A compilation of essays by academics and self-taught Beatles scholars, Kenneth Womack and Katie Kapurch’s brand new work, “New Critical Perspectives on The Beatles: Things We Said Today,” follows a similar approach to previous compilations such as “The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles,” and “Reading the Beatles.” However, several elements distinguish this work from its predecessors.
The first crucial point is that the contributing authors for New Critical Perspectives on the Beatles represent the most gender-diverse authorship yet seen in Beatles historiography. Approximately half of the essays were written, or co-written, by women; a level of gender diversity that, for all their genuine strengths, neither The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles or Reading the Beatles even came close to matching. Several of these essays offer a necessary but long overlooked feminine perspective or approach to analyzing the band’s story. (However, Beatles scholarship and historiography still notably is dominated by American and British authors).
Second, major aspects of New Critical Perspectives on the Beatles explore the role of and relationship between the Beatles and their fans: examining the issue of American race-relations through the prism of popular reaction to Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird,” or, in a separate essay, acknowledging and criticizing the media’s decades of marginalization and patronization of the band’s legions of female fans. All the essays fall squarely within the larger context of the Lewisohn narrative: there are no overtly pro-John or Paul biased works and/or selective use of evidence. Documentation and bibliographies are a given. While insightful and, (in my view), necessary, this is pre-dominantly a book by academics and for academics. Or, at the least, for an audience interested in examining the Beatles using primarily academic methodologies and approaches.
While various other essays in New Critical Perspectives apply lyrical and/or musical analysis to certain songs and/or albums, this review (and its successor, to be posted later) discusses primarily those essays that focus on sociological, historical, or gender approaches. This is not a reflection on the quality of those other essays, but rather my own effort to stay on familiar ground. As I’ve previously noted, my musical ability/individual knowledge of music theory is poor to non-existent (I can’t even play “Chopsticks” on a piano) and delving into musical and lyrical analysis is something that I simply feel inadequately prepared to do. (There’s a reason I only applied source analysis to Wilfrid Mellers’ contextual quotes, and not his musical analysis, in my own work, The Beatles and the Historians). So if any readers are particularly interested in an evaluation of the essays regarding Hoagy Carmichael’s influence on George Harrison’s songwriting, or the use of spatial counterpoint on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, you will have to seek out a review by someone who feels more qualified than I do to evaluate the writing on such subjects.
That leads me to my next point: the various disciplines which are laying the groundwork for the emerging area of Beatles academia. As has already been noted ad nauseam, the initial waves of Beatles scholarship were produced by journalists or self-taught scholars. The past ten-fifteen years has seen a burgeoning interest in Beatles academia – indeed, one of the essays in New Critical Perspectives deals with teaching them as a college class, although I vociferously disagree with Read the Beatles, one of the classroom texts suggested by the author, for reasons I will clarify later – coming primarily from university Music or English departments. I anticipate that this predominantly English/Music approach will continue to command the lion’s share of Beatles academia for the foreseeable future. While the relevancy and connection of musicology or lyrical interpretation to Beatles music are self-evident, I hope that the field of Beatles studies will continue to expand into further areas: dedicated, impartial sociological views of their dynamics and the chaos of their concerts: psychological examinations of the band’s personalities and mental health issues: medical evaluations of the impact of their drug use.
There are a number of essays within New Critical Perspectives that deserve analysis and review, but this particular post focuses on only one: other essays will be discussed in a later review. Given our previous discussions, on this blog, concerning the issues of Paul McCartney’s statements and/or feelings regarding racial issues, and African-Americans in particular, this particular review focuses on one of the most provocative essays: Katie Kapurch and Jon Marc Smith’s “Blackbird Singing: Paul McCartney’s Romance of Racial Harmony and Post-Racial America.” Kapurch and Smith use McCartney’s promotion of the back story surrounding his White Album track, “Blackbird,” to examine the errors inherent in the premise that the United States has achieved a post-racial stature following its 2008 election of Barack Obama, or that such a post-racial status is possible.
Both authors argue that McCartney’s standard concert introduction for the “Blackbird” — which emphasizes the racial conflicts behind its inspiration and the general improvement in American race relations since it was originally written in 1968 — can be viewed as “wishful idealism,” promoting the myth of a post-racial America. This myth is an “oversimplification,” which, its authors argue, is particularly palatable to the general white American and baby-boomer population in that it “does not assign blame, which would acknowledge the historic, systemic, continuous oppression” of America’s African-American population.
