13 November 2009
The Beatles’ Effect on the Anti-War Movement (Revised Draft)
The Beatles have been noted as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, and most persuasive bands of all time. They were both musical and lyrical masterminds whom interpreted their opinions through their music. Of those many opinions their main message they wanted to send was the idea of peace. The Beatles opposed the war in Vietnam and were avid participants in the anti-war movement; by trend setting, not being afraid to speak their mind, and writing songs including: “Give Peace A Chance,” “Revolution,” “All You Need Is Love,” and many more. These songs insinuated and instilled their views on world peace, and back their opinions on the war.
The Beatles are probably one of the greatest sensations the world has ever seen. No other band has ever had a larger effect on their fans and listeners as The Beatles, ever since they started to take over the ears of the world during the birth of “The Beatles Revolution” (not to be confused with The Beatles song “Revolution”) in 1963. A lot of their songs were based on their continual efforts to promote the concept of world peace. No other song written by John Lennon is more blatant in this promotion of peace than the song “Give Peace A Chance.” Songfacts.com says, “This song was recorded in 1969 during John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s notorious “bed in” in which they stayed in bed for eight days in an effort to promote world peace. This song quickly became an anti-war movement anthem when a large number of people thought America should not have been fighting the War in Vietnam.” Lennon directly states in the third verse of “Give Peace A Chance,” “(Let me tell you now) / Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout / Revolution, Evolution, Masturbation, Flagellation, Regulation, / Integrations, mediations, United Nations, congratulations / All we are saying is give peace a chance / All we are saying is give peace a chance” (“Give Peace A Chance”).
This shows that peace was a huge inspiration when it came to John Lennon’s songwriting.
The Beatles wrote hundreds of songs throughout their long career and many of which had the same main ideas in them. Those two ideas seem to standout in most of their songs, and they are the ideas of peace and love. They were so passionate about these two ideas especially world peace, that they became avid participants and leaders in the anti-war movement, against the War in Vietnam. It seemed strange that a huge push for the Vietnam anti-war movement was coming from these four long haired kids from Liverpool, England, but it did not matter to them who the countries were, they would have been just as active if it were any two countries at war. That is how avidly they believed in the idea of world peace. As the Vietnam War progressed, some of the “radical groups” (groups opposing the war) started becoming more violent, and that is when they put out “Revolution”, a song suggesting peaceful protesting. So that just goes to show
that it was not just the war they were against, it was violence in general. Robert Fontenot states,
“By spring 1968, student demonstrations had reached a fever pitch all around the world, most notably in Paris, where a massive strike and resultant riots led to the collapse of the government led by Charles DeGaulle. John Lennon, who questioned the goals of the leftists movements even as he championed their basic beliefs, wrote this song directly to the world's young revolutionaries, specifically inspired as he was by the May 1968 French upheaval.” (Fontenot).
Even though “Revolution” was inspired by the riots in France, it also pertained to the violent protesting going on in the United States. Alan W. Pollack talked about the lyrics by saying, “The lyrics get pounced on typically because of what the FBI might have described as their ‘anarchic posture’. What I find most remarkable about them is the way they embody that typically Lennonesque ambiguity between tender encouragement and nasty ridicule.” (Pollack). In the second verse of “Revolution” The Beatles sing,
“You say you got a real solution / Well, you know / We'd all love to see the plan / You ask me for a contribution / Well, you know / We're doing what we can / But when you want money / for people with minds that hate / All I can tell is brother you have to wait / Don't you know it's gonna be all right…” (“Revolution”).
The lyrics in the song reiterate that there is no need for all the destruction that the young protesters were showing and by doing it they were sinking to their (the governments) level. They say if people just freed their mind and relax then everything is going to be alright.
The Beatles insert their ideas about peace by insinuating that the success of peace comes from the concept of loving everyone. They believed with love for all then there would be no need to be fighting wars, and that there was no room for hostility. Through these ideas and concepts The Beatles wrote the song “All You Need Is Love,” Pollack analyzes that there are more to the lyrics of the hit song than meet the eye. He states “You not only have the clever retrograde of the title phrase ("love is all you need"), but also some rather off-handedly delivered philosophical observations on the ironic tension between the attempts you make to self-direct life's course and the way you learn from experience to accept the influence of so-called destiny.” (Pollack). This song is a prime example of The Beatles inserting their ideas against the war. They state in the very first of “All You Need Is Love,”
“There's nothing you can do that can't be done. / Nothing you can sing that can't be sung. / Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game / It's easy. / There's nothing you can make that can't be made. / No one you can save that can't be saved. / Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you / in time - It's easy. / All you need is love, all you need is love, / All you need is love, love, love is all you need.” (“All You Need Is Love”).
They were telling the governments that no matter what they do that it has all been done before, and the only way to be free is through peace and love.
