On November 17, in the Poetry Center, Dr. Candy Leonard gave a presentation about how the Beatles changed the world. Dr. Leonard is a sociologist, Beatles expert, historian of the nineteen-sixties, and author of the highly acclaimed Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World. She conducted the first sociocultural analysis of the Beatles phenomenon and has been a Beatles fan all her life. She has dedicated her professional career to studying the Beatles profound impact on the Baby Boomer generation.
Dr. Leonard was introduced by David Gallant who for the last decade has taught a Seminar for Freshmen course at Suffolk entitled “The Beatles: Here, There, and Everywhere.” Professor Gallant has presented, along with Dr. Leonard, at Beatles events over the last several years, including the West End Museum’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance in Boston and Harrifest, the annual celebration of the life and music of George Harrison. An eclectic mix of approximately 40 students, faculty, and staff members comprised the audience.
Dr. Leonard began her presentation by describing who the Beatles were. The band was not just a catalyst for cultural change in a time of tumultuous politics and war, but also an object of a non-stop cultural obsession. In the 6 years that the Beatles were together, they released 45 songs, made millions of dollars from merchandise and record sales, but also changed the way an entire generation looked at gender roles, drugs, war, civil rights and civil liberties.
Beatles songs were repetitious, mesmerizing and easy to get lost in the lyrics of. The Beatles, as Dr. Leonard explains, really started the “Pop Music Renaissance” of the sixties. The Beatles, without them knowing it, became a mass movement dedicated to free speech, treating one another with respect, and breaking down societal stereotypes. Sure, parents of that time period were hesitant, even threatened, by the kinds of ideas the Beatles were exposing their children to. However, no one could have possibly imagined that one band, against the backdrop of the Cold War, Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, would have been so culturally significant that it would influence an entire generation – for the better.
John Burke, student reporter, class of 2018