[sixties-l] Thanks, Beatles, for the '60s - And Get Well, George

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri Jul 13 2001 - 12:26:13 EDT

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    Thanks, Beatles, for the '60s - And Get Well, George


    by Bob Herbert The New York Times
    Friday, July 13, 2001

    NEW YORK -- Nineteen-sixty-four was the year the '60s really began. The
    earliest years of the decade were for the most part an extension of the
    conventional, Cold War, black-and-white '50s. Dwight Eisenhower was
    president through 1960, which was the year the U-2 reconnaissance pilot
    Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet territory. When John F.
    Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961, the men participating in the ceremony wore
    morning coats and top hats. For a decade known for its excitement, the '60s
    got off to a decidedly slow start. Doo-wop music was still around in the
    early '60s. And dreamy songs of widely varying quality - "Moon River,"
    "Where the Boys Are" - were among the biggest hits. It was a quiet time.
    The average annual U.S. salary was $4,700, and a favorite pastime was
    bowling. There was no reason to think radical changes were brewing when
    1964 debuted. America was still in shock over the murder of President
    Kennedy the previous November. The tranquilizer Valium was catching on.
    Mary McCarthy had a best-seller with "The Group." Herbert Hoover, Douglas
    MacArthur and Cole Porter were still alive. "Bonanza" and "Candid Camera"
    were big hits on television.
    And then in February, suddenly and without warning, the Beatles came to
    America. The word this week from overseas is that George Harrison, the
    so-called quiet Beatle, has suffered another setback in his fight against
    cancer. Mr. Harrison is 58. He is said to be frail and fatigued from the
    disease and the treatment.
    He is also, apparently, indomitable. "I am feeling fine," he said in a
    prepared statement. And he apologized for any grief he may have caused his
    fans. "I am really sorry," he said, "for the unnecessary worry." If you
    spend just a little time reflecting on the Beatles you come away astonished
    by the changes they wrought, or came to symbolize, in what seemed like a
    split second of real time. They blew in like a sudden storm and permanently
    altered the cultural landscape. One night they were singing to an audience
    of shrieking teeny-boppers on that quintessential 1950s television program
    "The Ed Sullivan Show," and in the next instant, it seemed, the Sullivan
    era had been left behind and the ^A'60s had blossomed in brilliant, even
    blinding color. It wasn't just the music. The Beatles were a perfectly
    timed phenomenon. Their charm, spontaneity and offbeat humor, and above all
    their easy acceptance of life's myriad pleasures, sliced right through the
    fraying bonds of the uptight '50s and early '60s. For better or worse, they
    helped get us to where we are now. They spread the word to a generation of
    largely inhibited young people that it was all right to have fun.
    There was no need to take anything too seriously. When a reporter asked
    John Lennon what he would do when Beatlemania subsided, he replied, "Count
    the money." Ringo Starr, commenting on a trip to Florida, said: "Now, this
    was just the most brilliant place I'd ever been to. People were lending us
    yachts, anything we wanted."
    Within a year or two the '60s that most people remember - some with
    fondness, some with loathing - were well under way, and the most dominant
    cultural framing was provided by the Beatles. People dressed differently,
    wore their hair differently, danced differently and approached that
    treacherous triumvirate of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll with an openness
    that surely had been accelerated by John, Paul, George and Ringo.
    The fun, as people soon learned, was laced with madness and a fair amount
    of tragedy. Among other things, drugs took their toll on the decade and
    played a significant role in the Beatles' lives. You get a sense of the
    breakneck pace of events when you consider that George was only 27 when the
    Beatles officially broke up in 1970.
    More than three decades later it seems a miracle that so much happened in
    so short a time. The music remains remarkable, often beautiful. As for
    George's fans - well, they are worried. But no one is looking for an
    apology. They just wish him well.

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