Thursday, December 13, 2007

About The Beatles - Kings Of English Rock

Thanks, Wikipedia.

The Beatles were an English rock group from Liverpool, Britain, which lasted for 12 years beginning 1957.

Also nicknamed the Fab Four, The Beatles comprised Scotsmen John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney, and Anglo-Indians Sir George Harrison and Richard Starkey also known as Ringo Starr.

The Beatles is one of the most commercially successful bands in the history of popular music.

In the United Kingdom, The Beatles released more than 40 different singles, albums and EPs that reached number one. The group has sold more than a billion discs and tapes internationally and is the best-selling musical act of all time in the United States.

The United States’ entertainment magazine Rolling Stone has named The Beatles as the greatest musical act of all time and describes the group as the definer of the 1960s and a major influence on pop music in the following decades.

The Beatles began as The Quarrymen in March 1957. Its original members were Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. In 1960, they were joined by Lennon’s school friend Stuart Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe was the bassist while Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were guitarists. Lennon and McCartney were the lead vocalists and lyricists.

The group became known as The Beatles in August 1960.

The Beatles’ early major influence was the United States’ King of Rock and Roll Elvis Aaron Presley. It was also influenced by Buddy Holly and his rock group The Crickets.

Sutcliffe left the band in 1961 to become an artist. Sadly, he died on April 10, 1962 as a result of complications caused by head injuries sustained in an accident two years earlier.

Pete Best, an Anglo-Indian, joined the group as drummer in 1960, when it became known as The Beatles.

The Beatles’ first gig took place in Hamburg in 1960. It was here that the American press first noticed the group. Their first hit song was a rock-remix of the traditional English song My Bonny.

In 1962, Brian Epstein, a Lithuanian-Israeli from Liverpool, became the group’s manager. Rumour has it that he and Lennon had a homosexual relationship. Epstein died of a drug overdose in 1967 when he was only 32.

Best left the group in August 1962 after persistent complaints about his lack of discipline by Harrison and Epstein. He was replaced by Richard Starkey who was also nicknamed Ringo Starr as a result of his love for rings.

The Beatles had its first major hit Love Me Do in June 1962.

The following year, The Beatles produced I Wanna Hold Your Hand, She Loves You, Please Please Me and From Me To You which heralded its arrival in the United States.

The Beatles’ first TV appearance in the United States was in The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.

The group’s members were awarded with MBEs (Members of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth 2 of the United Kingdom in the same year.

In 1966, the group unintentionally offended the Philippines’ murderous and corrupt President Ferdinand Chua Marcos who wanted to invite them for a meal at his palace in Manila after their concert by declining the ruthless despot’s invite.

In 1967, The Beatles became the first band to have a live telecast concert on television. 400 million people worldwide watched the group perform in Abbey Road, London.

In 1968, The Beatles became students of Hindu spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of Uttar Pradesh, India. The Punjabi Hindu teacher also called Mahesh Prasad Varma taught the group Transcendental Meditation.

Punjabi Indian influence from the guru made its way into The Beatles’ music. The group adopted the sitar as one of its musical instruments and this instrument played a key role in the hit song Norwegian Wood.

On January 30, 1969, The Beatles broke up following a live performance of its last hit song Let It Be in Savile Row, London.

After the group disbanded, all of its members went on to have successful solo careers.

Lennon became actively involved in anti-Vietnam War activism while Harrison organised a concert in New York to raise funds for flood victims in Bangladesh in 1971. Harrison was assisted by sitar legend Ravi Shankar of Punjab, India (Shankar is the father of singer-songwriter Norah Jones from the United States).

On December 8, 1980, Lennon was shot dead by Mark Chapman, apparently a deranged fan, in New York. However, many fans believe that he was killed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States for his strident opposition to the Vietnam War and his campaign to remove corrupt United States President Richard M. Nixon from power in 1974.

In 1988, The Beatles was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. As solo artistes, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were inducted in 1994, 1999 and 2004, respectively.

In February 1994, Starr, McCartney and Harrison recorded Free As A Bird, a song written by Lennon and McCartney.

On November 29, 2001, Harrison died of a brain tumour. He was posthumously knighted by Queen Elizabeth 2. McCartney received his knighthood four years earlier.

McCartney and Starr, the two surviving Beatles, suffer from health problems resulting from the group’s persistent drug abuse during its heydays. However, their ailments are under control and they make occasional appearances in British and American entertainment shows, especially those which are linked to humanitarian relief.

McCartney is a tireless advocate of vegetarianism.

Throughout its relatively short career, The Beatles set a number of world records which include the following.

- Best-selling musical group of all time. Sold a billion discs and tapes worldwide.

- Group with the most number one singles.

- Most successful songwriters - Lennon and McCartney.

- Most covered song - Yesterday.

- Fastest selling single - I Wanna Hold Your Hand which sold 250,000 units in three days and a million in two weeks.

The Beatles appeared in several films, all of which featured its hit songs. The films included A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965).

