The Beatles’ Revolution/ Essay

The most written about music artists of the past century are the fab four from Liverpool: The Beatles.

During their prime parents, politicians, and potentates all had their scouring opinions about them.  Their long hair, loud guitars, and threat to middle class decency pitted them in the role of agitator.

What did they want?  I think they wanted peace.  And this was simply too radical an idea for the war profiteers of the sixties when the band hit upon what I think is their most powerful anthem.

Revolution, written by John Lennon, credited to Lennon-McCartney, is for me the best track on their self-titled masterpiece a.k.a. The White Album.   This record has just been re-issued to celebrate its 50th Anniversary.

If you look at the lyrical structure of this piece it’s quite poetic. Clever use of the words Revolution with Evolution in the song’s first section strongly suggests John Lennon’s belief that change is inevitable.  Over long stretches of time all things change.  He smartly puts forward the question of the methods to apply.  The proposal of destruction is rejected.  And he remains a healthy skeptic with the request to see a plan!

The Beatles managed to anger the movement of war protesters in 1968.  They could not convince anyone that peace could be the end result of our evolving past militarism, tribalism, racism, and plain systemic cruelty.

Now in 2018 this song is still resonant.  Released back in the hippie days as the B-side to Hey Jude, it remains a gem.  Our governments still apply military action over more peaceful proposals.  And our institutions are failing large groups of people.

Solution and Contribution are the next word pairing.  Again we get a plea of everyone is doing what they can.   And ‘if you want money for minds that hate then brother you’ll have to wait’ is a great response line.  Why did right wing pols miss this lyric?  Perhaps their angry minds filtered it out.

And the final pairing of Constitution and Institution is expressing an idea upon which  most people could find common ground.  That it is a personal responsibility to free your mind instead of being so dependent on the mechanics of legal issues.

Be careful about wishing for revolution for the act could be quite destructive.  After all ‘don’t you know it’s gonna be alright’?

We are still here.  I hope we get closer to peace someday.  For now play this song because it offers hope.


(Above) The sheet music for “Revolution” (1968).

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