Beatlemania Is Back: America Honors the Band’s 50th Anniversary

Source: U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America, an event that changed the course of music and pop culture history. The group is being honored by different organizations to mark the event, and there’s a hefty amount of Beatles nostalgia in the air.

Rolling Stone has honored the group with a cover and an in-depth article exploring the implications of the Beatles’ entrance into the American music scene in 1964. On February 9 that year, the Beatles kicked off their three-night stint on the Ed Sullivan Show with a performance that would go down in music and television history; the Rolling Stone piece gives the little-known details of the events leading up to that night.

The group’s record label, the American press, and even the band itself were not convinced the group would be able to make a foothold in America, but of course, the rest is history. Almost half of the American population tuned in to that performance on February 9, and by the next day, almost everyone in the U.S. knew who the Beatles were.

It was announced on Tuesday that the group will be honored by the New York Port Authority with a plaque in JFK Airport’s Central Terminal, marking where the group arrived in the U.S. and held its first American press conference.

The Late Show with David Letterman, which films in Ed Sullivan Theater, is hosting a Beatles week for the anniversary. On Monday night, Broken Bells performed a cover of “And I Love Her.” On Tuesday evening, Sting and guest Ivy Levan performed “Drive My Car.” John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s son, Sean Lennon, is set to perform “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” with the Flaming Lips on Wednesday, while the other performers for the week have not yet been announced.

All this is leading up to an event being held by the Grammys called “The Night that Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute to the Beatles,” which was taped last month and will air on CBS on Friday. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed together at the event, as they also did at the Grammy Awards.

Other performers that honored the band were the reunited Eurythmics, which performed “Fool on the Hill”; John Legend and Alicia Keys did a dueling piano duet of “Let It Be”; Katy Perry performed “Yesterday,” still the most-covered song of all time; and Stevie Wonder sang “We Can Work it Out,” according to Rolling Stone, which attended the taping of the event.

At the Grammys last month, Paul and Ringo gave a rare performance together, playing the song “Queenie Eye” from McCartney’s latest album, New.

The Beatles remain the top-selling band of all time, and according to a survey from the Pew Research Center performed in 2009, the group is still the most popular musical act in the U.S. Many have tried to explain why the band has had such lasting power with such a wide demographic, but no one answer is satisfactory.

The Beatles were such a prolific and dynamic band that at least one song or one album or one period of their music can appeal to basically anyone, whether you’re a metalhead, folk nut, or country fan. That ability to connect with such a wide audience is an important and rare accomplishment for any artist, and this week, America is giving in to Beatlemania to honor a band that changed rock and roll history.

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