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The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With a line-up comprising John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they are regarded as the most influential band of all time. The group were integral to the development of 1960s counterculture and popular music's recognition as an art form. Rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, their sound incorporated elements of classical music and traditional pop in innovative ways; the band later explored music styles ranging from ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As pioneers in recording, songwriting and artistic presentation, the group revolutionized many aspects of the music industry and were often publicized as leaders of the era's youth and socio-cultural movements.
Led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, the Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over three years from 1960, initially with Stuart Sutcliffe playing bass. The core trio of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, together since 1958, went through a succession of drummers, including Pete Best, before asking Starr to join them in 1962. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin guided and developed their recordings, greatly expanding their domestic success after their first hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962. As their popularity grew into the intense fan frenzy dubbed "Beatlemania", the band acquired the nickname "the Fab Four", with Epstein, Martin and other members of the band's entourage sometimes given the informal title of "fifth Beatle".
By early 1964, the Beatles were international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market and breaking numerous sales records. They soon made their film debut with A Hard Day's Night (1964). From 1965 onwards, they produced increasingly innovative recordings, including the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and enjoyed further commercial success with The Beatles (also known as "the White Album", 1968) and Abbey Road (1969). In 1968, they founded Apple Corps, a multi-armed multimedia corporation that continues to oversee projects related to the band's legacy. After the group's break-up in 1970, all four members enjoyed success as solo artists. Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001. McCartney and Starr remain musically active.
The Beatles are the best-selling music act of all time, with certified sales of over 183 million units in the US and estimated sales of 600 million units worldwide. They hold the record for most number-one albums on the UK Albums Chart, most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and most singles sold in the UK. The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were inducted individually between 1994 and 2015. In 2008, the group topped Billboard's list of the all-time most successful artists on the Billboard Hot 100. The band received seven Grammy Awards, four Brit Awards, an Academy Award (for Best Original Song Score for the 1970 film Let It Be) and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. Time magazine named them among the 20th century's 100 most important people.
Former Rolling Stone associate editor Robert Greenfield compared the Beatles to Picasso, as "artists who broke through the constraints of their time period to come up with something that was unique and original "... In the form of popular music, no one will ever be more revolutionary, more creative and more distinctive ..." The British poet Philip Larkin described their work as "an enchanting and intoxicating hybrid of African-American rock-and-roll with their own adolescent romanticism", and "the first advance in popular music since the War".
They not only sparked the British Invasion of the US, they became a globally influential phenomenon as well. From the 1920s, the US had dominated popular entertainment culture throughout much of the world, via Hollywood films, jazz, the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley and, later, the rock and roll that first emerged in Memphis, Tennessee. The Beatles are regarded as British cultural icons, with young adults from abroad naming the band among a group of people that they most associated with UK culture.
Their musical innovations and commercial success inspired musicians worldwide. Many artists have acknowledged the Beatles' influence and enjoyed chart success with covers of their songs. On radio, their arrival marked the beginning of a new era; in 1968 the programme director of New York's WABC radio station forbade his DJs from playing any "pre-Beatles" music, marking the defining line of what would be considered oldies on American radio. They helped to redefine the album as something more than just a few hits padded out with "filler", and they were primary innovators of the modern music video. The Shea Stadium show with which they opened their 1965 North American tour attracted an estimated 55,600 people, then the largest audience in concert history; Spitz describes the event as a "major breakthrough ... a giant step toward reshaping the concert business". Emulation of their clothing and especially their hairstyles, which became a mark of rebellion, had a global impact on fashion.
According to Gould, the Beatles changed the way people listened to popular music and experienced its role in their lives. From what began as the Beatlemania fad, the group's popularity grew into what was seen as an embodiment of socio-cultural movements of the decade. As icons of the 1960s counterculture, Gould continues, they became a catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fuelling movements such as women's liberation, gay liberation and environmentalism. According to Peter Lavezzoli, after the "more popular than Jesus" controversy in 1966, the Beatles felt considerable pressure to say the right things and "began a concerted effort to spread a message of wisdom and higher consciousness".
Other commentators such as Mikal Gilmore and Todd Leopold have traced the inception of their socio-cultural impact earlier, interpreting even the Beatlemania period, particularly on their first visit to the US, as a key moment in the development of generational awareness. Referring to their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show Leopold states: "In many ways, the Sullivan appearance marked the beginning of a cultural revolution ... The Beatles were like aliens dropped into the United States of 1964.
In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). The Beatles won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for the film Let It Be (1970). The recipients of seven Grammy Awards and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards, the Beatles have six Diamond albums, as well as 20 Multi-Platinum albums, 16 Platinum albums and six Gold albums in the US. In the UK, the Beatles have four Multi-Platinum albums, four Platinum albums, eight Gold albums and one Silver album. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
The best-selling band in history, the Beatles have sold more than 800 million physical and digital albums as of 2013. They have had more number-one albums on the UK charts, fifteen, and sold more singles in the UK, 21.9 million, than any other act. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Beatles as the most significant and influential rock music artists of the last 50 years. They ranked number one on Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 artists, released in 2008 to celebrate the US singles chart's 50th anniversary. As of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with twenty. The Recording Industry Association of America certifies that the Beatles have sold 178 million units in the US, more than any other artist. They were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people. In 2014, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
On 16 January each year, beginning in 2001, people celebrate World Beatles Day under UNESCO. This date has direct relation to the opening of The Cavern Club in 1957.
Five asteroids, 4147 Lennon, 4148 McCartney, 4149 Harrison, 4150 Starr and 8749 Beatles are named after the Beatles. Read more on Last.fm
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