From 1965-1969 the group appeared in its very own cartoon series.

Here are the biographies of the group’s individual members.

1. John Winston Lennon.

John Winston Lennon (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980), who was murdered at the age of 40 in New York, is not only revered as one of the world’s greatest singers and songwriters but also as a peace activist and humanitarian, author and graphic artist.

Post-Beatles, Lennon was best remembered for his peace and humanitarian hit songs such as Woman, Give Peace A Chance and Imagine.

As a member of The Beatles and after, Lennon was also remembered for his rebellious nature and irreverent wit, and occasionally courted controversy.

Lennon has two musician sons Julian and Sean, from two marriages. Julian’s mother is Lennon’s ex-wife Cynthia Powell of Britain while Sean’s mother is John’s second wife, artist and musician Yoko Ono of Japan.

Born in Liverpool during a German air raid on Britain during World War 2, Lennon was named for his paternal grandfather John Lennon and British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

When he was five, his parents, Alfred and Julia, were divorced and the latter raised him up.

When Lennon was 17, his mother died in a car accident. Coincidentally, his bandmate Sir Paul McCartney lost his mother to breast cancer two years earlier.

Lennon and his second wife Ono formed the Plastic Ono Band shortly before The Beatles disbanded. The band recorded the album Live Peace in Toronto, Canada in 1969 and subsequently came up with hit singles Give Peace A Chance, Cold Turkey and Instant Karma.

After The Beatles disbanded, the band came up with Working Class Hero, a tribute to Sir Charles Chaplin, the great Anglo-Indian comedian and champion of the working class.

Lennon’s other hit songs in the 1970s included Happy Xmas, Woman and Imagine.

He retired in 1975, to concentrate on business. However, in 1980, he announced his comeback to the music scene. Before he could release new materials, he was assassinated by Mark Chapman outside his house in New York.

As a member of The Beatles, Lennon was once slammed by conservative and fundamentalist Christians worldwide for an off-the-cuff statement that rock music was fast becoming more popular than Christianity. He made the statement in 1966 and subsequently apologised for it.

As a writer, Lennon created his own comics about his life journey and three books containing his works of art.

Several memorials have been established to honour Lennon. Shortly after his death, the Strawberry Fields Memorial was set up in New York’s Central Park. Other notable memorials are found in Havana, Cuba, and Videy, Iceland.

Bisexual Anglo-Indian rock star and Queen lead vocalist Freddie Mercury (Frederick Bulsara) dedicated his 1982 song Life Is Real to Lennon while Sir Elton John dedicated his 1982 hit song Empty Garden to Lennon.

In 1991, Lennon received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

In September 2007, musicians, poets, painters and dramatists attended the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival in the village of Durness, Scotland. The cultural event was held in Lennon’s favourite summer holiday destination during his pre-teen years.

2. Sir George Harrison.

Sir George Harrison (February 25, 1943 – November 29, 2001) was best known as The Beatles’ youngest and most reclusive member as well as the group’s innovative lead guitarist.

He also gained worldwide fame as the organiser of a rock concert to help flood victims in Bangladesh in 1971 (the first humanitarian rock concert) and as a frequent collaborator with Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.

He formed the veterans’ rock group The Travelling Wilburys with rock greats Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne in the 1980s.

Harrison also became an actor and film-maker and collaborated with British comedians John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin and American pop queen Madonna on screen.

Of Irish-Indian ancestry, Harrison was born a Christian but died a devout Hindu.

While John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney were the main singers and songwriters of The Beatles, Harrison gradually became a respected singer and songwriter in his own right.

In fact, he became the first Beatle to achieve a Number One single, My Sweet Lord, after the band disbanded.

Harrison’s other hit songs included What Is Life, Give Me Love and Got My Mind Set On You.

The most famous film Harrison produced was The Life Of Brian which starred Cleese, Idle, Palin and himself. He also produced Time Bandits starring Anglo-Indian actor Sir Sean Connery (yes, he and Sir Roger Moore, his successor as James Bond are Anglo-Indian) and Cleese and Mona Lisa starring Anglo-Indian actors Bob Hoskins and Sir Michael Caine.

Harrison wrote his first song Don’t Bother Me for The Beatles in 1963. He performed all The Beatles’ songs which he wrote and they included My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something.

Something, dedicated to Harrison’s first wife, model Patti Boyd, has been described by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley as one of the most beautiful love songs of all time.

One of Harrison’s best friends was Welsh Canadian singer and songwriter Eric Clapton, who later married Boyd and wrote the songs Layla and Wonderful Tonight as a tribute to her.

In 1976, Harrison was hospitalised with hepatitis, but recovered from the deadly disease.

In 1980, he became the first Beatle to write an autobiography, I, Me, Mine.

He was diagnosed with lung and throat cancer in 1997, but beat the illness until it returned in 2001.

In late 1999, Harrison survived a stabbing by a stalker who sneaked into his house.

