A short essay by Fred Leeds
“Limitless, undying love that shines before like a million suns and calls me on and on, across the universe…” — John Lennon, “Across the Universe”
Dedicated to both John Lennon and George Harrison
Essay by Fred Leeds
To tell the plain truth, I still love the Beatles. This little essay is an attempt to explain to myself, as much as any reader, their unique appeal. The essay is written from an amateur’s point of view.
The key to the Beatles’ success lay in the combined artistry of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, a rare harmony of unique traits. McCartney’s conventional musical genius and Lennon’s searching originality made for a truly one-of a-kind sound. McCartney contributed an abiding sense of beauty (lyrical and melodic), while Lennon contributed a groundbreaking innovation and insight. Through their music, they show a combined faith in truth and beauty that Keats himself would have been proud of.
In songs like “Let It Be” and “Eleanor Rigby,” the Beatles reveal a sense of human concern so deep as to touch on world reform. Even McCartney’s romantic songs – “Here There, and Everywhere,” “I Will,” and “Yesterday,” for example – show an ideal faith in the beloved akin to worship. Lennon’s songs of revelation, such as “All You Need Is Love” and “Across the Universe,” are also tributes to the power of basic affection.
In the music of both, the intrapersonal, the heartfelt, is offered as a key to universal truth. It is in this sense that their music might be considered even great: it addresses the common ear from the core of their experience, displaying the living face behind the moral quest. Both deep men, Lennon and McCartney joined their separate sensibilities in a single goal: to convey a truer humanity through art.
None of this is to slight the contributions of Ringo Starr or of George Harrison,.the deepest and most sensitive member of an already sensitive group. In songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Harrison anticipated a solo music career dedicated to Hindu beliefs.
Together, the four worked to bring this old world, so onesidely devoted to surface success, a new and more hopeful vision. As a loyal fan, I applaud them yet.
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