“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.”
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Almost 200 years after Revere’s famous ride, the British returned. They did not come by land or by sea, but through the air. Instead of sending an army, England sent four young men from Liverpool, armed with instruments, not muskets, and mop-top hairdos, instead of red coats. It was February 7, 1964. At the airport, thousands of adoring fans stormed the gates; The Beatles had invaded the United States.
The Country was in mourning and grief-stricken. A few months earlier, their debonair and dynamic President, John F. Kennedy, was gunned down in broad daylight. The Doomsday Clock inched towards midnight; Armageddon; a potential nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union. The fight for racial equality raged in the streets. The war in Vietnam splintered Americans even further. The nation’s youth were rebellious, defiant and felt disenfranchised by the old guard. The Beatles landed in New York, bringing with them an air of counter-culture, with dazzling sounds, and primed to puncture the status-quo. No one, perhaps not even they, could have imagined what would ensue. Forty-eight hours after touching down at JFK, they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. At the time, it was the most-viewed television program ever. With the words, “I wanna hold your hand,” Beatlemania changed the world, forever.
1896. Nine men, donning ceremonial black robes; convened to rule on the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson case. They voted seven-to-one, with one withdrawal, that racial segregation in public facilities was constitutional. It became known as the doctrine of “separate but equal.” It will forever be known as a travesty of justice. This notorious precedent would stand for almost sixty years. The founder’s intention of an independent and impartial judiciary was forsaken. The lone dissenter, John Marshall Harlan, eviscerated the decision and correctly predicted the greater evils that would abound due to the verdict.
“But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens…Our constitution is color-blind. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved…In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case.”
Ten years prior to the Fab Four coming to America, the Supreme Court came to order once more. This time, Justices voted unanimously, nine-to-zero, that de jure racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment, and was unconstitutional. This decision, Brown v. Board of Education, paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law, six months after the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan. The transition from segregation-to-integration was not peaceable. The domestic war drums pounded to a deafening decibel. Birmingham, New York City and Watts exploded with the volcanic fury of the race riots.
Portions of the country were still unwilling to acquiesce to equality, let alone integration. With malice, they held on to the scourge of bigotry and refused to let it perish. Like the race riots, this was not an illness limited to one part of the nation. In Los Angeles, during the 1960 Democratic National Convention, Sammy Davis Jr. came on stage and was greeted with a shower of boos that brought tears to the man’s eyes.
September 11, 1964. The Beatles were scheduled to play at Gator Bowl Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. The Beatles were informed that theirs would be a segregated concert. John Lennon went on record, minced no words, and made their position; heard.
“We never play to segregated audiences and we aren’t going to start now. I’d sooner lose our appearance money.”
They would not play. The Beatles refused to perform unless the concert was integrated; they would perform for all people or no one. City officials submitted. Men and women, black and white, united for their love of music, filled the venue to listen to the Beatles. As civil unrest placed a chokehold on the Country, Mother Nature also made her presence felt. Hurricane Dora ruthlessly pummeled Florida. Jacksonville suffered from power outages, floods, and accumulated 2 billion dollars in damages. Ringo Starr needed his drums nailed to the stage so they would not fly off due to Hurricane winds. The stadium’s power lines were underground and not damaged by the cyclone, allowing electricity to flow. Not a natural disaster, nor the plague of prejudice, could prevent the music from playing. Over 17,000 Americans heard them that evening, cementing The Beatles as activists, quintessential rock-stars, and living legends.
When I say “exercise,” it’s only a matter of time before you think of your favorite workout song. Music and fitness are forever intertwined. Although the technology has evolved, we still make playlists; doing our best to synchronize the song that is best suited for the lift, the run, and even the drive to the gym. Music increases exercise performance, delays fatigue, enhances endurance, develops power and strength. Whether using headphones or loudspeakers, it’s unequivocal; workouts with music are more productive than workouts without it. If music is the food of fitness, let the feast continue.
From womb to tomb, music serenades our lives. As children, our parents quietly sang the nursery rhyme to comfort us down to sleep. The oddly-catchy-pop-hit of our youth gave us an excuse to wear clothes and hairstyles that make us cringe when looking through old photographs. We played that somber ballad, time-and-time-again, to help us overcome heartbreak. That thundering sports anthem brought us all to our feet, stomping in-unison for our team. That nostalgic tune pulled all our loved ones to the dance floor in a sloppy choreography at our wedding reception. The sound of the solitary bugle permeates the heavens, as our uniformed heroes are lowered to their final resting place.
From Abba to ZZ-Top, Beethoven to Bruno Mars; from each culture to every generation; music provides the soundtrack to our existence. It gives melody to our motivation, loudness to our love, and sonority to our sadness. It is the shorthand of emotion. It makes us dance, kiss, pray, celebrate, weep and achieve.
So, Lose Yourself,
And Don’t Stop Believin’.
Life; it’s a Thriller,
Pick up the Good Vibrations,
And climb the Stairway to Heaven.
We are Born to Run.
Go, get your Satisfaction and
Earn your R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
The Times, They Are A-Changin’,
Imagine and ask, What’s Goin’ On?
Jump aboard the Crazy Train,
Keep the Eye of the Tiger,
All You Need is Love.