While the essay uses other examples from McCartney’s career – including his collaborations with Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say”) and Stevie Wonder (“Ebony and Ivory”) — both authors emphasize that their primary criticism lies with the fans that prefer the fiction of an achieved post-racial America and less with McCartney himself. Simply put; unlike, say, Larry Kane, they don’t imply that McCartney is secretly prejudiced against African-Americans. Kapurch and Smith acknowledge that the musician is “attuned to injustice,” and that his promotion of “post-racial attitudes” fits his “perpetually optimistic public image.” Their reference to the belief in post-racial Horatio Alger theory of societal and economic advancement for racial minorities is particularly interesting, given that, in The Beatles and the Historians, I noted that McCartney, while quintessentially English, is the living embodiment of this most cherished American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ideal.
The essay also notes the contrast between McCartney’s relatively casual introductions for “Blackbird” prior to 2002, and his later, significantly more formal introductions in more recent years. In addition to examining the racial context behind the song, the essay also insightfully notes that, by attaching “Blackbird” to the larger socio-political struggle by African-Americans for equal rights, the song is imbued with greater significance. “Controlling the interpretation while instigating a kind of canon formation of Beatles songs is a characteristic McCartney maneuver that signals his efforts to reaffirm his iconic status and to reframe his work as that of a high artiste.” Thus McCartney’s “Blackbird” stage patter serves two masters: it elevates the song’s historical significance, “advance(ing) critical appreciation for the song,” while also “appealing to U.S. audiences … who want to feel good about race relations in their generation.”
Because the primary focus is less on McCartney, and more on his audience’s preference for an idealized but currently non-existent post-racial America, the essay does not offer a comprehensive analysis of “Blackbird”‘s musical merits, or McCartney’s views on race, . For example, his famous 1966 quotes to Maureen Cleave regarding the segregation of African-Americans: “It’s a lousy country,” etc., are not mentioned. And while the essay also notes McCartney’s “perpetually optimistic public image,” it fails to take into account how McCartney’s widely acknowledged innate optimism and own Horatio Alger story may have influenced, or continued to influence, his belief in a post-racial ideal. While the sentiments displayed in his collaborations with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, and his somewhat idealized understanding of the current state American race-relations can be viewed as too optimistic, it’s also worth noting that these qualities also appear in his statements and songs regarding the Anglo/Irish relationship: a subject with a considerably greater direct connection to McCartney’s own experiences, background and ethnicity. Ultimately, the essay left me wanting more: whetting the appetite for an even greater, in-depth approach to the subject of the Beatles and race that, because of its limited pages, “Blackbird Singing” simply could not cover.
(The next post presumably will not occur until semester grading is done, but will include information on several highly provocative essays concerning the depiction and role of female fans. Any questions or comments are welcome!)
18 thoughts on “The Advance of Beatles Academia: “New Critical Perspectives on the Beatles” Book Review, Part One”
The “Blackbird Singing” essay sounds very interesting, Erin. Paul has collaborated with black artists a lot more than any of the other Beatles, a fact that seems to go unmentioned and unexamined, so I’m excited to see it’s getting at least a little bit of attention (even if they’re just dipping their toes in).
I do wish that writers didn’t just think Paul’s collaborations began and end with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, though. For one thing, on the latter point most seem to ignore Quincy Jones’ role as the brains behind Off the Wall and Thriller – and how Paul’s close relationship with Q was, in my estimation, more of a factor in Paul’s work on those albums than his brief, superficial friendship with Jackson. Again, though, Paul & Q’s relationship has been largely unexamined – as has Paul’s relationship with Stevie Wonder. When did Paul and Stevie first meet? Why were they drawn to each other as friends and musicians? These are basic questions unanswered.
As a hip hop/rap fan AND a Beatles fan, I’ve always liked Paul’s enthusiasm/support for the community. Strangely enough, I’ve gotten the feeling that rap/hip hop is one genre where respect for Paul outpaces admiration for John Lennon. It would also be an interesting way to examine fan behavior. The reaction to Paul’s work with Kanye West was greeted with complete excitement and support from hiphopheads, from what I saw – but the reaction from Beatles fans (especially the Baby Boomer male demographic) on Paul’s official forums and elsewhere was very disappointing. They persist in a willful ignorance and dismissiveness of rap (which has been the dominant musical genre of the past 25 years).
