One of the best rock bands of all time, The Beatles indelibly left their mark on the 1960s. It was a glorious decade for music, one that can perhaps never be surpassed.
You have to wonder if it weren’t for the premature death of Lennon in 1980, if the Beatles would have ever reunited and gone on to tour. The Rolling Stones, The Who – are all of the same vintage and still continue to perform live to sell out crowds.
The breakup was official in 1970 and the reasons for the split are varied. The death of their manager Brian Epstein, drugs, Yoko Ono have all shared their part in the blame.
Let’s take a look at each of their solo careers…
McCartney left the Beatles and went on to form the band ‘Wings’ with his then wife, Linda McCartney. After the split of Wings, he became a prominent solo artist and continues to tour live with a medley of songs spanning The Beatles, Wings and his solo career.
Star Power: Formed successful band ‘Wings’. Also had collaborations with the stalwarts of Motown, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.
Feature Song: Live and Let Die – Wings (1973)
One of the best James Bond Themes, this song has everything – horns and strings for that full orchestral sound.
2. Band on the Run – Wings (1974)
An epic rock piece with an almost Bohemian Rhapsody feel, with its seismic shifts in tempo and musical styles in the space of 5 minutes.
3. Mull of Kintyre – Wings (1977)
An ode written by McCartney to the region of Scotland where he as owned High Park Farm since 1966.
4. Ebony and Ivory – with Stevie Wonder (1982)
A collaboration with a legend of Motown – Stevie Wonder. The song appears on the playlist of McCartney’s 1982 album ‘Tug of War’.
5. The Girl is Mine – with Michael Jackson (1982)
1982 was a big year for McCartney. His collaboration with Michael Jackson on ‘The Girl is Mine’ landed him on the biggest selling album of all time (Thriller). Jackson returned the favor recording ‘Say, Say, Say’ with McCartney for his album ‘Pipes of Peace’.
John Lennon defined his songwriting post Beatles, writing songs that were signs of the times incorporating the growing rebellion to the Vietnam War and want for global peace.
Star Power: He had collaborations with his wife Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Band, David Bowie and Elton John.
Feature Song: Imagine (1971)
One of the greatest and most played songs of the 20th century. Co-produced with the acclaimed (and now incarcerated) Phil Spector.
2. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On) (1970)
This song was recorded the same day it was written and was released only 10 days later. Another Phil Spector produced song which features George Harrison on guitar and backing vocals.
3. (Just Like) Starting Over (1980)
The first single release from the famed Double fantasy album. Lennon impersonates the vocal styles of Elvis and Roy Orbison in this track.
4. Woman (1980)
A song written to dedicate his wife, Yoko. It begins with the words ‘”For the other half of the sky.”, a reworking of a Chinese proverb, once used by Mao Zedong. It was the first song released after Lennon’s death.
5. Watching the Wheels (1981)
The song was released posthumously and the last single to be released from the Double fantasy album. It speaks about Lennon’s years between 1975–1980 when he stepped out of the spotlight to raise his son Sean.
Too good not to mention: Mind Games, Give Peace a Chance, Whatever Gets You thru the Night.
The oft forgotten Beatle, George Harrison had a large degree of success with his post Beatles career. In the late 60’s his interest in Hare Krishna saw an introduction of Indian instruments and sounds to his later work.
Star Power: Harrison formed The Traveling Wilburys – one of the first ‘supergroups’ with Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lyne, Tom Petty and session drummer Jim Keltner. The Wilburys could have released many more albums had their formation not been cut short by the sudden death of Orbison in 1988.
Feature Song: My Sweet Lord (1970)
This popular song praises the Hindu God Krishna but also incorporates elements of Christianity. It is folksy rock with a memorable slide guitar and choral chanting. Ringo Starr plays drums.
2. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) (1973)
Featuring brilliant slide guitar solos, this is one of Harrison’s most critically praised works.
3. Got My Mind Set on You (1987)
A solid cover of James Ray’s 1962 song. The song hit number 1 in the US, and broke a three-way tie among Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr, who had two number 1 hit singles as solo artists. Paul McCartney has nine number 1 hits in the US.
4. Handle With Care – Traveling Wilburys (1988)
The group’s most successful single with a folk rock feel. Orbison sing the bridges, while Harrison takes the verses.
5. End of the Line – Traveling Wilburys (1988)
Another folk rock classic. The music video is marked by the absence of Orbison, filmed just after he had died. A guitar resting on a rocking chair symbolizes him.
Ringo has always struggled to receive recognition he deserves. Always branded as the ordinary, non-flashy drummer he failed to make his mark as a solo artists in a way that the others have.
Star Power: Plastic Ono Band, Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band (changing lineup that has included: Joe Walsh (Eagles), Steve Lukather (Toto), John Entwistle (The Who), Jack Bruce (Cream) and Sheila E.)
Feature Song: It Don’t Come Easy (1971)
2. You’re Sixteen (1973)
A cover of the classic rockabilly hit originally performed by Johnny Burnette in 1960. Interestingly, Ringo was 33 years old when he did this song.
3. Photograph (1973)
George Harrison co-wrote this song and also performed guitar and backing vocals.
4. Back Off Booglaoo (1972)
Solely written by Starr, this song was produced by George Harrison who also filled the lead guitar part.
5. Only You (And You Alone) (1974)
A cover of The Platters doo wop song from 1954.
Share in the comments who you think did it best. For me, it was Lennon only because there are so many of my favorites in his solo career and his early death left the world wanting more. I’m sure we would have had another 10 years of Lennon releases had that fateful day in 1980 not happened.
Image composite: free use Beatles logo (background) and original photo by Bruce McBroom sourced from here.