Honors Course Explores the Legacy of the Beatles
Honors Course Explores the Legacy of the Beatles

by Karen Grava
Director of Media Relations

Fifty years after the Beatles released their first single, “Love Me Do,” their music is still a strong influence on pop culture.

And it still interests college students.

Although most of the students in the honors class at UNH on the music and lyrics of the Beatles weren’t born until the early 1990s, all of them have a favorite Beatles song, said Guillermo Mager, associate professor and acting head of the music department. “When we asked the class about their favorite songs, many of them said, ‘my dad plays the Beatles all the time.’”

Wes Davis shows off Beatles memorabilia in class.

The course, “Twilight of the Gods: the Music and Lyrics of the Beatles,” is being team-taught by Mager and Wes Davis, a senior lecturer in English who teaches courses on song lyrics.  It emphasizes the importance of the Beatles to music history.

The most written-about and analyzed band in history, said Davis, has had more scholarship devoted to it than any other musical act. So the challenge of choosing books as texts and recommended reading was limited only to figuring out which would be the most important.

“The Beatles are the most popular, influential and critically lauded musical act of the 20th century,” he said. “Their album, “Beatles One,” which has 21 of their number one singles, was the biggest-selling CD of the first decade of the 21st century."

The Beatles are important not only for their music but also for their lyrics, he said. “We are emphasizing the music and the lyrics equally,” he said.

The music is fairly simple but not always predictable, Mager said, since the Beatles had no real musical training and didn’t really know “the rules.” 

They also were among the first rock groups to use strings even before John Lennon became interested in Eastern music.

And the lyrics took a turn from merely focusing on love to more serious topics (such as death, loneliness and isolation, as in “Eleanor Rigby”) after Bob Dylan came on the scene. They also wrote extensively about the effect of the past on the present, for example in “Penny Lane” and “In My Life.”

“Dylan introduced them to serious topics,” said Davis. “He also showed them that lyrics could be more serious and introspective.”

The class culminate with Beatles Fest on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Learn more.

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