Rose, I am so sorry it took me this long to reply to your post. My only excuse is that it’s Finals week, and I’ve been inundated with exams to grade, and e-mails from students, and daily reminders that grades are due at a certain date/time, and all hell shall reign down on those who miss that deadline.
“Paul has collaborated with black artists a lot more than any of the other Beatles, a fact that seems to go unmentioned and unexamined, so I’m excited to see it’s getting at least a little bit of attention (even if they’re just dipping their toes in).”
They did note that in the essay; of course, Paul has had a great deal more time to collaborate with black artists than John did, or even George. But his close friendship/sponsorship of Jimi Hendrix — whom John and George liked and admired but had nowhere near the relationship with Jimi that Paul did — is a good example.
“For one thing, on the latter point most seem to ignore Quincy Jones’ role as the brains behind Off the Wall and Thriller – and how Paul’s close relationship with Q was, in my estimation, more of a factor in Paul’s work on those albums than his brief, superficial friendship with Jackson.”
That’s fascinating, Rose. Do you have any more information on Paul’s relationship with Quincy Jones, or any sources you’d suggest on the topic? That sounds like a really interesting and totally unexplored avenue. I know next to nothing about Quincy Jones.
My recollection is that Paul and Stevie met in the 60’s, in Swinging London, but there’s little more to my memory than that.
“Strangely enough, I’ve gotten the feeling that rap/hip hop is one genre where respect for Paul outpaces admiration for John Lennon.”
Huh. I know Paul has taken his shots from a number of baby boomer, white, Beatles authorities for collaborating with and/or copying the popular musical fad of the moment, but perhaps his open support and appreciation for rap/hip hop has helped garner him some appreciation from the musicians? The “Black Beatles” duo (sorry, I can’t remember their name) just had an article in RS, talking about how Paul stopped to talk with them and swap stories backstage at a concert before they had a hit song or hit it big, and they thought that was awesome.
“The reaction to Paul’s work with Kanye West was greeted with complete excitement and support from hiphopheads, from what I saw – but the reaction from Beatles fans (especially the Baby Boomer male demographic) on Paul’s official forums and elsewhere was very disappointing. They persist in a willful ignorance and dismissiveness of rap (which has been the dominant musical genre of the past 25 years).”
Yes! They talked about that in the article as well — I just didn’t mention it in the review. The authors noted how the response to Paul’s collaboration with Kanye by one side was enthusiastic, excited and humorous — the whole “nice of Kanye to give these unknown musicians a chance,” which was so obviously satire and funny and ironic, and humor that the Beatles, who were the masters of wry, ironic humor, would have loved. And on the other side, you have baby boomer grumbling about the song, about Kanye, about Paul playing second fiddle to the flavor of the month (never mind that Kanye’s been around for years, and that hiphop, as you say, has been the dominant musical form for twenty-five years. The article did say that they noticed a difference in Paul’s role with Kanye, as opposed to his collaborations with Stevie and/or Michael. They argued that Paul ceded center stage to Kanye in a way he didn’t with Michael or Stevie.
Again, sorry for the late reply. Time to get back to the grading grind.
First of all, don’t apologize for the delayed reply! I totally understand.
As you say, Paul’s relationship with Q has gone unexplored, so I don’t have any info aside from them being apparently close. For one, Stella has posed with Quincy for a magazine shoot and has described “growing up with him.”
Here’s a big clue in Q’s comments on Paul’s album Kisses from the Bottom:
“The songs Paul chose for Kisses on the Bottom are songs I’ve heard and loved since I was a kid. I sat with Paul backstage at the first concert of his recent tour and had the privilege of listening to the entire record. These are some of the best songs ever written, and it takes a very special talent to bring them to light. Paul didn’t bring 1/8th notes with him to these songs; he knows how to swing like the old school or Sinatra used to say, ‘he’s in the pocket.’ There is simply no artist today who has the credibility, grace, and depth of character that Paul has. Our 49-year-relationship goes back to before The Beatles came to America and I love that Paul has taken the time to do this album. I’ve heard a lot of records covering these songs, but none of them have the authenticity that Paul’s has.”
