Although many Americans and British people share common ancestors, their ways have diverged in many ways. One of those is the way people take in the music and the politics connected with it. Like so, American music in the 60s was highly political. This music traveled all over the world, including England. What did not travel was the nuanced political prejudice connected with the music. And The Beatles are a perfect example of this.
While many artists choose to ignore politics, some even actively avoid it, The Beatles confronted racial bias before it was a “woke” thing to do. In 1962, the legendary band was called to perform at Gator Bowl, Florida. The booking coincided with a massive political shift America was going through. The Civil Rights Act was just introduced in Congress.
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Now, this is not to take away any importance from several major political activists’ roles in history. But it is important to note that, when given a chance, The Beatles chose not to turn a blind eye to racial injustice.
The talented musicians used their platform to send out a message of home and communal harmony. For the concert that was supposed to take place on 11th September, the band explicitly refused to perform for a segregated crowd.
When promoters insisted, John Lennon released a statement saying that they would much rather lose money than support segregation, even through passive means.
An Act Of Defiance Against Racism By The Beatles
Jacksonville had only recently suffered through a terrible storm and the damage was devastating, to say the least. Despite all that, all the 32,000 seats in the stadium were sold out. At the end of the day, the concert promoters had to give in. They allowed the concert to happen without any racial segregation.
One historian and a concert attendee, Dr. Kitty Oliver, said that she had saved up her money to buy a seat. She was unaware of The Beatles’ public statement and was not sure how the concert atmosphere would be like for a young Black American. Instead, she informs, the crowd was a welcoming one. She added that everyone applauded as soon as the band came on stage. Dr. Oliver remembers how everyone, without any racial prejudice, sang in unison. She further added that the legendary band’s decision to stand against institutional racism set an example for all the young fans.
In a documentary about The Beatles, Eight Days A Week, Paul McCartney states that it was a matter of integrity and conviction for the band.
Recently, Paul brought up the September concert and expressed his hurt with regards to George Floyd. He stated that the concert took place 60 years ago, but the issues surrounding race, which they fought against then, have still not been solved. He further demanded justice for every Black American who has lost their life due to racial inequality and injustice.
During these polarised times, it is important to take inspiration from The Beatles and speak out against racism.
Image Credit: United Press International, Photographer Unknown