The Beatles would have done anything to promote world peace. John Lennon once stayed in a bed for eight straight days with his wife Yoko Ono to promote world peace. They also had multiple fundraisers and advertisements all over the world promoting the concept. Most of the advertisements that they had came straight out of their own pockets without any donations. The Beatles were so overcome with the ideas of world peace that it was pretty much the sole inspiration for most of their music, which was responsible for all of their fame and fortune. The Beatles were one of the most listened to and respected group of people amongst the youthful generation of the 1960’s, they were like gods. They would spread their ideas of peace throughout the world with their music and changed the perspective of many people. Their ability to influence people was phenomenal and the media would hang onto every word that they said.
The Beatles were geniuses at creating metaphors to get their ideas across in their songs. One example of this is from one of their greatest hits “Come Together.” This song was intended to get the point across of how if everyone worked together than they could change the world and achieve world peace. This is referenced mainly in the chorus of the song, “Come together right now over me” (“Come Together”). The song also refers to their opinions about the government and the mistakes they were making. This is seen in the first verse when they state,
“Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly / He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller / He got hair down to his knee / Got to be a joker he just do what he please” (“Come Together”). Another one of their songs with great metaphoric substance, referring to peace, is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” George Harrison makes this clear in the second verse by writing, “I look at the world and I notice it's turning / While my guitar gently weeps / With every mistake we must surely be learning / Still my guitar gently weeps / I don't know how you were diverted / You were perverted too / I don't know how you were inverted / No one alerted you.” (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”). This song was written right after a fellow peaceful protester and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was assonated. The song was possibly written in memory of him and his fight for world peace, and racial equality.
The Beatles, as a group, were living legends; they had the world in their hands. They had money, fame, and most importantly to them the ears of people who soaked up their beliefs like a sponge. They did what few other musicians had ever done before and that was speaking out against the government in a time of war. This was unheard of at the time where before, anything that was considered “unpatriotic” was shunned upon harshly. They were not scared to say what was on their mind, regardless if it offended people or not. They also were not afraid to be publicly unacceptable, they did not care what anybody thought of them and were not scared to make a statement. The Beatles were also the trendsetters of the “long hair generation” of the 60’s. Before they were in the public eye nobody wore their hair below their ears. As a matter of fact, it was socially unacceptable to do so. That was until The Beatles invaded America with their long hair, British accents, and music that would just not stop playing in your head. From that point on, The Beatles sensation spread like wildfire; kids started growing out their hair, listening to rock and roll, rebelling against their parents, and actually started thinking for themselves instead accepting the ideals and beliefs that their parents and society had been shoving down their throats their entire life. All of a sudden, there was a new generation of longhaired, rebellious free thinkers who were fed up with the way their government was dealing with foreign affairs; by enlisting people in wars that they did not even believe they should be in, in the first place, and sending people (minorities) to the front lines of battle to die for a country that hated them. And thus, the anti-war movement was born.
This whole new generation of young Americans wreaked havoc on the American congressman. Never had the world seen anything like it, the young people were actually speaking out and having their voices heard. It was not just a few young people either, it was hundreds of thousands of people protesting, rioting, and putting pressure on Washington to do as they say, and to do it right then. The movement started off peacefully, with demonstrations mainly on college campuses and in Washington D.C. But as the war progressed, so did the lies from President Lyndon B. Johnson. The young radicals started getting a little more impatient and a little more infuriated. That is when the violence started and rioting broke out in a big way, with main contributors being radical groups like The Black Panther Party (a radical civil rights group who also opposed the Vietnam War) and The Students for a Democratic Society (a radical group who opposed the Vietnam War). Huge riots broke out everywhere including; Kent State University, Columbia University, and in Washington D.C. being some of the larger ones, where the National Guard had to be called out to control the young radicals and tragically some people did die, standing up for what they believed in.
Eventually, President Johnson was forced to bring home all troops from Vietnam surrendering all American activity in the war. This was due to the escalating pressures and situations brought on by the radical protesters on the home front, and the “Viet-Kong’s” (North Vietnamese) never say die approach to the war. This was long over due in the eyes of the anti-war movement members. They believed too many Americans died over in Vietnam and on the home front for a war that America should not have even been in to begin with. They saw it as a war between two countries, all the way on the other side of the world, and America was just trying to play world police, going to a war that they do not even need to be in, just for the fact that the opposing country were communist. This confused and angered the anti-war movement members. Even though they were finally satisfied that the war was over, knowing that this all could have been prevented left an awfully sour taste in their mouth.
The Beatles have proven that they were among some of the most influential people of their generation. Not only were they arguably the greatest band of all time, and would influence major musicians and rock and roll for many years to come, but they had an enormous effect on the anti-war movement. They can also take credit for being some of the unofficial starters of the movement, and by being some of the biggest advocates for the cause. They were responsible for setting trends both in physical appearance and in philosophy, letting people know that it was okay to speak their mind and have their own opinions (other than conforming to what society says is socially acceptable), and writing hit song after hit song stating their views and oppositions on the Vietnam War, while spreading their strong beliefs on world peace. The Beatles not only had a monumental effect on the anti-war movement, but also affected the entire American society, in which the effects can still be seen even today.
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