That was in 2012, so 49 years prior would date their meeting to 1963, correctly as Q notes, to before the Beatles came to the States. Jones was made the first black executive at Mercury Records in 1964, but spent a lot of time in Europe in the 50’s and early 60’s traveling as a jazz musician (first with other artists, notably Dizzy Gillespie, then with his own band) so my best guess would be that they met in England at that point. How, when, where and more importantly, why Paul and Quincy were drawn to each other? Again, unexplored (which shows how frustrating certain aspects of Paul’s life are ignored in favor of the same old stories). It’s interesting not just because Quincy Jones became a musical giant in his own right, but a Beatle befriending a black American jazz musician before the Beatles even went to the States is certainly interesting, when John and George’s musician friends and collaborators tended towards fellow white rocker Brits (with the notable exception of George’s relationship with Ravi Shankar).
Anyway, to continue. When the Beatles won their Oscar in 1970 for Let it Be, Quincy was the one who accepted it. There’s an interview with him on the official Oscars Youtube channel where he recounts visiting Paul during the Ram sessions and telling him he should come to the ceremony, because the Beatles had a good chance of winning. Quote Q, “Paul and I, we have a great relationship. ::mimes Paul throwing his hands up:: ‘Nooo, Quincy, you’re not going to talk me into that!’ I’m like, ‘I don’t care, man, don’t go.’ And he didn’t go.” Q was musical director of the Oscars that year, so he went up on stage and accepted the award on their behalf when they did win.
There was some awkwardness in that during the 60’s, Paul had a relationship with Peggy Lipton (her memoir’s description of their sex is something else), who later met, married and had kids with Quincy. Peggy wrote that when Paul came work with Quincy later, Q invited her to come to the sessions and to stay at the McCartneys’ ranch in Arizona. Peggy was not thrilled, having no inclination to see her ex-boyfriend, but got the feeling Q was trying to suss out if she still had feelings for Paul (she didn’t) as she and Q’s marriage was not super stable at that time. Finally, she agreed.
Peggy and Paul’s relationship had not ended the best – in 1968 he invited her to the Beverly Hills Hotel when he was going to be there. She said she didn’t want to see him if he was also going to be seeing other girls, he said there was no one, except well there was this photographer from New York, but aside from her no one else, honest. Peggy wrote she should have wondered at that long convoluted explanation, but didn’t. Later when he got to L.A., Paul called her to invite to his hotel, but fell asleep on the phone talking to her. Peggy was living with music producer Lou Adler at the time, and said again, she should have been clued in and offended that Paul fell asleep while talking to her, but the sex with him was so good she could not turn down another chance at it. So she snuck out of her boyfriend’s house to go to the Beverly Hills Hotel at Paul’s invitation, but it was 4 in the morning and the night manager wouldn’t let her in. (It finally dawning on her Paul may not have remembered calling her at all.) So she waited until 8 a.m. when Paul finally emerged, with Linda, and they ran off into a car to go boating. Peggy was so pissed she broke into their bungalow and wrote “You made your choice” on lipstick on the mirror.
ANYWAY. That’s where Paul and Peggy had ended it, so she wasn’t thrilled with seeing him again, though once she got to the sessions Paul and Linda were lovely. She ended up spending a lot of time with the McCartney kids (who played with the Jones kids) and became fast friends with Linda, who Peggy noted was a particularly impressive mother (and who Quincy also particularly adored, according to Peggy). However, Quincy’s motivations still left a bad taste in Peggy’s mouth.
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Grading is done!
Thank you, Rose. That information on Paul and Quincy’s relationship was indeed, very interesting. That they knew each other pre-Beatles coming to America is surprising and opens it up to a lot of questions that no one has evidently asked. How and when and where did they meet? Why, as you said, were they drawn to one another? Did the other Beatles meet Quincy in 1963, or just Paul?
“Again, unexplored (which shows how frustrating certain aspects of Paul’s life are ignored in favor of the same old stories).”
I would love to see a biography of Paul — or any of the Beatles — that took a complete left turn and focused on everything but the rehashed stuff. I enjoyed the book on Paul and the avant-garde, because it told me lots of stuff I didn’t already know, or hadn’t read about in any great detail.
“but a Beatle befriending a black American jazz musician before the Beatles even went to the States is certainly interesting, when John and George’s musician friends and collaborators tended towards fellow white rocker Brits (with the notable exception of George’s relationship with Ravi Shankar).”
