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When America Fell for the Beatles

Springsteen, Dylan and other musical greats recall how the Fab Four’s arrival 50 years ago kicked off a new era of rock ’n’ roll

Berry Gordy, founder, Motown Records

One day my father and my three oldest kids and I stopped at the Pinewood movie studios in England, where we met the Beatles. I told them how thrilled I was with the way they did our three songs [Motown's "You Really Got a Hold on Me," "Money (That's What I Want)" and "Please Mr. Postman"] in their second album.

"We love all your artists," John said in his Liverpool accent.

My kids could barely speak, but Pop pulled two of the Beatles aside, telling one of his stories about how hard work always pays off. I tried to rescue them by telling Pop we had to go, but they said they wanted to hear more.

Billy Joel, musician

John F. Kennedy represented youth and progress and the future. And he was snatched from us. And the country really had the blues. Then all of a sudden there's this band with hair like girls'. They played their own instruments, and they wrote their own songs, and they looked like these working-class kids, like kids we all knew. And I said at that moment, "That's what I want to do."

Bob Dylan, musician

I had heard the Beatles in New York when they first hit. Then, when we were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on, and eight of the Top 10 songs were Beatles songs. In Colorado! They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. But I just kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go. In Colorado, I started thinking it was so far out that I couldn't deal with it — eight in the Top 10. This was something that had never happened before. You see, there was a lot of hypocrisy all around, people saying it had to be either folk or rock. But I knew it didn't have to be like that.

Cyndi Lauper, performer-composer

My sister, Elen, always wanted to be Paul, so I was John. By singing with my sister like that, and listening to John's voice, I learned harmony and the structure of songs. When I was 11 and the Beatles were coming to New York, my mother drove my sister, her friend Diane and me to the Belt Parkway where the Hilton Hotel is, by the airport, so we could see the Beatles drive by. We waited. And waited. All of a sudden we saw cars coming, and it was them. So I started screaming, and I shut my eyes, and by the time I realized I should open my eyes, I'd missed it.

Next page: B.B. King, Booker T. Jones and Van Zandt recall the Beatles. »

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