The Fest for Beatles Fans in February (2014) celebrated the Beatles’ arrival on U.S. shores fifty years ago. The event brought authors, artists and musicians from around the world and hosted thousands of fans from forty-two states. The John Lennon Examiner participated in the "Women Historians and Scholars panel" discussing “The Beatles’ Legacy: Past, Present and Future.” Examiner shared “Part 1” of the video from that discussion back in February, and this article includes “Part 2.”
In Part 1 of our discussion it was pointed out that panel members spanned the range of “original fans” from the 60s, to 70s and 80s fans. The differences in fan communication were talked about, from pen pals and fanzines of the 60s, to today’s blogs, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook pages.
In Part 2, the discussion got lively as the panel discussed how the Beatles helped empower the generation of the 60s to stand up to authority and challenge social norms. For example, when the Beatles refused to perform for segregated audiences, and John Lennon expressed outspoken views on the Vietnam War, it made kids think. The “baby boomers” became a force to be reckoned with due to the size of our demographic, and we were able to change society as a result. Karen Duchaj pointed out that "We discovered that our parents and pastors weren't always right."
Changes in religious and spiritual views also occurred because the Beatles publicly explored philosophies previously unfamiliar to western culture, like Transcendental Meditation and Hinduism. Shelley Germeaux expressed how the exploration into Transcendental Meditation had changed her life, something she tried only because the Beatles did it. Karen Duchaj humorously recounted the problems with her parents when listening to George Harrison’s sitar music and hanging the psychedelic posters from the White Album on her wall. Her mother feared she was getting into drugs and would end up in jail. Susan Ryan, moderator, pointed out that the Beatles showed us “a broader universe that held more options.”
The Beatles’ influences were discussed--both the bands that inspired them as well as the bands they inspired. The fact that the Beatles were true artists meant that the copycats would fall to the wayside, while they continued to evolve.
The role of family values and support in the Beatles’ success was talked about at length as various views were shared about the difference between “working class” and “middle class” and how even the poorest Beatles were given access to musical instruments and encouragement. As Candy Leonard said, “Even Ringo had a piano.” Sara Schmidt pointed out that despite the dysfunctions in John Lennon’s household, “Mimi gave him a guitar.” Judith Kristen pointed out that each Beatle was a truly artistic individual with drive and perseverance, and added, “Our boys did pretty good”, generating cheers and applause.
Sara Schmidt talked about how she became a Beatles fan in the 80s, and how she inspired her mother to be a fan again. Allison Jonelle Boron had a different experience: “My mother hated the Beatles!” But Allison’s interest in them has brought them closer.
The panel ended with the observation that the Beatles really did signal a revolution in society and empowered us all to move in a more expanded direction as a whole. Shelley Germeaux talked about the “generation gap” of the 60s, and how different it is today. While her parents didn't exactly embrace the Beatles, now as many as three or four generations will “come together” to attend Paul McCartney concerts together.
And “in the end”, this was the goal of the Beatles in the first place, to bring us all together, and close that gap.
Participants in the panel:
Susan Ratisher Ryan -Proprietor Fab 4 NYC Walking Tours, moderator
Shelley Germeaux, John Lennon Examiner
Sara Schmidt, “Meet the Beatles…for Real” blog
Allison Johnelle Boron, freelance rock writer, Goldmine Magazine contributor, and columnist for PopDose.com
Judith Kristen, author of “A Date With a Beatle” and “Once Upon a Time in Liverpool”
Candy Leonard, author of “Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World”
Karen Duchaj, linguistics teacher