It is interesting, and overlooked. John had his issues with jazz, to say the least, so perhaps Paul’s musical eclecticism introduced him to other musicians/avenues that George and John were less interested in — although, of course, George’s passionate appreciation for Ravi Shankar would be a huge exception.
Now you make me wish someone would sit Paul and Quincy down and do a good, thorough interview with both of them together.
Eventually, I will get around to reading Peggy’s memoirs, but your description of the Paul/Quincy/Peggy triangle is certainly an interesting one. (That Peggy got along with Linda would also seem to dispute the firm stereotype that Linda was uber-protective and defensive around any woman who had been/was interested in Paul. Which, given Paul’s history, means Linda would have had to glare at approximately every fifth woman she came across.) I recall Tony Bramwell’s depiction of the Peggy/Hollywood Bungalow incident in “Magical Mystery Tours,” (he depicts Peggy as more intrusive — but Bramwell’s depictions of women in general in that book leave something to be desired) so it would be interesting to read Peggy’s account. Again, thanks so much for your post; it looks like a really interesting avenue, that I hope someday someone will go down.
I don’t know if this is the first meeting, but according to Steve Turner’s new book: Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year, Paul met Stevie who was performing at a London club in February 1966. Turner’s book is good; he applies source analysis, doesn’t flog one Beatle or promote another, devotes some attention to George and Ringo, and actually tracked down someone who claimed he took LSD with Paul that first night, which Turner argues dates Paul’s first acid trip to December 1965, not later in 1966. And he has a bib, and clearly separates quotes from authorial interpretation. But his lack of citations in the text still drives me nuts.
Interesting piece, Erin. I must say I don’t understand what all the ruckus is about, re Blackbird. I don’t know Paul’s exact words on the subject, but it sounds like the pundits are taking them too seriously, or assigning more importance to them than Paul ever intended.
Race relations circa 1968, when Blackbird was written, WAS qualitatively different than present day America. If Paul is expressing the view that things are better now– they are. This isn’t to say that “better” equals “perfect”, and I kind of doubt Paul would imply that.
Am I missing something?
“If Paul is expressing the view that things are better now– they are. This isn’t to say that “better” equals “perfect”, and I kind of doubt Paul would imply that.”
Paul’s recent interview, where he stated he attempted to write a song about the recent police shootings in the United States, but failed, would certainly indicate that he realizes that the state of race-relations in the country right now are far from perfect.
I wish I had kept the book longer, Karen, so I could review exactly what the authors do say Paul said at his various concerts, when introducing “Blackbird” and discussing the race-relations issue. Unfortunately, the book was an I.L.L., and so I only had it for a small amount of time. I imagine if we googled “McCartney introduces Blackbird” it would give us some examples.
They never argue that Paul declared that American race-relations are ‘perfect,’ rather, they use the term “post-racial.” The devil might be in the details of the definitions here, between “perfect” and “post-racial.” Here’s their assessment of post-racial: It “generally assumes that racial discrimination and bias no longer exist … such neo-liberal idealism, foundational to the post-racial American sensibility, obscures the ongoing political, social, and economic inequalities and injustices experienced by people of color.” They also note how Paul was giving the “post-racial” message to a predominantly white, baby boomer audience.
To me, this brings up an interesting question, that I’ve never seen discussed in depth anywhere, regarding the racial demographics of Beatles audiences then, and Paul’s audiences now. On the SHF, I saw a significant amount of posters bashing Whoopi Goldberg concerning her role as a “talking head” in the 8 Days a Week documentary (which I still haven’t seen; I don’t have Hulu, and so I’m going to have to wait till my library goes through the waiting list). But my understanding is that she offered a valuable, different perspective — that is, a non-white, non-male view — of what it was like to be an African-American teenager, and female Beatles fan, at one of their concerts. In her (1997?) interview with Paul, Oprah also notes how, among her teenaged set, everyone dug Motown, but she was a little different in that she loved the Beatles, and esp. Paul. I went to a Paul concert three years ago, and while the generational diversity was pretty good, a mix of Baby Boomers to Millennials and younger, and I wasn’t exactly doing a sociological study at the time, it was certainly a majority white audience. (To be fair, it was also in Kansas City, a majority white city). One of my clearest memories is of having my best friend, who went to the concert with me, pointing out a Middle-Aged man who was wearing a “Still Pissed at Yoko” T-Shirt, and laughing with her. (My friend is neutral on Yoko).
