The Beatles are a cultural icon that has influenced countless musicians today. Since they formed in 1960 - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr have been cited as gigantic musical influences in the realm of pop and rock and roll. There’s no doubt the Fab Four have had an impact on popular music since their emergence, but, who influenced The Beatles? Were they inspired by other musicians?
The works churned out by The Beatles under the tutelage of Brian Epstein were crafted and coiffed - but they could only have been created with inspiration from predecessors prior to Beatlemania. The Beatles did cite many great influences on their career.
The biggest influence Buddy Holly had on The Beatles was not restricted to music, but the naming of the band. The Beatles named their band after an insect because they thought it was quite smart (Holly’s band was named The Crickets). Lennon wanted the band name to have a double meaning and he liked the idea of using the name of a bug.
After playing around with words of cricket and other insects, they finally came up with beetles. Lennon recalled, “When you say it, people thought of crawly things. But when you read it, it means beat music.” Both McCartney and Lennon were drawn to Holly’s band name, charisma, and sound.
In fact, it was Holly who encouraged the duo to write and play their own songs in the band. Early on, The Beatles performed covers and originals. As their popularity grew, they played mostly originals. Holly played the guitar and performed on stage, which was not popular at the time. But he inspired The Beatles to show off their talent on stage in the same way.
Bob Dylan is one of the biggest influences on The Beatles. His message of opening up oneself to the audience through personally reflective pop songs resonated the most with John Lennon. Lennon’s songs from the Dylan period include “I’m a Loser”, where he sang: “Part of me suspects I’m a loser and part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.”
George Harrison sought solace from Dylan and was taken under the folk singer’s wings as he tried to get his songwriting moving more smoothly. It was Dylan who gave Harrison the confidence to enter the most prolific songwriting period of his life.
Another musician who greatly inspired the Fab Four is Elvis Presley. According to John Lennon, “Nothing affected me until I heard Elvis. Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles.” Elvis inspired the Beatles with his ingenious mixture of gospel, rhythm, blues, and country, which he made into rock and roll.
Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll, and The Beatles dreamed to be like him. Lennon was most influenced by Presley. He connected with The King and could feel Elvis’ loneliness while performing his music.
Eric Clapton was part of Cream, one of the most influential bands in the 60s and would inspire countless heavy rhythm and blues acts from London. Clapton’s biggest influence was on Harrison. Clapton was a replacement for Harrison when the quiet Beatle walked out on the band during the “Get Back” sessions. He was also employed by Harrison to help craft some of his most popular songs, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and “Here Comes the Sun”.
The Everly Brothers
If there is a band that is integral to The Beatles’ early sounds, it is The Everly Brothers. The group’s beautiful vocals made them one of the most sensational bands in the early 1960s.
The Beatles undoubtedly leaned upon The Everly Brother’s music style in their chart-topping songs like “Love Me Do”, and “Please, Please Me”. The Fab Four paid tribute to the band on the album “Let it Be” in the song “Two of Us”.
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