Many believe them to be the greatest band in rock 'n' roll history. The group's catalog is full of classic albums, most of which maintain the same relevance that they had when they were released over 40 years ago. The quartet was formed in Liverpool, England in 1960 and was fronted by the most famous songwriting duo in rock history, John Lennon (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Paul McCartney (vocals, bass). Lennon's poetic soul and distinctive voice perfectly complemented McCartney's incredible ear for melody and warm, smooth singing. The duo was backed by the group's indispensible, prodigiously talented lead guitarist, George Harrison. Ringo Starr's contribution was his rock-solid drumming and affable nature, both of which were essential to their success. Though they were only together for 10 years, the four Liverpudlians would set a new standard for rock music that continues to resonate generations later.
The band released their debut LP, Please Please Me through Parlophone Records on March 22nd, 1963. Though the album was hastily assembled to build on the successes of their singles "Please Please Me" and "Love Me Do", its 14 tracks make up one of the most important debut albums in rock history. Besides the aforementioned singles, it also features classics like "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist and Shout." Over the next seven years, the Beatles would release 12 more albums, all of which made major impacts culturally and commercially.
One of the most notable aspects of their career was that they were not afraid to experiment musically, and often deviated from the traditional pop music mores of the era. Though their first few albums were straight-forward pop records, by 1965's Rubber Soul, they were experimenting with folk music, psychedelic rock, and Eastern instruments (see George Harrison's famous sitar line on "Norwegian Wood"). Amazingly, the more they challenged the cultural notions of what pop music was supposed to be, the more the public loved their sound.
While volumes could be (and have been) written about their next seven albums, it is important to note that all of them had their own special significance and all brought something different to the band's catalog. For instance, St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (which Rolling Stone Magazine called the greatest album of all time), broke new ground sonically and lyrically. The group openly embraced the psychedelic music and drug culture that they were immersed in, which pushed the boundaries of what was allowed in pop music.
The Beatles released their swan song, Let it Be, on May 8th, 1970. The disc was produced by Phil Spector, and while it initially received mixed reviews, its allure has only become more pronounced and its longevity is indisputable. Today it is viewed as a worthy end to an extraordinary career. The group split soon after due to personal and creative differences. All four of the members enjoyed successful post-Beatles music careers, but most agree that their greatest achievements were fulfilled together.
On the evening of December 8th, 1980, Lennon was murdered by a crazed fan in front of the Dakota hotel in New York City. He was 40 years old. He is survived by his sons Julian and Sean and his widow Yoko Ono. In 1997, doctors discovered that Harrison had throat cancer. By 2001, the cancer had spread into his lungs, and on November 29th, 2001, Harrison lost his fight against the disease. He was 58. Harrison is survived by his son Dhani Harrison and his widow Olivia Trinidad Arias. To date, McCartney and Starr continue to perform and record regularly.