The Beatles loved America. But they didn’t always have the nicest things to say about it. “We used to really laugh at America,” John Lennon said in 1970. “Except for its music. It was the black music we dug. . . . We felt like we were . . . we had . . . the message was, ‘Listen to this music.’ Nobody was listening to rock and roll or to black music in America. And we felt as though we were . . . we thought we were coming to the land of its origin.”
But, of course, the fact that the Beatles were so heavily indebted to America—and especially to African-American idioms—doesn’t mean they didn’t give a great deal back. (They were, after all, the Beatles.) And on Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney, quite a few of the artists John, Paul, George, and Ringo grew up on deliver covers of their favorite Beatles songs. You’ll hear Little Richard (“I Saw Her Standing There”), Junior Parker (“Lady Madonna”), and Fats Domino (“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide . . . ”), and quite a few younger artists (Billy Preston, who actually joined the Beatles late in their career, among them). Any of us could quibble with the individual choices (a collection like this could very easily take up a whole box set). But we were surprised, and delighted, to find that so many of these tracks were totally new to us, and awed—yet again—at the structural integrity that allowed Lennon and McCartney’s compositions to bend so very far without ever breaking.
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