For Jane Rosenthal
For the fourth time in the past sixty years, the four of them are right on schedule.
Our crises in 2023 are individual, national, and international, as was the case in 1963, 1968, and 1970, when a new song from John, Paul, George, and Ringo quickly induced moments of joy and goodwill.
Watch the official music video for The Beatles' "Now And Then":
What Is The Beatles' "Now And Then"?
The Beatles are in the air again, #1 on the charts, dominating the media. Their final song is called "Now and Then," originally a John Lennon composition.
The words and music first emerged in 1977 on a homemade demo tape, recorded on cassette, when Lennon lived in New York City. Three years later, he was shot dead.
In 1994, Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, gave three of Lennon's demo tapes to Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, who reunited in the mid-1990s to create the Beatles' ANTHOLOGY and two singles ("Free as a Bird" and "Real Love").
What Makes The Beatles' "Now And Then" Special?
“Now and Then” is The Beatles’ final offering, premiering to the public on November 2nd. It hit the top spots on all major charts in less than a week, and remains at # 1 nearly two months later.
And yes, it's beautiful.
Lennon's piercing, ethereal voice has again been complemented by the overdubbed bass and drums of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, with George Harrison's guitar work included from their mid-90s reunion.
And for the fourth time in sixty years, their music is a balm for a wounded world.
The Beatles' Significance In American Culture
It was shortly after the catastrophic loss of President John F. Kennedy, sixty years ago, that America first met The Beatles.
They arrived here to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in the month of February 1964, yet their first #1 hit record, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," was recorded in 1963. It's understatement to say that they conveyed joyous uplift after the disaster in Dallas.
Four and a half years later, amid cultural upheavals provoked by the Vietnam War, the Sexual Revolution, the Civil Rights and Black Power collisions, and an increasingly toxic Generation Gap, the release of "Hey Jude" on August 26, 1968, was one of the few nice things to occur in a year tormented by the April assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the murder in June of presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Between the war in Vietnam, the insurrections following Dr. King's demise, and the battles in America's streets that culminated at the chaotic August 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a society-wide nervous breakdown seemed underway.
Which Beatles Songs Speak To Turbulence In American Culture?
Then the healing message of "Hey Jude" and its communal sing-a-long finale gave radio listeners by the millions a sense of musical community, in the early autumn of '68, when such a song of reconciliation was needed. It was their biggest-selling single.
"The Long and Winding Road" did much the same thing in May 1970, when The Beatles released that elegiac ballad as a single from their LET IT BE album, which came out on May 8th – four days after the Kent State University massacre left four students dead, and eleven wounded, during antiwar protests that reached a peak that year.
When former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was interviewed for a television documentary on Vietnam, he recalled May 1970 in America as a time when "civil war conditions prevailed." He was correct.
Is The Beatles' Music Timeless?
And the Beatles again filled the air with harmonious beauty and lyrical integrity, countering the raging hostility in many realms. Their timing was quasi-mystical. But their music is not tethered to the past.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" is still a melodic caress. "Hey Jude" is a hymn for the ages. "The Long and Winding Road" remains a timely meditation on life's travails.
In the world gone wrong of December 2023, "Now and Then" by the Beatles reminds us of what English poet John Keats meant by writing: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."
The Beatles have proved that for sixty years.
M. J. Moore is a writer living in New York. His new book is STAR-CROSSED LOVERS ~ James Jones, Lowney Handy, and the Birth of 'From Here to Eternity'. You can purchase it here.
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Featured image: The Beatles' "Now And Then" (C) The Beatles