The Beatles Did Not Tolerate Racial Intolerance in 1960's America: Interesting!

I learned a few things about the Beatles while reading an article written by Larry Kane in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, February 9th, 2014.  The United States was recently celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan show.  The initial reactions to the group were mixed in the United States.  The group would proceed to become one of the most famous rock groups in the history of the country.  Some of their top hits included Tomorrow Never Knows, Getting Better, all My Loving and Hello Goodbye.  I was more fascinated by a decision they made with regards to performing at the Gator Bowl in 1964 than with all of their hits..

The foundation for the Beatles success was based on a musical form called the Merseybeat.  It was a pop and rock genre that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960's.  It was a fusion of rock and roll, doo-wop, skiffle and R & B.  The origins of skiffle are attributed to African Americans in the United States.  It was usually created with homemade or improvised instruments.  This genre was responsible for the many of the bands responsible for the British invasion of the American pop charts.  The other groups included The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and The Who.  I will do additional research one day on the reach across the pond of American acts into the U.K.

The Beatles took a stand with regards to the segregation of the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.  They were going to perform on September 11th, 1964.  Segregation was a standard practice in many public venues in the early 1960's.  I was one year old and never experienced this bitter practice.  When the members of the Beatles were informed about the practice, they refused to play the venue.  The members of the band had experienced racial intolerance in Liverpool and were not going to stand for it in the United States.

Liverpool is home to the oldest Black African community in Britain.  It is a community which has been flourishing in the city since the 1700's.  It is also home to Europe's oldest Chinese community.  Chinese seamen made their home in Liverpool in the early 19th century.  These two groups only make up 3% of Liverpool's population though.  The majority of the population is of Irish or Welsh ancestry.  Liverpool 8 was an area that experienced numerous incidents of racial violence and unrest.  In spite of rising economic growth experienced by other areas, unemployment for black residents remained at 50%.  I am glad that the members of the Beatles did not forget this when they were touring the U.S.

The Beatles actually ruffled the feathers of the entrenched Liverpool establishment by inviting  an all-black group called Joe Ankrah and the Chants to performs with them in the early 1960's.  While in Key West waiting for the September 11th, 1964 performance, they frolicked in the pool with members of an African American girl group called the Exciters.  Photos of John Lennon in the pool with this group enraged Southern reporters.  I found out that the Exciters were originally from Queens, New York.  One of their hits, Do-Wah Diddy, was a song that I sung as a child.  I am now starting to connect the dots on the history of this group.  Their major hit was called Tell Him and was recorded in 1962.

The Beatles stood firm by their decision not to play in front of a segregated stadium.  It must have been a major economic impact expected by the management of the Gator Bowl.  I know it probably pissed them off to have to relent to the wishes of a young group from Europe.  Maybe, as Larry Kane cited, the occurrence of Hurricane Dora, and its devastation, might have also caused the segregationists to relent on their initial demand.  The concert went on as planned.  The Beatles took a stand against racial intolerance and I just found out about it this week.  Learning is a process that I am going to enjoy for the rest of my life.

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