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Column: Looking back on life as my guitar gently weeps

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Has it really been 50 years?

On Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show marking the band’s American debut. It is not an exaggeration to say that on that night as well as the following two Sundays the Beatles changed the world. It is most certainly true that they changed me.

The changes the Beatles wrought have been noted by historians, cultural observers, music critics and by personal testimony of fans around the world. For the past 50 years I have thought about that February evening and my reaction to it. As I ponder the timeline of my life, I can follow how one thing led to another, and I can trace how I became what I am today in large part because of those four lads from Liverpool.

It wasn’t exactly a smooth and seamless change from the 12-year-old boy I was before the show to the old, retired, Beatle-influenced guy I am now. The change was staggered and fitful. I am reminded of one of those Rube Goldberg devices where a ball is set in motion which knocks over a stick which causes a fishbowl to spill which eventually results in a lamp being turned on — or perhaps more appropriately, sets a guitar to strumming.

On a cold night not too long after that TV appearance, I trekked to my friend’s house to borrow his guitar he generously offer to lend me. I had procured enough money to buy a music book, “The Golden Beatles,” that included boxes showing where to put your fingers to make chords. For weeks and months I suffered through sore fingertips and eventually managed a few simple songs.

A few like-minded Beatlemaniacs from the neighborhood had been doing the same thing, and we decided to start our own band. My bandmates from those days became lifelong friends. The way I see it, a line can be drawn from the Beatles to my guitar to the many musical friends and acquaintances over my life.

The Beatles grew older and changed, and so did I. They disbanded and went off on their own, and I left home to try my hand at making a living as a musician. It was while I was playing in Michigan that I met Lesley who would eventually become my wife. For 25 years we had a good life together. After she died, music was a major factor helping me through those tough times. I would never have had all those good years without it.

Eventually I met Becky. From the first it was clear music including the Beatles was a connection we had. I wasn’t much of a church-goer back then, but I started attending with her. Even before we got married, she had been gently persuading me to consider becoming part of the music worship, and I did. It was God at work, I believe. But I also believe the Beatles — along with Becky, of course — were his instruments.

This old, retired, Beatle-influenced guy is still making music. Later on today I will get things together for the Retro Brothers performance this evening in Brown County. My Retro Brother Dan is one of the musical friends I made a long time ago.

The Beatles influence on the direction his life has taken is in some way similar to mine.

As I look at this Rube Goldberg contraption that is my life, I think of the friends I met, the music I made, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve loved, and how so much of it is at least indirectly the result of that appearance by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. How could I have foreseen that one event, a one-hour television program, would send reverberations across the rest of my life?

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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