– Left Out Of The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary Celebration –
Did you see “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America – A GRAMMY® Salute“? That was the February 9, 2014, TV special described as “a tribute to the Beatles, marking the 50th anniversary of the group’s first U.S. television performance on CBS’ The Ed Sullivan Show.” I saw it and I really enjoyed it. Considering all that was poured into this 2 ½ hour production, it seems reasonable to expect that anything of significance, meriting related recognition, would have been included. But, that wasn’t the case. In fact, there was a complete void where I believe there should have been the loudest praise. Before going into that, though, let me overview what was included, that I liked.
A FITTING TRIBUTE
Since I’m a Beatles fan, there was a lot for me to like about this show. My being their fan began when I watched that legendary black-and-white episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. I was in my Junior-year of high school and I clearly remember the excitement associated with the first appearance of the Fab Four on American TV. Coming on the heels of the months-long sense of depression in the U.S., following the assassination of JFK, the delight surrounding that event was most welcome. That experience, shared in similar fashion by countless millions of my contemporaries, marked the launch of the phenomenon known as Beatlemania. Unlike so many other “phenoms”, found in the worlds of sports and entertainment, the popularity of the Beatles wasn’t short-lived. The group had real talent that was rich and deep. At the heart of this was the among-the-best-in-musical-history collaboration of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Between 1962 and 1969, they published 180 songs, with the vast majority being recorded by the Beatles. In addition to the extraordinary contribution of the Lennon-McCartney partnership, each of the group’s members offered exceptional individual talent. The effect of all this was summed up well by McCartney during the tribute show when he pointed out that, if each of the four Beatles had started their own band, every one of those groups would likely have attained greatness on their own. So, I was fully onboard with the 50th Anniversary Celebration and I know I was far from being alone in that. Although the occasion was described as “a star-studded tribute”, I must admit to being a bit surprised to see that the vast majority of the most prominent “stars” in the program were ones who weren’t even born yet when the Beatles officially broke up in 1970. But, I guess that’s just further testimony to the legitimacy of this tribute to, arguably, the greatest rock band of all time.
WHAT WAS MISSING?
So, what was missing? The performers included: Maroon 5, Stevie Wonder, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Joe Walsh, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, Keith Urban, Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, Dave Grohl, The Eurythmics, John Legend, Alicia Keyes, Brad Paisley, Pharrell Williams, Gary Clark Jr., several Cirque du Soleil acrobats and the two living Beatles themselves, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Presenters included: LL Cool J, Eric Idle, Anna Kendrick, Jeff Bridges, Sean Penn, Kate Beckinsale and Johnny Depp. In the audience, along with Paul’s wife, Nancy Shevell and Ringo’s wife, Barbara Bach, were: Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and countless other “beautiful people”. Short biographies were presented on each of the Beatles and footage was shown from the original Ed Sullivan performance. There were commentaries from production staff and attendees of that historical television appearance. There were videos of David Letterman visiting the stage of what had been The Ed Sullivan Theater with Ringo and Paul and he interviewed them both. What could, possibly, have been lacking in this?! Well, what was totally lacking, on the part of the exceptionally talented honorees, as well as the other extraordinarily talented participants, was any mention of the source of their talent, The Creator of all.
IT’S A GIFT!
Of course, I recognize that the failure of this gathering of remarkable talent to recognize The Giver of their talent isn’t an exception, rather it seems to be the rule for this sort of affair. With that being the case, I’ll admit that it’s unfair of me to pick on this event or any one of its participants. But, in order to illustrate why I have always found this behavior to be so disturbing, I am going to pick on one of these … the one I view as being the most talented … Paul McCartney.
Paul McCartney and George Harrison came from Catholic homes whereas John Lennon and Ringo Starr attended the Anglican Church as youths. Of course, I have no way of knowing if any of these foundational religious experiences were devout versus nominal. But, it would seem to establish that, from quite early in his life, McCartney, along with his band mates, had some exposure to God, as their Creator. Considering that, it only seems logical that, at some point, the basics in his monotheistic upbringing would have led him to acknowledge that, while he could, rightfully, take credit for what he had done in developing the talent he was given, he hadn’t created that talent in himself. In other words, to accept that it is just what many say it is … a gift.