So, rambling aside, what was it — or is it still like — to be an African-American Beatles fan? They were never as heavily R&B as the Stones, and can’t be accused of the cultural appropriation that the Stones get accused of, but was it okay for teenaged African-American girls in the 1960s to like a band of white, English boys? Were their pressures from their friends and/or family to like other bands? Was it acceptable to fantasize about the Beatles? As much as I love the band, there’s no separating it from its identification with predominantly white Baby Boomer cultural dominance, and sometimes, as a Generation Y’er, I can’t help but chafe at that cultural dominance, even without the racial dimension.
Anyone want to put in their two cents?
I see, got it.
Full disclosure here: I think the press, in general, pays way too much attention to what celebrities think. Unless the celeb is speaking in some official capacity (as we’ve seen Mia Farrow or Angelina Jolie do, in their respective capacities as Ambassadors), it’s just someone’s opinion. And yes–that opinion might be silly or even repugnant (to wit: that fool from Duck Dynasty), but it doesn’t deserve the scrutiny and dissection as would comments expressed by a public official.
As worldly as his life has been, Paul has always struck me, via his comments and observations, as a bit of a neophyte when it comes to his grasp of (or at least his ability to articulate) social issues. He seems to spend alot of time with his foot in his mouth. 🙂
That’s a great question, Erin–and one I’d love to hear from Charlotte about. What I recall, growing up, was that The Beatles appealed to black kids as well as white kids because their music had soul and covered so many black artists. (Just to explain the vernacular–I know in the U.S., the accepted vernacular is “African-American”, but in Canada, we don’t use descriptors–ie. “African-Canadian”–likely because most blacks here originated from the Caribbean–in case anyone reads this and feels I’m being culturally insensitive. 🙂 )
“I think the press, in general, pays way too much attention to what celebrities think.”
I agree. I get celebrity fatigue — regardless of whether their political views correspond with mine or not — listening to famous people spout off about politics. .
“As worldly as his life has been, Paul has always struck me, via his comments and observations, as a bit of a neophyte when it comes to his grasp of (or at least his ability to articulate) social issues.”
Absolutely. Paul seems incapable of providing a stark clarity within his political messages, both because he’s tailoring it to the widest possible audience, and presumably doesn’t want to tick any one off, and because he’s not a public brawler. Politics is, by its nature, a contentious, divisive business — it requires confrontation, on some level — and publicly Paul’s pattern, even in his own life, (as in the Beatles breakup, or Heather Mills) is to avoid confrontation. His post Bloody-Sunday “Give Ireland back to the Irish” still pats England on the head while condemning its actions, and even in the topic we know he is passionately devoted to, vegetarianism, his approach is less overtly confrontational than Linda’s was. John was seemingly capable of providing political direction during his political period because he was searingly, completely convinced in that moment that he (or the people he supported) knew the answer. Paul equivocated on the Brexit issue when asked; said that he couldn’t make up his mind, thought both sides had good points, and ultimately didn’t vote because he wasn’t in the country.
Yes, Charlotte — or any other posters — we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
Paul didn’t vote re Brexit? That seemed like an important issue to vote on. I seem to recall reading that Ringo voted to leave.
No, Paul didn’t vote. It was in an interview published immediately after the vote; when the interviewer asked Paul, Paul said he thought that both sides had good arguments, and that he probably would have voted to remain, because people he trusted regarding finances were arguing that that was the best choice, but he then said he wasn’t in the country and so didn’t get a chance to vote. But you’re right; Ringo voted to leave.
Erin, re: Paul and politics, you’d be interested in this interview, if you haven’t read it yet:
It was done by Jonathan Power, a political journalist who attended school with Paul at the Inny and knows him well (I believe this is the unnamed journalist Paul mentioned was schooling him in Brexit politics) and it was explicitly to explore Paul’s views on politics. It’s probably most notable for Paul wondering aloud if Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili conspired with U.S. Republicans in some sort of backdoor deal to influence the 2008 presidential election. There’s another interview I read that I cannot find where Paul really went off on John McCain in a rant to the reporter that was off the record at the time (the reporter later got permission to insert it in the transcript after the election). I wish I could find it again, but all I remember is that it was an online magazine or blog and I’ve searched everything I could, but can’t find it again.
