Photo by Herman deLangen
The influence of the Beatles on popular and rock music, as well as contemporary culture, is undeniable. Practically everyone has their favorite Beatles song and band member. In a chapter entitled “The Wretched Life of a Lonely Heart,” from the new anthology The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper, and the Summer of Love, Katie Kapurch, assistant professor in the Department of English, argues that the iconic group’s lyrics from their innovative album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, influenced the persona and perspective that informed the music of legendary female rockers such as the Wilson Sisters of the group Heart and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.
According to Kapurch, the Beatles’ lyrics began playing with notions of gender and love in a relatable way that appealed to girls and influenced their musical imaginations. She writes that the “early 1960s Beatles songs were revolutionary as they flirted with the feminine and the masculine to project a sexy image” (p. 157). According to Kapurch, the Beatles inspired may African American girl groups of the era, including the Shangri-las and Beatle-ettes. Women pop and rock musicians inherited many of the themes of friendship and heterosexual relationship that dominated Beatles’ music. The Beatles transformations and musical growth from popular to more experimental music demonstrated an artistic freedom that paralleled and helped catalyze similar freedom of expression in female rock personae and music. Kapurch writes that in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, “like girls,” Kapurch writes, “the Beatles dress up and assemble the audience of their imagination” (p. 145).
Kapurch’s article opens the door for more scholarship into how girl groups and their pop forebears use themes of androgynous and autonomy in ways that parallel and spark social change and development.