. You can see it the flying fingers of the kids playing The Beatles: Rock Band video game.

You can hear it in the music: Last year’s golden anniversary edition of “Abbey Road” hit No. 3 on the Billboard charts, nearly 50 years after it went to No. 1.

Much to the ire of British motorists, fans for decades have tried to recreate the iconic album cover showing the Beatles walking across the street outside their London recording studio.

It proved both brilliant and sad that transportation officials recently grabbed the opportunity to repaint the zebra crosswalk with London, like half the world, in lockdown.

Once again, the Beatles found themselves a symbol of changing times.

The Beatles remain here, there and everywhere

Starr postponed the spring tour that was to lead up to his 80th birthday — the milestone John Lennon would have reached this October. We’ve been without Lennon for almost 40 years, and George Harrison’s been gone nearly half that long.

Still, last year’s charming movie “Yesterday,” reinforced that it’s impossible to imagine a world without the Beatles.

I was 3 years old when they broke up — and they’ve always been here, there and everywhere for me.

The woman who is now my wife of nearly 30 years and I bonded over them. We raised our daughter as a Beatle baby, and traveled in the group’s footsteps through Hamburg, London and Liverpool (and one day, we hope, India).

Travel seems like one sweet dream these days for the three of us, grateful to be healthy, working and home together, with the soundtrack of our lives counterbalancing the endless ambulance sirens wailing through our Brooklyn neighborhood.

So no, I can’t imagine my life without the Beatles. And I’m not the only one.

On the first Saturday of every month, my wife, daughter and I cram into a tiny bar in Manhattan’s East Village with a few dozen other obsessives, some, like me, slinging guitars. We play and sing Beatles song for five hours — people from across generations and from across the universe, transported together.

Last week, we took the jam online. It wasn’t quite the same, but we saw one another’s smiles and we heard one another’s voices.

When it was over, everyone said the same thing: “See you next month.” Whether that will be in person or via Zoom, well, no one was prepared to say.

But we’ll be back together, connected by a band that split a half century ago, taking a sad song and making it better.

™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories


Gardening writer Jeff Lowenfels identifies five classic holiday plants: paperwhites, poinsettias, C...
JEFF LOWENFELS Associated Press

5 plants that say `holiday season,’ and how to care for them

Gardening writer Jeff Lowenfels identifies five plants that are holiday classics: paperwhites, poinsettias, Christmas trees, amaryllis and Christmas cactus.
1 day ago
Man who shot Lady Gaga's dog walker...
Taylor Romine and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Man involved in shooting Lady Gaga’s dog walker sentenced to prison

The dog walker, Ryan Fischer, was walking Lady Gaga's three French bulldogs on February 24, 2021 when he was accosted and shot.
1 day ago
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03:  Actress Kirstie Alley attends the "Kirstie" premiere party at Harlow o...
Dan Heching, Amy Simonson and Taylor Romine, CNN

Kirstie Alley, ‘Cheers’ and ‘Veronica’s Closet’ star, dead at 71

Actress Kirstie Alley has died after a brief battle with cancer, her children announced on social media.
2 days ago
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Sesame Street cast member and film subject Bob McGrath attends a ...
Dan Heching and Chris Boyette, CNN

Bob McGrath, original ‘Sesame Street’ cast member, dead at 90

Bob McGrath, an original cast member of "Sesame Street," has died, according to statements from his family and Sesame Workshop.
2 days ago
NBA Ice Buckets...
Devin Oldroyd

NBA fans invited to show “ice in their veins” at NBA Ice Buckets challenge

The NBA and Utah Jazz invite you to play NBA Ice Buckets, a free-to-play indoor basketball shooting challenge at Trolley Square.
5 days ago
Ballet West "Nutcracker" battle scene....
Waverly Golden

Ballet West continues longstanding tradition, The Nutcracker

Until Dec. 24, Ballet West will be showing performances of The Nutcracker at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
They broke up 50 years ago. How the Beatles still bring joy in scary times