This year, our children all went to Charlottesville after Thanksgiving for the annual University of Virginia versus Virginia Tech football game which is always played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So Joel and I watched Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back, the eight hour, three part documentary, which takes us back to 1969. The Beatles had a short timeline in January to write new songs that they could perform in a live concert and release in an album. They knew that they were being filmed for a documentary as well. The microphones and cameras were hidden throughout the studio where they were working to create music.
I could not stop watching. The children thought we were crazy watching for all those hours. But who doesn’t love the Beatles? Watching the dynamics of this beloved group and listening to their melodies and lyrics come together made me think about how crucial their music was to me years ago as a teenager. Their music is so familiar and still important to me today.
From my perspective while watching the series, Paul became the leader of the group, trying to keep everyone on task to come up with new material for a surprise short live concert on the rooftop of Apple Corps, their headquarters. He was collaborative yet knew how he wanted things to sound. I got the feeling that although he was seeking feedback from John, George, and Ringo, he really had a vision regarding how the music needed to sound. He wanted the music to sound a certain way -- so maybe he was not listening to the feedback he was soliciting. Ringo was amiable and got along with everyone. When he was needed to be the drummer, he was present for everyone. John seemed to be goofing around a lot. He brought Yoko Ono to the daily songwriting and rehearsal sessions, and habitually arrived late to rehearsal. He later commanded the stage during the roof top performance but did not seem productive during creative song writing sessions. George was on the quiet side and I felt his contributions were valuable yet underutilized. At one point, early on, he quit the Beatles for five days.
After the Beatles broke up, Paul went on to have a happy and long marriage with Linda and a successful career with his new band Paul McCartney and Wings. George went on to produce songs in different genres and collaborated with Eric Clapton and Billy Preston, among others. He had a happy marriage with second wife Olivia. Ringo Starr had a successful solo career and happy marriage with second wife Barbara. And John Lennon devoted the last years of his life to staying at home with his son Sean and Yoko Ono. Maybe they all needed to go their separate ways so that they could all creatively grow and flourish? Still, I couldn’t help but wish that all of the members of the Beatles had reunited before John Lennon’s death.
And I could not help but wonder if mediation could have helped the Beatles to stay together just a little bit longer so that they could have continued to create beautiful music. I would love to go back in time to 1969 and bring my conflict resolution skills to the band. I would facilitate communication and interest-based negotiation between band members. I would empower each member of the band to help make sure that Paul would actively listen to the opinions of all, that George would use his voice and communicate his concerns clearly, that John would come to the studio on time and make meaningful contributions during rehearsals, and that Ringo would feel good about his songwriting skills...
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly...”-- Paul McCartney
Ellice Halpern, J.D., is a Virginia Supreme Court certified general and family mediator.