- December 19, 2011
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The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by late 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon(rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums, vocals). Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the group later worked in many genres ranging from pop ballads topsychedelic rock, often incorporating classical and other elements in innovative ways. The nature of their enormous popularity, which first emerged as “Beatlemania“, transformed as their songwriting grew in sophistication. They came to be perceived as the embodiment of ideals of the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s.
Initially a five-piece line-up of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums), they built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. Sutcliffe left the group in 1961, and Best was replaced by Starr the following year. Moulded into a professional act by manager Brian Epstein, their musical potential was enhanced by the creativity of producer George Martin. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first single, “Love Me Do“, became a modest hit in late 1962, and acquired the nickname the “Fab Four” as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year. By early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the “British Invasion” of the United States pop market. The band toured extensively around the world until August 1966, when they performed their final commercial concert. From 1966 they produced what many critics consider to be some of their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968) and Abbey Road (1969). After their break-up in 1970, the ex-Beatles each found success in individual musical careers. Lennon was murdered outside his home in New York City in 1980, and Harrison died in Los Angeles of metastatic lung cancer in 2001. McCartney and Starr remain active.
The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, and over four decades after their break-up, their recordings are still in demand. They have had more number one albums on the UK charts and have held the top spot longer than any other musical act. According to the RIAA, they have sold more albums in the United States than any other artist, and they topped Billboard magazine’s list of all-time Hot 100 artists in 2008. They have received 7 Grammy Awards from the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and 15 Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. They were collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people.