When the Beatles refused to play segregated audiences
And they were willing to cancel shows that had already been set!
The Beatles require little to no introduction. They dominated the 60s and continue to live long in the memory of fans to this day. The Beatlemania of the 60s was something no band has ever or ever will face. However, throughout the storm of the 60s, the Beatles stood firm on their principles of equality. Here’s how they tackled racism and segregation of the American South.
They once refused to perform in front of a segregated crowd
Back in 1964, the civil rights movement of the 60s was at its peak. People of color were rallying behind Martin Luther King Jr. to fight the lack of civil rights in the American south. The Beatles were set to play a concert at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. However, the crowd was segregated without the band’s knowledge. That was when the Beatles took a career-defining stance. They refused to play in front of the segregated crowd until the organizers merged the crowds. It is reported that after the crowds were merged, Jon Lennon came on stage and said:
We never play to segregated audiences and we aren’t going to start now
Paul McCartney later said in a Beatles documentary “Eight Days a Week” that:
It just seemed so mad, we couldn’t understand that. So we just said, ‘We’re not playing that!’
The Beatles went many steps further
After this incident, The Beatles made sure that racism and segregation were never to be a part of their performances again. They did so by making it a mandatory clause in their contract. No segregation was now legally binding on all event organizers. Moreover, this marked the start of the Beatles’ political activism. John Lennon was one of the biggest global peace activists of the 70s, till his last breath. And George Harrison promoted peace and love through his music and religion. His songs “My Sweet Lord” and “Give Me Love” are a testament to that. Paul and Ringo kept up with their political activism as well. This article in the HuffPost describes it perfectly well.
The Beatles might have broken up 50 years ago, but their effects loom large. Their music and their activism paved the way for musicians to play an active role in politics. It can be seen with David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The 1975, and many other bands. We hope this tradition continues for many decades to come!
Luckily for the fans, there’s a documentary on the band coming this September!