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The Beatles: From Liverpool to Legend—A Musical Celebration

Weekend All-Day Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, July 24, 2021 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2143
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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What gave John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr the power to reshape the pop music world of the 1960s—and the whole world for the next several decades? Beyond the Mod fashion, the cheeky Liverpuddlian humor, and the friendly  personalities that set a generation of girls screaming in adoration, the quartet’s achievement as music-makers is their most lasting cultural legacy.

Saul Lilienstein takes a joyful and serious look at their music, its roots and influences, and its relationship to the tumultuously exciting period of social change that provided a backdrop to their years at the top of the charts. The program is highlighted by musical recordings and film clips.

9:30­–10:30 a.m.  Anglo-Irish Roots: Traditions

The Beatles sounded different, right from the start. The crux of that difference was an instinctive expression, a cultural inheritance of music, speech, and social attitudes that sprang from specific segments of English and Irish life. These elements are found in George Harrison’s early songs, in McCartney’s love of all things British, and in Lennon’s reimagining of the Irish pub atmosphere.   

10:30–11:40 a.m.  American Roots: Rhythm and Blues and Pop

Despite their music’s distinctively British accent, there was something happily familiar at the heart of the Beatles’ sound. John, Paul, George, and Ringo grew up with the sounds of early American-style rock ′n′ roll as dominant musical influences. It fueled their musical and personal ambitions, and tributes to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly are heard through the group’s career.

11:50 a.m.–12:45 p.m.  Reflecting and Shaping a Generation

In their artful mix of psychedelia and upbeat pop, the Beatles became both drivers of the 1960’s revolution for social freedom and the heart of a new youthful and optimistic establishment.     

12:45–1:45 p.m.  Break

1:45–2:30 p.m.  The Composition Process

Individual songs are analyzed and followed through the creative process as captured in rehearsal tapes, from the earliest germ of an idea to the final public release.

2:30–3:45 p.m.  Lennon and McCartney: A Stylistic Comparison

Theirs was a difficult union, marked by growing contrasts between diverging musical and personal values. The songwriters’ teamwork and their rivalry nurtured the sparks of creativity and of the inevitable break-up that followed.  

4–4:30 p.m.  Just Music   

Nothing speaks more eloquently than the Beatles songs themselves. The day ends with the pure pleasure of listening to more of their unforgettable music, with commentary by Lilienstein.

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