Maxwell Anderson's IMA



turned 70 last week.


that Ringo. Ringo Starr, the former drummer with the Beatles. He celebrated his

birthday in New York City, where he asked everyone to join him by saying "peace

and love" at noon. Then he played a concert with a band of fellow geezers,

including Sir Paul McCartney.


must say, Ringo looks great. Not a day over 60.


wish the same held true for Ringo's fellow Beatle, John Lennon. If he were

still alive, John would be turning 70 this October.


are numbers that take some getting used to. By way of a little perspective:

When the Beatles officially broke up in the Spring of 1970, Ringo, the oldest

member of the band, was just 29 years-old. And yes, that makes it 40 years

since the boys called it quits.


think it was 1970 when I saw the Marx Brothers' movie, Duck Soup for the first time. Its

irreverent anarchy was a revelation, in part because the film itself was so

obviously from a bygone era. Duck Soup was made in 1933. That made it three years closer

to me in 1970 than the Beatles' break-up is to a 20 year-old today.


the Marx Brothers, who by 1970 were relegated to the outer reaches of

late-night television and campus film festivals, the Beatles remain a

commercial powerhouse. Remastered versions of their albums sold 2.25 million

copies in five days after their release in 2009, keeping the Beatles brand

prominent in the charts.


comfort in this for people of a certain age. The climate may be out of whack,

job security's out the window and our politics looks more and more like mud

wrestling, but the Beatles still sound good. Better still, many of our kids and

grandkids have come to the Beatles on their own. Something in the music speaks

to them, and that's heartening because many of us would like to think the

Beatles speak for the better part of ourselves.


doesn't keep some of us from letting out a brief sigh at the thought of Ringo

turning 70. It was the Beatles that asked if our loved ones would still need us

and feed us at 64. That question's more pertinent than ever.


we are pushing into our 60s and President Obama has assembled a commission to make

recommendations about how to deal with the country's expanding budget deficit.

Apparently, the first things this bipartisan group wants to mess with are

Social Security and Medicare.


this is a country where most adults have little in the bank. But these same

people have been paying taxes all their working lives. Social Security and

Medicare are, in fact, their savings accounts. The very idea that these funds

might be cut or privatized for the benefit of corporations when, for example,

the U.S. continues to pay for the biggest military in the world...well, why not

give peace a chance?


you need is love," sang the Beatles. It turns out that's only partly true.

Wishing doesn't make it so. For a brief moment that seemed to last a lifetime,

the Beatles managed to pull off something extraordinary: In the span of about

three years they completely blurred longstanding lines between avant-garde art

and popular culture, bringing a veritable bazaar of concepts, styles and

attitudes into mainstream consciousness.


made it seem like anything was possible. But, in fact, what the Beatles did was

more about art than society – and the effects were temporary.


the Beatles' example inspired countless artists to create work intended to

inspire some form of social change, art's track record in this regard has been

downright awful. In spite of artists' efforts, the past 40 years have seen our

political discourse become increasingly dominated by conservative ideology.

Social programs have become stingier, our reliance on force as a form of

policy, from a War on Drugs to the War on Terror has grown. The Great Society

programs of the '60s are the butt of jokes.


the Beatles' innovative attempt to use their combined fortune to support

emerging and noncommercial artists – Apple – imploded through

mismanagement, the rest of the music business reverted to form. The underground

rock scene that had burgeoned in the Beatles' wake became the next Big Thing in

mass entertainment.


can't blame the Beatles for these outcomes. At their height, they were four

20-somethings from Liverpool, riding a whirlwind and, it must said, receiving

unconditional helpings of encouragement from every quarter that mattered. You

look at Ringo today, still smiling, and you see someone who clearly knows what

it means to be lucky.


Beatles' luck eluded John Lennon, murdered at 40; and George Harrison, dead

from cancer at 58. As for Sir Paul, he seems constantly trying to explain

himself without ever adding anything new. Who, 40 years ago, would have guessed

Ringo would be the most well-adjusted human being of the lot?


count the candles, old sod.


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