Reading, ‘Riting and Ringo

By Jere Hester
|  Wednesday, Mar 4, 2009  |  Updated 9:44 PM PDT
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British Invasion Occasion

The Beatles were masters of the arts.

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We can see the course offerings now: “Lennonism in Western Europe.” “Here, There and Everywhere: a Study in Existentialism.” “Lady Madonna and the Population Control Conundrum.”  “Eleanor Rigby and Isolationism in Modern Society.”

At first glance, the news reads like a dose of cheeky Liverpool humor, but it’s no joke: a university in the Beatles’ hometown is offering a masters degree in Fab Four studies, the first program of its kind.

Okay, so post-graduate job opportunities may be limited, to say, starving musician. But "The Beatles, Popular Music and Society” program set to begin in September at Liverpool Hope University is actually a fab idea.

Colleges have been offering the odd Beatles-themed course for years. This marks an opportunity to give John, Paul, George and Ringo their full due – in academic terms – for the cultural and social revolution they help kicked off more nearly five decades ago.

The lasting power of the group, which broke up nearly 40 years ago, rests, of course, in the songs. The masters program, which requires students to complete a dissertation, could help put the phenomenon into some perspective while passing along the group’s music and meaning to new generations.

"If popular music is about anything, it's about people," said Mike Brocken, who is heading the program. "If we look at popular culture, it simply provides us with a very complex mirror of ourselves."

The program has 30 slots, and there is reportedly interest from prospective students in the U.S. and around the world eager to study in Liverpool, a gritty old seaport city with a palpable spirit of music, humor and creativity.

There’s a danger, of course, in over intellectualizing something that brings joy to many. The masters program should be above all a celebration of a group whose story can fill volumes, but whose philosophy can be boiled down to five simple words: All you need is love. 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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