Not Beatles in need of forgiving
ENGLISH PHILOSOPHER John Locke wrote A Letter Concerning Toleration in 1689. One of its themes was the separation of church and state. Thank God he wrote it. Not necessarily because of the widespread fear of the day that Catholicism was taking over England, but because today there isn’t the space in one room for all the scandal that follows both institutions.
Scandal seems to define politics everywhere. It’s pretty sad that in Canada we have our six-figured elected parliamentary representatives (and no doubt their staff) zeroed in on the activities of an apparently wayward MP while poverty, crime and even drinking water are a few of the real issues.
But then there’s the Catholic Church. It has to deal with a sordid history of sex-scandals involving children with tentacles that may reach the very top of the organization. And for reasons that have many scratching their heads, the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, this week passed the olive branch to the Beatles and forgave them for off-the-cuff remarks made by John Lennon 44 years ago.
Ringo Starr responded quickly and was spoton dismissing the apology outright. “Didn’t the Vatican say we were satanic or possibly satanic — and they’ve still forgiven us?… I think the Vatican, they’ve got more to talk about than the Beatles.” I’m not Catholic but I am a big Beatles fan. Their music was a source of escape from the rigours of teenage life for many of my generation. Last week, I got really lucky while cleaning up at my place. A homemade compilation of my favourite tunes with roots in Liverpool fell (literally) out from one of my cupboards.
I threw it in an old cassette player, cranked it up and went for the best 45-minute treadmill run I think I ever had. Lady Madonna, Hello Goodbye, Help, One After 909 and of course, Back in the U.S.S.R. were just a few of the songs that kept my heart rate up and my feet moving.
My thoughts travelled to a variety of places during that run. As a young kid, how meaningful the Beatles’ music seemed. The importance of having the latest album. Cranking out their music on CKRC with the car windows down.
And my thoughts even went to the bit of influence the four lads had on my church. As a nine-year-old cub scout, I remember, as one of our assignments, going to a service one Sunday evening. I also remembered the minister saying how thankful he was that we’d showed up. He had been concerned that we may have strayed by staying home and watching the Beatles who were appearing that night on Ed Sullivan.
The Beatles were important to my friends. But while some of their musical tastes drifted to the heavier sounds of Grand Funk Railroad, Savoy Brown and Jethro Tull, I stayed with the Beatles. They may even have been the reason I stuck to my piano lessons (that and my mom’s wooden spoon). Even my Auntie Marg, who wasn’t my aunt at all, but gave me those lessons for years, loved the Beatles’ rhythm. And she was a church organist for decades.
The Beatles split up 40 years ago. Yet their music lives. In commercials and on radio its popularity continues to grow with the current batch of kids.
At age 68, Paul McCartney still sells out concert venues. Back in the 1990s, he attracted the largest ever paying audience for a solo act — approximately 184,000 in Brazil, a country rich in Catholic history and population.
Instead of reading about the Vatican forgiving the Beatles, I’d prefer to thank them.
Like it or not it would seem that the Beatles have never stopped resonating with mainstream society and, with scandal that sadly goes back more years than anyone cares to count, the Catholic Church, like politics, is losing its grip on relevance.
There has been lots of PR spin about the church cleaning itself up. It will take more than talk. It’s time to walk the walk for real.
And it’s got nothing to do with the Beatles.