Why Are The Beatles Still So Popular?

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With the release of The Beatles: Rock Band game and the remastered Beatles catalog, it’s almost impossible to avoid this new wave of Beatlemania. But why are the Fab Four still so popular, nearly 40 years after their break-up? I think it comes down to three things: the sheer number of Baby Boomers who consider the Beatles to be the soundtrack of their youth (the mob), the fact that the band has achieved legendary, icon-like status (the mythology), and, ultimately, the stunning quality of the songs themselves (the music).

First, the mob. In any generation, it’s the music you listen to between the ages of 16 and 24 that becomes your musical “home base” for the rest of your life. You may learn to appreciate many other types of music, but by and large, you’ll always return to the songs you were listening to during these crucial eight years. Well, the first wave of Baby Boomers—which was and still is the biggest generation ever—was born in 1946, which means their crucial eight years were between 1962 and 1970, precisely the years when the Beatles were active. For these and future Boomers, the Beatles will always be huge.

Secondly, the Beatles have now achieved near-mythical status. America likes icons. From the Wild West to the Kennedys, we have a fascination with things we perceive to be “larger-than-life,” and the Beatles certainly fit into that category. Even though the Fabs are quintessentially English, it was their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and their subsequent “conquering” of America that put them on the world map, so we’ve adopted them as our own. And even though John Lennon famously said that he didn’t believe in the “myth” of the Beatles, the rest of us not only believe in it—we’re infatuated with it.

In the end, though, it really comes down to the music. The Pew Research Center recently found that every age group from 16 through 64 listens to rock & roll more than any other type of music—and that the Beatles rank in the top four among every age group. The strength of the Baby Boomers and the power of the Beatles’ mythology can’t account for this, so ultimately it comes down to one thing: the songs. They’re just that good. The Beatles took music well beyond the boundaries of traditional pop music, but still kept it accessible. One of the ways they did this was by making sure that, no matter how far out their songs may have been, they were always grounded by a strong melody. Simply put, the Beatles’ songs are very singable, and that crosses all generations.

But maybe there’s another reason why the Beatles’ music is so popular with even the youngest generations. I was just talking to a reporter who is also the mother of two toddlers. She told me that whenever she’s in the car with them she plays Beatles music. “I just couldn’t listen to any more Raffi or the Wiggles without wanting to kill myself! So I play the Beatles instead. My kids love it, and I get to keep my sanity!” Sounds like a win-win to me.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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  • Joseph Laginestra says:

    I’m 51 years old and have been a Beatles Fan since 1964 when I saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show. Of course I was only 4 years old then but they left a mark on me. When I was 8 I started to become more and more aware of the Beatles music and it’s societal effect. I got a Beatles lunch-box (w/thermos) and started to acquire Beatles records of my own. After their breakup in 1970, actually it was October 1969 I continued to buy thier solo material which I still do today in 2011. They have been teachers and friends to me, they are part of my family. The Beatles have been so influential to the fabric of my life. I am proud to have shared this Earth with them at the same time. Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo for your music, inspiration and love.

  • Jimmer says:

    beatles are boss

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