SEEKING THE GIVER
Although I don’t know of any time that McCartney or any of the other Beatles made any public acknowledgement of their talent being a gift from God, it did seem that their religious views were as much in the spotlight as any other aspect of their personal lives. Though that was and is, pretty unique, it resulted in significant public awareness, as they moved from agnosticism, to Eastern mysticism, to religious pluralism, to the atheism indicated by the song “Imagine”, to flirting with evangelical Christianity, followed by returning to Eastern mysticism and occultism. When I think of McCartney’s lacking acknowledgement of the source of his talent in light of all that searching, I’m even more baffled by it. One of the best observations I’ve come across, in summing up the meaning of all this, though, was in an article by Kenneth R. Sample, when he said:
“The Beatles were gifted songwriters and talented popular musicians. They produced a variety of provocative and fun songs that reflected the basic generational beliefs of their time. Yet they also wrote songs that powerfully capture the universal human condition with themes like loneliness and the meaning of life. … Like most of us, however, the four Beatles were searching for a philosophy of life that would provide them with enduring love, hope, and peace. Unfortunately, they failed to recognize that the Christian Gospel they grew up with held the key to the truths and virtues they relentlessly pursued in the 1960s. It is indeed ironic that historic Christianity uniquely encompasses many of the ideals that The Beatles eloquently sang about and longed for in their personal lives.”
THEIR EARTHLY REWARD
Hopefully, you’re now getting a better idea of why I find the “Nowhere Man” aspect of The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary Celebration to be so disturbing. But, when you look at it from the world’s perspective, it’s not realistic to expect it to be any other way. Here again, I’ll pick on Paul McCartney, using just a handful of the ways in which he’s been rewarded, to make my point. He gained worldwide fame with The Beatles when he was still in his early twenties. His songwriting partnership with John Lennon is one of the most celebrated of the 20th Century. Following the breakup of The Beatles, he had an extraordinarily successful career with his own band, Wings. He’s a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. In 1965 he was named to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In 1997 he was knighted, as Sir James Paul McCartney. And, he is known to be the UK’s wealthiest musician, with an estimated fortune of £680 million ($1,129 million). Allowing himself to be idolized, rather than offering praise to The Giver of his talent, has paid off handsomely for McCartney in earthly terms. And, the sad truth is, if he had publicly acknowledged the source of his talent, though that wouldn’t have diminished his abilities in any way, it is highly likely that would have resulted in a significant lessening of his popularity and success.
OUR ETERNAL PRICE
Although I recognize that it’s not realistic to expect this to be any other way, from the world’s perspective, due to the fact that our idolization of talented performers pays off so well for them, in earthly terms, that doesn’t mean there’s no point to my lamenting this reality and its need for change. The reason is that there is an incredible cost for us, both individually and as a culture, in tolerating the continuation of this conduct.
For me, this cost is best illustrated by (very appropriately for this article) The Parable of the Talents, from The Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30. The Talent mentioned here was the largest unit of currency at that time. Scholars vary in estimating the actual value of a Talent but it certainly represented a large sum of money. In this parable, “a man traveling to a far country” entrusted a portion of his wealth to three of his servants while he was away. To one he gave five Talents, to another two and to another one. When he returned, he found that the one who had received five Talents had traded with them and made another five Talents. Likewise, he learned that the one who had received two Talents had gained two more. But, he discovered that the one who had received one Talent had buried it, thus preserving it but adding nothing to it. The man’s response to the first two was identical … “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” However, the man’s response to the third servant was … “You wicked and lazy servant, … you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” And, ominously, the parable concludes with the man saying, “Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten Talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
God created us to worship Him, not ourselves. Whether he gives us talents in today’s terms or Talents in ancient terms, He gives them to us to use for His purposes, not ours. When we do, He rewards that beyond any expectation. When we don’t, we end up without anything He created us for.
THANKS FOR THE GIFT …
Considering one’s own talent can seem peculiar. At least, it does to me, when I think about what writing talent God has given me. First, though I know I do have talent as a writer, there’s something about saying so that seems a bit egotistical. With that said, I know that I’m no James Clavell. Regardless, whatever my level of writing talent is, I know it is a gift from God. And, whether it’s lesser than some or greater than others, I know He gave it to me for His purposes. So, that’s what I’ve made the sole aim of my writing … to serve His purposes. Of course, writing isn’t the only gift I have from God. I recognize that anything I have and anything I am, that’s good, are gifts from Him. I won’t be so bold as to claim securing any gain through investing what He’s given me but I do strive to do that and I know that with my writing, at least, I haven’t done like the third servant in the parable, who buried his talent. Having said all this, my encouragement is that we all, as individuals and as a culture, should strive to do likewise.
… AND THE GREATER REWARD!
Surely, a pathway to personal wealth of £680 million ($1,129 million) is quite appealing. But, at the age of 71, how many more years will Paul McCartney have to enjoy it? No matter how much longer he lives, at the end of his life, he will take £0 ($0) with him. I hope that, unbeknownst to me, McCartney does give glory to God for his talents. It is far better to have treasure stored up in Heaven, an eternal fortune that God directs you to by saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord!”