Interesting sidenote: Paul’s wife Nancy donated a ton of money (over $85,000) to Democrats & Hillary Clinton this year.
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For some reason, Rose, that link won’t work for me. (Shrugs).
One of the issues that particularly interests me regarding Paul and politics is, as Karen mentioned, his inability or reluctance to articulate his political issues with clarity. It’s very ‘old school’ celebrity. His discussion of political issues waxes and wanes, and primarily emerges when it involves a topic personally important to him. The height of his Beatles political period was presumably 1966-1967, when he was heavily involved with the avant-garde and International Times set. That appears to have diminished over time esp. as John stepped to political forefront.
For that matter, what about the politics of the Eastmans? Linda doesn’t seem to have been too overtly political — she was more interested in the vegetarian cause than politics and finances, apparently — but given the familial and financial relationship there, the Eastman family politics have to have had some impact. (I believe it was Sounes who argued that John Eastman, and George Martin, were the only two men whose advice Paul would take without question, but Sounes didn’t cite a source for that bit of information). In a 1976 Time cover story on Paul — a cover story which is remarkable because, along with Norman’s Paul bio and “Apple to the Core,” it is the only interview with John Eastman on Paul I’ve come across — John Eastman claims that, had Paul been an American, he probably would have been politically financially, if not socially, conservative.
“Interesting sidenote: Paul’s wife Nancy donated a ton of money (over $85,000) to Democrats & Hillary Clinton this year.”
I also saw that he joined a Clinton fundraiser 20K a plate event, joking that it was the first time he ever had to pay to hear himself play.
Hello community! I’ve been catching up on reading some Beatles, John, Paul, books I’ve obtain from thrift stores, ebay, etc. I’ve also been allowing myself to mellow out after the big shock/disappointment from the election, and also giving my two cents worth on Youtube. I’ve been reading this latest discussion and as always, it’s so very interesting and you guys bring great intelligence to your observations.
Karen, I agree with you that the press tends to pay too much attention to what celebrities think. Some people like to put celebs on pedestals and treat anything they say as gospel. I know like the rest of us, they have opinions and the right to them but I think the wiser ones realize that it’s better for them to keep a lot of that to themselves. I know that sometimes an issue may be important enough to risk pissing off their fans and the general public as well, but not everything. I must be getting old because I sure didn’t think this when I was younger. I hated hearing “Shut up and sing, shut up and act!”…if I agreed with the celebrity stating my views.
This may sound silly to a lot of whites but here is a brief history on the identity of self. At one time we (African Americans) were called *niggers and it was a slur (it’s still a slur even when we call each other that with love and affection, and believe me most blacks hate for whites or non blacks, to use it even as friendly joshing) My family doesn’t use that term, and certainly not with love and affection. We want to stay consistent with how we teach our younger ones on what is appropriate. We choose not to use any racial slurs of any race or ethnicity no matter how seemingly mild or benign. Too PC? Too bad.
Anyway then we became *colored, (my grandparents generation) because that sounded nicer to their ears than the “N” word or *black, because everything associated with *blackness was considered negative or bad by society at large. Then my parents generation preferred *Negro, because they weren’t crayons but a people. My generation grew up listening to James Brown’s “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!” because we were no longer ashamed of being identified as black. Then *African American, because before we were Americans, our history was from the great continent of Africa with all it’s different countries, tribes, histories and traditions etc. Most “African Americans” are okay with being referred to as “Blacks”. All this I’ve just explained, is really an over simplification, but basically it’s what was, and is. And Karen, to me, you always have it together and not at all culturally insensitive.
*”Rambling aside, what was it – or is it still like – to be an African American Beatles fan?”
Speaking for myself, I just turned eight when The Beatles conquered American shores. Seemed like everybody (young kids as well as the older kids) in an integrated elementary school, loved the Beatles and their fashions. We (black kids) also loved square dancing (as part of our gym class) which was also coed as well as integrated. It was fun! By the time we were 13-ish, none of us kids (whatever race) would be caught dead at a square dance! We wanted to be considered cool. “Square” was not cool. What has any of this got to do with The Beatles? Context.
I know many blacks loved The Beatles because we would groove and jam to their songs when they came on the radio. If the song sounded good, or soulful, we jammed. We didn’t necessarily discuss the Beatles as a group, the social meaning of their songs, I’d say from Revolver era onward, some of the songs was part of the soundtrack, the background “noise” to whatever was going on without anyone pointing out it was Beatles.
