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Biographies of the Members of The Beatles

The Beatles are one of the greatest bands in the history of music, and its members are some of the most celebrated artists of all time. Here's a brief introduction to all the members of the legendary Beatles.
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The Beatles
The success of the Beatles―they are the most commercially successful band of all time―is considered important in reinvigorating the city of Liverpool. The post-War period was tough on the city, and several historians credit the contemporaneous successes of the Beatles and the football club Liverpool for the subsequent rise of the city of Liverpool.
The most famous lineup of the Beatles consists of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Stuart Sutcliffe, an art school friend of Lennon's, and Pete Best, were initially selected to play the bass and the drums, respectively. Sutcliffe's untimely death in 1962, at the age of just 22, forced McCartney to play the instrument he would go on to make his own, while Best was sacked by the Beatles after they signed for Parlophone.

The four Beatles, named after the insect-themed name of Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets, were all born in Liverpool: Starr on July 7, 1940, Lennon on October 9, 1940, McCartney on June 18, 1942, and Harrison on February 25, 1943.

They were all inspired by the skiffle music that had emerged on Merseyside in the late 1950s. John Lennon's skiffle band Quarrymen was one of the best skiffle bands in Liverpool. His friend, McCartney, and McCartney's friend, Harrison, were the first members of the Beatles, in 1960. They were called 'the Beatals' around this period, which morphed into 'the Silver Beetles' before finally settling on the 'Beatles' in August 1960.

Here's a brief summing up of each member's life.

Biographies of the Beatles

John Lennon

John Winston Lennon was the rhythm guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the Beatles. He was the founder of the band, carrying on with the Beatles following his work with the Quarrymen. He grew up with his aunt, who complained to Social Services that the unstable domestic conditions in the Lennon household (Alfred Lennon, John's father, had abandoned the family only to return to find his wife pregnant with another man's child) were affecting John badly. His estrangement from his mother came to the fore in several of his best known songs, including 'Julia' (his mother's name) and 'Mother'. Despite this, he met his mother frequently, and it was Julia Lennon who introduced Lennon to the world of music, teaching him how to play the banjo. His aunt did not approve of his musical leaning, since she didn't think it would be a viable source of income. Julia Lennon also bought John his first guitar, in 1956. She was killed in a road accident in 1958.

John was a typical troublemaker during his school life. He failed all of his GCE O-level exams, but got enrolled in the Liverpool College of Art. In his own words,

I was the one who all the other boys' parents―including Paul's [McCartney] father―would say, 'Keep away from him'... The parents instinctively recognised I was a troublemaker, meaning I did not conform and I would influence their children, which I did.

Conversely, Lennon's aunt Mimi didn't approve of his friends, and even Paul McCartney has stated that she used to constantly patronize him whenever he visited Lennon.

Lennon founded the skiffle group 'the Quarrymen' in 1956, and by 1957, Paul McCartney had joined the group. Despite his initial misgivings about Lennon, McCartney's father let the group practice in his house. Harrison was introduced to Lennon by McCartney, and even though Lennon initially thought he was too young to join the band, he eventually became a part of the burgeoning band.

After their first gig in Hamburg, Lennon's friend Stuart Sutcliffe, who used to play bass, decided to stay there with his German girlfriend. This led to McCartney playing the bass, a decision which was made permanent after Sutcliffe's death. Pete Best, who had joined the group as the drummer but was criticized for his ability, was replaced by Ringo Starr. This was the lineup that would bring about the musical revolution of the 1960s.

The breakup of the Beatles has been popularly attributed to Lennon's relationship with Japanese freestyle artist Yoko Ono. The relationship led him to divorce his wife, Cynthia, in 1968. He later left the Beatles to collaborate with Yoko Ono and pursue a solo career, which led to classics such as 'Imagine' and 'Give Peace a Chance'.

Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman, a born again Christian, in retaliation to Lennon's controversial remarks that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus", spoken in an interview in 1964. He was murdered on December 8, 1980, outside the Dakota building in New York. The Lennons were returning to their apartment in the building, when Chapman shot Lennon in the back five times. He was pronounced dead on arrival after being rushed to a hospital.

Lennon is celebrated as one of the greatest and most influential rock artists of all time. He was ranked as the fifth-best singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, as well as the 38th greatest artist of all time. His songs 'Imagine' and 'Give Peace a Chance' have become popular anthems for peace movements, and the former has also become a controversial atheist anthem.

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney was primarily the bassist and vocalist for the Beatles, but he was a talented multi-instrumentalist, and also played the piano, lead guitar, harmonica, and drums on several songs in the Beatles catalog. He and Lennon formed the songwriting duo Lennon-McCartney, which is arguably the most celebrated and famous songwriting team in history. Even though both of them wrote lyrics as well as compositions, the songs created under the tag of 'Lennon-McCartney' would almost always be collaborations to some degree, and completely independent songs written by either (for the Beatles) are rare. Due to this unusual pairing, the songs were always credited to the pair, regardless of who had the major share in the creation of that particular song.

Both Lennon and McCartney were influenced by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, etc. Elvis was such an important influence that the Beatles didn't include him on their famous cover for the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, because, in McCartney's words,

Elvis was too important and too far above the rest even to mention ... so we didn't put him on the list because he was more than merely a ... pop singer, he was Elvis the King.

McCartney was a co-founder of the Beatles along with Lennon, and was responsible for inducting George Harrison in the group. He has been married three times. Linda Eastman was his first wife, whom he married in 1969 and remained married to until her death in 1998. Linda was also his bandmate in his post-Beatles band, Wings. 4 years after her death, he married Heather Mills, whom he divorced in 2008. In 2011, he married Nancy Shevell. Before meeting Linda Eastman, McCartney was in a five-year relationship with Jane Asher, who broke off their impending marriage when she found out that he had cheated on her. Many of his early romantic songs developed from his relationship with Asher.

McCartney was knighted in 1997 for his contribution to music. He was ranked in 11th place in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest singers of all time. Two of his songs hold unique records: 'Yesterday' is the most covered song in history, and 'Hey Jude' is the best selling Beatles single.

George Harrison

George Harrison was primarily the lead guitarist of the Beatles, but he also contributed significantly with his slow-blooming songwriting prowess. While Lennon and McCartney were the more prolific songwriters, the Beatles usually included at least one composition by Harrison in their albums. Some of his compositions, such as 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' and 'Something' are some of the Beatles' most famous tracks, and the latter is the second most covered song in the Beatles catalog, behind McCartney's 'Yesterday'.

Harrison was brought into the Beatles by his friend Paul McCartney, and he impressed John Lennon with his ability. Lennon, though, had misgivings due to Harrison's age (he was only 14 when he auditioned). Eventually, he convinced Lennon to include him in his band. McCartney has described Harrison as his "baby brother", but acknowledged that the two get on each other's nerves.

Harrison was a fan of the Nashville sound, and consequently followed the music of Chet Atkins, Django Reinhardt, as well as Carl Perkins, etc. His guitar solos are renowned for their melodic quality, as opposed to power and distortion. He was also interested in Indian culture, including Indian Classical music. These influences also manifested themselves liberally in his music. He was inspired to pursue music when he listened to Elvis Presley's 'Heartbreak Hotel' being played in one of their neighbor's homes.

His mother, Louise Harrison, was very supportive of his proficiency and keen interest in music. She was herself an amateur singer, and reportedly used to listen to radio broadcasts of Indian Classical music while pregnant with George.

