"A generation, including myself, grew up with the Beatles," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this morning upon hearing of the death of George Harrison. "Their music, the band and the personalities of the band were the background to our lives."
More often than not, upon the death of a celebrity or anyone else, for that matter humans are prone to exaggerate about the deceased's contribution to the lives of others. But Blair, for a change, understated the legacy of the 58-year-old "quiet Beatle," who lost his long battle with cancer in Los Angeles yesterday.
It wasn't just the background of our lives that the Beatles altered when, in 1964, they blew in like a sudden storm and proceeded to permanently alter the cultural landscape of the world. I was there. I know.
In my California hometown, we teenage boys grew our hair long because the Beatles grew their hair long. We'd never given a whit of thought to our own spirituality as opposed to religion until John, Paul and Ringo, led by George, began investigating theirs.
And it is not going too far out on a limb to say that the single movement which defined the decade of their arrival the one that ended the Vietnam war sprang from seeds planted by the Beatles.
So it wasn't just the music. The Beatles were a perfectly placed, perfectly timed phenomenon that changed the world at a breakneck pace. Imagine: George was only 27 when the Beatles officially broke up in 1970. Imagine this, too: It was he, not John or Paul, who produced the most and biggest hits as a solo artist.
In my life, to this day, the Beatles' influence has not waned. Last night, I slid "Abbey Road" into my CD player. This morning, after hearing the news, I switched to repeated playings of one particularly comforting George Harrison song:
"My sweet Lord, oh, my Lord ... I really want to see you, I really want to be with you..."
Mike Burkett, reporter