Friday marks the 50th anniversary of arrival of The Beatles coming to America. On Feb. 7, 1964, the Fab Four – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr – arrived from the U.K. at the newly-named John F. Kennedy International Airport to the tears and screams of teenagers all across America.
That Sunday, Ed Sullivan introduced the band to a captivated American audience of more than 73 million viewers—at the time a television record.
The Beatles, wearing black suits and mop top hair, appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9 1964, to screaming crowds in what became a seminal moment for the British band, and U.S. television.
Nearly 50 percent of American households with televisions tuned in to see the show.
Technicians on the set 50 years ago explained that the “crowd shot” was born that night in 1964. The teenage audience was so hysterical that a camera was devoted entirely to their reaction, a television first.
THE NIGHT THAT CHANGED AMERICA
CBS will celebrate the anniversary with a concert on Sunday, 50 years to the day that The Beatles first performed on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
The concert, “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles, was filmed last month and included tributes by a number of performers.
In a rare joint appearance singing Beatles numbers, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were flanked on stage by artists including Stevie Wonder, R&B singer Alicia Keys and country singer Keith Urban to celebrate that night in 1964.
McCartney and Starr paid special tribute to their former band members, John Lennon and George Harrison. Lennon was shot and killed in 1980. Harrison died of cancer in 2001.
“We were in a band called The Beatles and whenever we play George and John are always with us,” Starr told the crowd. McCartney said: “Tonight we are remembering our beautiful friends John and George.”
McCartney, playing guitar, and Starr on drums, brought the tribute to a rousing close both with “Hey Jude” and another classic Beatles song, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
The concert was attended by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, 80, and Harrison’s widow, Olivia. The last time McCartney and Starr performed Beatles songs together was to celebrate Starr’s 70th birthday, in 2010.
In a three hour tribute before they appeared, a series of artists performed Beatles numbers.
British pop duo Eurythmics – singer Annie Lennox and musician Dave Stewart – reunited to perform “The Fool on the Hill,” and U.S. singer Katy Perry sang a version of “Yesterday.”
Oscar-winning actors Tom Hanks, Jeff Bridges and Sean Penn were among a Hollywood crowd which danced along to the music.
Even the Beatles’ backing musicians were not anonymous journeymen: they included The Eagles’ Joe Walsh and singer-songwriter Peter Frampton.
The tribute airs Sunday evening on CBS. Check local listings for time.