I remember this senior girl (who could sing her butt off, would break out every now and then and sing American Pie and Let It Be, beautifully), I was just a lowly “sop” (sophomore) I kept quiet and marveled at her talent. LIB was even sung at church with our Youth Choir. Many a teary eye felt it’s power. I bet if some of the elders knew it was a Beatles song…(Whatchu say?! Rock n Roll In Church?!) Satan Is Busy! Clutch pearls and fan the ladies! LOL!!
As far as going to any Beatles concerts, I don’t think many blacks here would have went, (Not that the Beatles would come to OKC or Tulsa or even a college town, maybe KCMo or Dallas if they were to ever come to this neck of the U.S. woods. Most blacks at that time, if they could afford it, would have probably went to see R&B acts or gospel if anything. At least then…and again I’m over simplifying.
If it were perceived as somehow ‘uncool’ to like The Beatles by black teens in the ’60s into the ’70s, then maybe no one would have admitted liking them but since many a head would nod, many a foot would dance to their sounds, I just don’t know how that was possible to not like them unless one didn’t know they were nodding and foot dancing to a Beatles tune. And as far as Paul goes, I think he may not always be as “in tuned” to American politics (heck neither are a lot of Americans) but I like where his heart is at.
Off topic, Karen, aren’t Canadian’s “Americans” too? (same continent) My limited education is showing I know.
I love hearing about your enjoyment of Beatles’ music growing up, Charlotte. We must be the same age; I was also 8 years old when The Beatles came to America.
I think you captured the essence of it: ” I know many blacks loved The Beatles because we would groove and jam to their songs when they came on the radio. If the song sounded good, or soulful, we jammed.” When the Beatles came on the scene, the “rock” music was generally pretty droll and uninteresting (Bobby Vinton, anyone?) The Beatles changed all that.
That’s kind of you to say,Charlotte, thank you. I’m glad my use of the term “black” isn’t offensive. 🙂
No worries. 🙂 In so far as Canada is a part of the North American continent, we are “American”, but Canadians NEVER call themselves “American.” We are Canadian, and those who live in the United States are “American.”
First off, thanks for responding! It’s nice to hear from you again!
“I’ve been catching up on reading some Beatles, John, Paul, books I’ve obtain from thrift stores, ebay, etc.”
I love second-hand and thrift store books. Have you found anything good? I’m extremely lucky, in that I can use my University’s I.L.L. program to get books, and not have to pay for them, but otherwise I’d be shelling out loads of money to fund my Beatles reading habit. The “New Critical Perspectives” book was another book I didn’t pay for. 🙂
I didn’t find your discussion of terms on identity ‘silly’ at all; I thought it was fascinating and revealing. Language has so much power in it, doesn’t it?
Thanks so much for your personal remembrances as an African-American Beatles fan, Charlotte. I esp. loved your memory of the choir singing LIB at church, without many people in the congregation realizing it was a Beatles song. (I’ve always been particularly fond of LIB; it’s my mother’s favorite Beatles song). It sounds like your fan experience was pretty universal; if you grooved to the music, the Beatles were cool.
Oh yeah! Whoopi Goldberg is a little over two months older than me, she born near the end of the year (Nov) in 1955 and me at the beginning (Jan) 1956 which would have made her 11 years old the last year The Beatles as a band toured. She was lucky if her folks let her attend a concert at that age. Others of my classmates may have attended a concert before me as well. My first was at age 15, when the Jackson 5 came to town and I was lucky that I had the ticket money and a ride with my next door neighbor otherwise I would have been in my 23 before I went to any concert.
I happen to like Paul’s, Kanye’s, and Rihanna’s song, FourFiveSeconds. I remember when Paul turned around to reveal himself as the guitar player I gave out and excited shout of recognition, the young paying mad respect to the aged. I liked that. I thought it was funny when some commenters would joke, “The older white guy, he’s pretty good. I think he has a real future in the business”. Folks say the darndest things.
Hi y’all. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays! Arrrgghh! My computer is on the blink and I have to wait for my computer whiz kid son-in-law to fix it, and I’m using my daughter’s cell phone to comment.
Right now we are on Kansas City,Misouri (K.C.Mo) visiting kinfolks and friends and I’m having the darndest time navigating and operating this new fangled contraption! I’ll try again later.
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