by Sam Kricsfeld
No band has or ever will spark such a musical and cultural revolution like the Beatles did. The lives and music of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr became etched into modern culture at the spark of Beatlemania in the 1960s, and show no signs of fading anytime soon. Most people know that they were from Liverpool, that they had meshugina hair, and other basic facts. What many people don’t know is the strong influence and guidance that Jews had on the Beatles.
From the band’s humble, chopped-Liverpool beginnings, to his untimely death in 1967 at the height of their popularity, Brian Epstein was the Fab Four’s manager. Born an orthodox Jew, he died from an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol after a depression which intensified while sitting shiva for his father. But through his managing hand, the Beatles made records that will endure for centuries, played gigs that caused girls to plotz from excitement, and became the icons they deserved to be. He was so instrumental to the group’s rise to fame that McCartney called him the “Fifth Beatle.”
Other Jews who claimed to be the “Fifth Beatle” included NYC radio personalities Murray Kaufman, who conducted the Beatles’ first in-person American interview, and Bruce Morrow, who introduced the Beatles at the first arena concert in history at Shea Stadium. Iconic photographs of the Beatles were taken by Slovakian Jew Dezo Hoffman, a man who McCartney called “the world’s best photographer.” Richard Lester, the MTV-awarded “father of the music video” and director of the mishegoss-filled Beatle films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” was born to a Jewish family, as was the producer of those films, Walter Shenson.
As important as those men are, no Jew has influenced a Beatle as much as Linda McCartney. Born as Linda Eastman, a strawberry blonde New Yorker, she caught the eye of Paul McCartney during a photoshoot. She soon became his wife, the source of countless hits (both with and without the Beatles) such as “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “My Love,” and “Two of Us,” as well as a leading member of Paul’s post-Beatles super-group “Wings.” Linda was an avid vegetarian, and published many cookbooks, in which almost all the recipes were kosher. Because she was a Jewish mother, her and Paul’s children, including legendary fashion designer Stella McCartney, can live and let daven.
Linda died in 1998 of breast cancer, and after a shaky second marriage that ended in divorce, Paul married his third wife, Nancy Shevell. He and Nancy attended the long and winding Yom Kippur services the day before their wedding. Paul supports peace in Israel, and said the following about staging an Israeli concert: “I got death threats, but I’m coming anyway. I got explicit death threats, but I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel.” Paul wasn’t the only Beatle who suffered for his Jewish affiliations; Ringo Starr had to play a concert with an armed bodyguard during the height of Beatlemania. The guard was there not because of the threat of excited fans trampling him to death, but because Ringo received death threats for “being Jewish.” Ringo was not Jewish, and the reasoning behind the threat-maker’s claim that he was Jewish was because Ringo had a big nose. Oy gevalt.
But what is known and loved even more than the personal lives of the Beatles are their music. Everybody knows at least three Beatles songs, and chances are that at least one of them were influenced by Jew. And no, Hey Jude is not about Jews. John Lennon’s inspiration for much of his career was a man named Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan. Lennon nearly worshipped Dylan, and wrote many songs in his style such as I’m a Loser, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, and In My Life. There are countless Dylan references in Beatle songs just blowing in the ruach. Dylan also influenced McCartney’s I’ll Follow the Sun and Yesterday. Lennon also said that he thinks that one of the Beatles’ best known songs, Let it Be, was inspired by the very Jewish Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. With all the Jewish inspiration, it’s a surprise that Magical Minyan Tour, Shalom, Goodbye, and Yente Submarine didn’t make the cut.
Whatever the case may be, the major influences and catalysts of the Beatles’ career came to be because of Jews. From Epstein to Dylan, the Beatles have a doubtless connection to the Children of Israel. The Mop-Top-Menschs’ rise to cultural and musical immortality came to be with a little help from their Jewish friends. Looks like G-d had good taste in music.
Sam Kricsfeld is a junior at Millard North High School, an alum of Friedel Jewish Academy, and a member of Beth Israel Synagogue. His parents are Debbie and Alan Kricsfeld, and he has a sister, Rachel. He is passionate about cars and the Beatles. He loves to write and plays piano in his free time.