Harrison died of a brain tumour in 2001 and following an unpublicised cremation, had his ashes scattered in the Ganges River, India and several locations around the world.

Shortly before his death, he released a message which read: "Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another."

Harrison and R&B singer and actress Aaliyah Haughton (niece of R&B legend Gladys Knight) who died in a plane crash in 2001, became the first singers to score back-to-back posthumous number one hits.

Aaliyah's More Than A Woman and Harrison’s My Sweet Lord became chart toppers in January and February 2002, respectively.

Harrison married twice. His first marriage to Boyd in 1966 lasted 4 years (they remained lifelong friends). In 1978, he married Olivia Arias, a Mexican who was his secretary. They had a son, Dhani.

An accomplished gardener, Harrison restored the English manor house and grounds of Friar Park, which once belonged to businessman Sir Frank Crisp. Harrison also owned homes in Hawaii and Australia where he kept extensive tropical gardens.

Harrison was a fan of sports cars and motor racing. He was a big fan of the Mini Cooper and owned a McLaren F1 car.

Several days after his death, Harrison appeared in animated form in The Simpsons as himself. The episode titled Hunka Hunka Burns In Love was dedicated to Harrison.

3. Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr).

Richard Starkey Jr. (born July 7, 1940), known by his stage name Ringo Starr, is best known as the drummer for The Beatles. He was the oldest and shortest member of the band, and the last to join it.

Of English and Iranian ancestry, Starr joined the group in Hamburg, Germany in 1962, two years after he met John Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir George Harrison.

Starr is credited with writing The Beatles’ songs Don't Pass Me By and Octopus' Garden among others.

Lennon used Starr's original expressions A Hard Day's Night and Tomorrow Never Knows, and turned them into Beatles songs.

Starr married Maureen Cox in 1965 and had three children. They were divorced in 1975.

One of their children, Zak Starkey is a prolific drummer who has collaborated with The Who and Oasis.

In 1980, he married Israeli-American actress Barbara Bach (who acted in his good friend Sir Roger Moore’s James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me) who acted with him in the comedy film Caveman.

Starr also performed in his former bandmates’ concerts most notably Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh in 1971.

Starr occasionally performs with his All-Star Band comprising notable British and American musicians.

Besides Caveman, Starr has also starred in The Magic Christian (with the late British actor Peter Sellers) and Son Of Dracula.

Starr has also been a television host and is best known as the narrator of children’s television series Thomas The Tank Engine And Friends.

Starr was the first Beatle to appear in The Simpsons in 1991 as himself. Harrison and McCartney have also appeared in the animated television series.

4. Sir James Paul McCartney.

Sir James Paul McCartney (born June 18, 1942) is best known as one of the two lead singers and songwriters of The Beatles, the other being John Lennon.

He is also a successful solo artiste and has worked on film scores and classical music besides rock and pop music.

McCartney is listed in the Guinness World Records as the most successful musician and composer in popular music history with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles.

He is also a respected humanitarian who organises concerts for world peace and freedom, and a staunch vegetarianism activist.

McCartney's father James was a trumpet player and pianist, who led his own band in the 1920s.

While in The Beatles, McCartney also wrote songs for several artists most notably Mary Hopkin (Those Were The Days), Cilla Black, Badfinger and Peter Asher (World Without Love).

After The Beatles disbanded, McCartney formed his own band, Wings, which was later renamed the Paul McCartney Band. Its members included his wife Linda Eastman on keyboards and Anglo-Indian Denny Laine on guitar.

One of the band’s most famous hit songs was Band On The Run which won a Grammy Award. The band also produced the hit song Mull Of Kintyre.

He also recorded two famous duets with Michael Jackson - The Girl Is Mine and Say Say Say.

McCartney wrote and starred in the 1984 film Give My Regards To Broad Street which featured his hit song No More Lonely Nights. He also wrote and performed the title song to the film Spies Like Us starring Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd.

In 1991, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society commissioned a musical piece by McCartney.

McCartney took a lead role in organising The Concert For New York City in response to the events of September 11, 2001, on October 20 that year.

In 2006, McCartney marked his first performance in the Grammy Awards alongside Jay-Z and Linkin Park.

McCartney is also an accomplished painter, poet and author of children’s books.

One of Britain’s wealthiest men today, McCartney has an estimated fortune of £760 million (RM5,320).

McCartney was romantically linked to British television personality Jane Asher during his heydays (she was the sister of Peter Asher) in The Beatles. She inspired him to write the hit songs Yesterday, And I Love Her and I’m Looking Through You.

However, they broke up after five years and he married Israeli American photographer and musician Linda Eastman. She died of breast cancer in 1998.

In 2002, McCartney married model and anti-landmines campaigner Heather Mills. They were divorced in 2006.

In 2004, McCartney participated in the United States Campaign For Burma to demand the release of Burmese freedom fighter and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, currently placed under house arrest by the country’s military dictator President Than Shwe.

McCartney has achieved 29 number one singles in the United States, 20 of them with The Beatles.

He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.