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The Fab Four - The Beatles

Updated on April 30, 2009

The Beatles, English rock 'n roll quartet: John Lennon (born October 9, 1940), Paul McCartney (born June 18, 1942), George Harrison (born February 25, 1943), and Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey, July 7, 1940), all from Liverpool, England.

The Beatles (a pun on "beetle" and "beat") made rock 'n' roll the dominant form in contemporary popular music and, by expanding the traditional limits of rock 'n' roll, gained an adult following in addition to their millions of teenage fans.

Lennon, McCartney and Harrison played electric guitars and sang and Ringo played the drums.

All four Beatles grew up in Liverpool in working-class families. The group started in 1958 with Lennon and McCartney writing songs together and performing as the Nurk Twins. The next year they were joined by Harrison and drummer Peter Best, who was replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962. It was Brian Epstein, their manager until his death in 1967, who induced them, in 1961, to shed their leather-jacketed scruffiness for Edwardian suits and a fancy "mod" look. This style, along with their mop-like haircuts, accentuated their boyish innocence at the same time many of their lyrics were "mocking the establishment." By 1962 they were England's most popular group, and in 1963 they gave a command performance for Great Britain's Royal Family. Several international tours and the unprecedented ratings of their 1964 appearance on the Ed Sullivan television show in the United States created a wave of "Beatlemania"—a popular term for the overpowering enthusiasm of adoring teenage fans. Their films A Hard Day's Night (1.964) and Help! (1965) drew praise for their comic wit and energy and further enhanced the group's popularity.

The Beatles' early songs restored to the popular music of the 1960's the rhythmic vitality that had characterized the rock 'n' roll of the early 1950's. Gradually, the Beatles made their "rock," as that kind of music came to be called, louder, more diverse in its range of sounds, and more complex. In 1967 they released their most accomplished album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was the first rock alburn to be considered a unified work rather than a collection of separate songs. On it the Beatles experimented with classical, Eastern, and electronic music and made comments on the generation gap, drugs, and, generally, modern urban life. The list of popular Beatle songs include "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Eleanor Rigby," "A Day in the Life," "Yesterday," "Yellow Submarine," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "The Fool on the Hill," "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields," and "Hey Jude."

The Beatles lasted eight years—from 1962 to their final album, Let It Be, in 1970, when they disbanded because of personal and business differences. After the separation, the members had successful careers making recordings and personal appearances on their own.


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