Letter: The Beatles: Rosetta Stone to the Sixties
The Beatles arrived in America in 1964 as fellow mates, brothers from overseas, all of us goofy and naive teenagers, rebounding from the oppressive angst of the 1950s to swoon over carefree refrains like “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Also, the Beatles, like many baby boomers, grew into innovative, multifaceted adults who explored new ideas, became politically active against the Vietnam War, exposed social and gender injustice, brought sex and drugs out of the closet and, at their best, became spiritual visionaries imagining a brighter future for all of us:
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world . . .
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.
Indeed, what Aaron Copland once said is certainly true: “When people ask to re-create the mood of the ’60s, they will play Beatles music.”
Yeah, I was one of those callow, pimple-faced kids in 1964, a stranger in a strange land, a freshman at Columbia University in the middle of New York City, moaning my recently slain young president along with his vision of Camelot, grinding away in my dorm room cramming to catch up on all the classics my prep-school cohorts had long ago read when, one day, I had to come up for air and took a walk downtown toward Times Square when I heard this singular tune for the first time, the refrain from “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” wafting out onto the street from all the little record store doors along the way.
Somehow this sweet melody salved my soul like the first warm breeze of spring. I just knew in my heart it was the beginning of something good.