His interest in Hindu culture began to grow during his time as a Beatle, sparked by an interest in the sound created by the sitar, an Indian string instrument played in a similar manner to a guitar. Harrison spent a few weeks in India, where he learned the sitar from Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar. Harrison persuaded the other Beatles to include the sitar in the song 'Norwegian Wood' in the album Rubber Soul. Appreciating the effect created by the striking tone of the sitar, the Beatles started to incorporate Indian instruments, such as the sitar, the tambura, and the tabla, in their songs. Some notable examples of this trendsetting cross-cultural innovation include Harrison's own 'Love You To' and 'Within You Without You', and Lennon's 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. This was an eye-opener to the Western music scene, which started to borrow more elements from Indian music. Harrison's other, more conventionally Western songs, such as 'Here Comes the Sun', 'I Want to Tell You', and 'Taxman' also received acclaim.

Harrison's interest in Indian culture went beyond the musical elements; he started to pursue gurus teaching Hindu mysticism in the 1960s. He became a disciple of the Hare Krishna sect in the late 1960s, but remained respectful of other religions, stating that the ultimate truth remained the same thing regardless of what name we attribute to it.

Harrison married Pattie Boyd in 1966, having met her a year earlier. His marriage fell apart when his affair with Maureen Starkey, wife of fellow Beatle Ringo Starr, came to light; Boyd went on to marry Eric Clapton, having divorced Harrison in 1977. Harrison married Olivia Trinidad Arias in 1978, and had one son with her, Dhani Harrison. His affair with Starr's wife also caused tension in the band, with Ringo threatening to quit; however, the matter was smoothed over, though it contributed to the breakdown of Ringo's marriage.

Harrison was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997. In 2001, he had a cancerous growth removed from one of his lungs, but the lung cancer metastasized to his brain. He passed away on November 29, 2001.

Ringo Starr

Starr, born Richard Starkey, began as the drummer in another group on Merseyside, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Ringo was signed in 1962 as a replacement for Pete Best, whose drumming wasn't appreciated by record producer George Martin, completing the setup that would go on to dominate the music scene of the 1960s. Starr began his Beatles career by playing the maracas and tambourine on songs such as 'Love Me Do'.

Starr's unassuming style of drumming was instrumental in the musical style displayed by the Beatles, as other drummers at the time were only notable for their solos. In contrast, Starr reveled in playing supportive, unintrusive drum pieces. His only solo for the Beatles comes in the song 'The End' in the album Abbey Road. His style has been praised by George Martin and fellow drummers such as Phil Collins. When Ringo left the Beatles on one occasion during the recording of the White Album, fed up with the band's infighting and Paul McCartney's domineering nature, the Beatles persuaded him to return and adorned his drum kit with flower bouquets.

Though he was a crucial and valued member of the band, Starr began to be isolated due to the other three Beatles' desire for constant innovation. Their experimentation in the acoustics of new tracks, particular of their later albums, often left Starr with the job of filling in basic percussion pieces instead of proper drumming. He filled this time by honing his guitar skills. Starr also occasionally sang on Beatles albums, as well as occasionally writing a song. One of the most famous Beatles songs, 'Yellow Submarine', is sung by Starr. The songs 'Don't Pass Me By' and 'Octopus' Garden', in White Album and Abbey Road, respectively, are written by Starr.

After the Beatles broke up, Starr started several solo projects, often collaborating with other ex-Beatles, though never together.

Ringo married Maurine Cox in 1965, but repeated infidelities on his part as well as Maureen's affair with George Harrison led to their divorce in 1975; they had three children together. He married actress Barbara Bach in 1981. Thanks to the immense success of the Beatles, Starr is thought to be the wealthiest drummer in the world.

The Beatles were collectively named the greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, and three of their albums were named among the top 5 of the great 100 albums of all time. This humungous success was only possible due to the natural talent brimming in all four of these members, as well as the constant desire to innovate and improve upon their own work.
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Published: July 11, 2014
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Whilst the comment about Beatles makes reference to the insects this was never exploited the band. I believe the name is a little more intelligent, the important difference is implied in the spelling which of course alludes to the music beat. - Colin James [July 28, 2014]