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Encountering the Ghost of JFK in Dallas

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Gene, I agree with your observation that the Beatles and similar new British wave music helped get many American minds off the shock, grief and uncertain concerns of the JFK assassination.

However, I think this applied mainly to younger white Americans.

The Beatles didn't mean as much to those older than this in my opinion.

And American blacks were never as enthusiastic over the Beatles and the other British wave groups and sounds. 

I certainly didn't feel any more significant concern relief or diversion from the JFK assassination because of the hugely marketed and publicized new wave of young British pop music.

No more than I would feel just listening to the radio and hearing any music that I liked and that got my mind off the problems of the day at that time.

The Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, Bobby Vinton, Ray Charles, Peter Paul & Mary, The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, etc....heck, even Roger Miller.

I think that most of our society got through the initial trauma of JFK assassination simply through having to get on with their daily lives and choosing to move on from the exhaustion that worrying about something so heavy and depressing brings on.

However, even though the public discussion of the JFK assassination eventually died down and it wasn't on the news any more, I believe that there was never a true relief from the trauma subconsciously with most people old enough to witness the event with questions and concerns. And this included great suspicion, doubt and questioning in the area of trusting our own government in it's handling of the JFK assassination investigation.

Like a murder of a beloved relative that goes unsolved. You must move on from the initial trauma, sorrow, grief and unresolved justice anger and questions. You just move on.

Even so, I believe you never really lose those powerful emotions and feelings. You just set them aside and live your life trying to find the good and meaningful and productive and loving and fair and justly righteous as best you can.

I liked the Beatles a lot by the way. And much of the British wave. But I actually liked the Motown sound better.



Edited by Joe Bauer
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Understood and don't disagree.   The more obvious reaction to the Beatles was the hysteria expressed by teenage girls.  But I would also point out that many (young and old) came to be curious or appreciative of the Fab Four.  The Beatles made some courageous statements when they refused to go on at certain venues unless blacks were allowed to attend.   And while some parents disapproved of the long hair, their impact (on their children) also captured the interest of  adults. The press coverage was unprecedented; the entire world was fascinated with them. Many point to their timing as the reason for the phenomenon, an era of postwar, worldwide, mass-media ... coincident with the emergence of teenage pop-culture. Beatlemania was also an example of the right act hitting the right generation at the right time.  In America, when the Beatles broke through, the children of the baby boom were teenagers ... so they had a massive audience (i.e. about half of the US population was younger than 20 years old).  Some point to the Winter of 1963 as one of the worst/coldest of the 20th century. People therefore stayed inside - fixed to the television - which was fairly new at that time. The were young and iconic, glib and funny, and they were also fortunate to have Brian Epstein as a manager.  They were flat-out charming ...  handsome, witty, cool, fun people to be around.  Some would argue that their breakthrough occurred during a depressive period; one of the few positive things found in the news.  Of course they had talent - two of the greatest songwriters ever (in one band) ... and as one fan wrote "a musical ethic that was devoted to originality, not imitation, and yet could imitate with the best".   Music at the time needed a facelift ... the Billboard Top Five in October 1963 was pretty tame, and rock & roll was in remission:

  1. Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs: "Sugar Shack"
  2. The Ronettes: "Be My Baby"
  3. Bobby Vinton: "Blue Velvet"
  4. Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters: "Cry Baby"
  5. The Jaynetts: "Sally Go 'Round the Roses"

There's a 1996 posting by Paul Robertson entitled "Why the Beatles?" that is a good read.  In it, he states:

They made the coolest sounding records anybody had heard in a long, long time, and backed it up with a breathtaking sense of fun and adventure. In the early 1960s, man, we were ready for this; not because of Kennedy being shot, but because the whole scene was just getting so darn grey and dull. For their part, they were a pop group that wanted success; but what they found waiting for them at the end of the road was a whole impassioned generation who went HooRAH!! at their arrival. We wanted something new, fresh, young, and un-parent-like. And, rightly or wrongly, we lay our collective hopes with a vengeance at the feet of the Beatles ... The world of teenagers would never again be united as they were in 1962, primed for great things to happen, and willing and able for it to be the same great thing for everybody.

Personally, my first favorite was the Dave Clark Five.  I loved Motown, and later became a huge Stones fan.  But I don't think it was the music, per se, that alone made the Beatles such a welcome force.  In a June 2012 BBC article, Adam Gopnik wrote that The Fab Four's music endures because it mirrors an era we still long for:

There is something eerie, fated, cosmic about the Beatles - those seven quick years of fame and then decades of after-shock. The Beatles' gift was for harmony, and their vision was above all of harmony. And harmony, voices blending together in song, is still our strongest symbol of a good place yet to come. Art makes us alive and aware and sometimes afraid but it rarely makes us glad. Fifty years on, the Beatles live because they still give us that most amazing of feelings: the apprehension of a happiness that we can hold, like a hand.

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Popular music almost always helps people get through hard times.

For pre-teens and teens...simple love/crush songs, dance and moving harmony songs.

JFK's generation had Sinatra, Doris Day, Jazz singers, Broadway and film score music.

The Beatles were hugely promoted and not just their music.  Their clothing style and eventually longer hair styles were embraced by millions. I didn't adopt their longer hair style until later. I remember one barber telling me resentfully that the Beatles were putting him out of business.

JFK of course loved the music from Camelot.




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