Colleen Sheehy, NxNW, Published January 22 2014
Sheehy: Beatles music saved a life in many respects
I attribute it to The Beatles. I’ve been reflecting on this lately because of the upcoming 50th anniversary of their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. This anniversary falls on the night of the Grammy Awards, February 9th, and the program will include a number of special tributes to the band.
On that February night in 1964, like 73 million other Americans, I watched that Ed Sullivan show. I was just a kid, but one already tuned in to popular music on the radio. Even I could recognize the fresh sound and energy of the Beatles in “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”
So on that night, my family gathered around the black and white TV set. We were mesmerized and delighted by the Beatles and fascinated by all the screaming fans. I remember my dad joking by combing his Brillcremed hair down into bangs over his forehead. We all laughed.
That memory is particularly poignant because my father would die suddenly of a heart attack just four months later, creating a big rift in our family life that we struggled to overcome.
That night, however, we fell in love with the Beatles. And it was their music and artistry that would save my life in many respects. My devotion to following them and their music kept me focused on a world of art – and one of joy and also of emotional and intellectual growth, rather than slipping into depression, as could easily have happened.
In reflecting on the impact these musicians had on my life, I have realized that their music was my first art form. I learned to be attentive to form, themes, details, nuance, image, text, sound, performance, and meaning by studying their work. These are the same skills I have applied to so many other art forms since then.
Many commentators have noted that the Beatles first visit to the U.S. brought joy and humor back to Americans, who were despondent over the death of President Kennedy. A recent program on American Experience on PBS focused on the year 1964. It was surprising to realize how many crises occurred that year. The Beatles helped me – and so many others – navigate treacherous waters of disillusionment, conflict, pain, and change. And they did so in a way to offer hope of better days, of love and understanding.
What gifts artists can give us! What an impact they can make on us and our world. I am eternally grateful.
To paraphrase the words of an old song, “I thank you, Beatles, Oh yes I do.”
NxNW is an occasional arts and culture column written by Colleen Sheehy director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum in Fargo.