What the Beatles can Teach the Selfie Generation

Miley Cyrus is one of many who seem to want fame more than anything. As the Beatles found out, it doesn't bring happiness

Thanks in part to social media, young people today pursue celebrity as avidly as riches. In the current warp-speed entertainment world littered with marginally talented, vacuous performers, the vanguard appears to be Miley Cyrus, one of the most Googled people in 2013. Her most recent efforts include contributing “twerking” to the common lexicon, and providing the world with a signature Christmas gift, an Instagram selfie emerging from the shower, posed with her familiar tongue.

Kate Winslet, sensibilities shocked, recently told Psychologies magazine“I mean, you think about someone like Miley Cyrus, and I said to my daughter the other day, ‘I’m this close to opening my mouth about what’s going on with that girl’. Who is actually saying, ‘Stop for a second, what do you want, who are you?'”

The classic cautionary tale of “what do you want, who are you?” is soon to be revisited in the upcoming 50th anniversary of one of America’s most legendary television shows. On an unforgettable Sunday evening in February 1964, with nearly 75 million watching, The Beatles debuted in America on the Ed Sullivan Show, a performance that made them the most popular performers in the world. Six short years later, the group disbanded amidst acrimony and lawsuits.

If they had it to do over again, would they have left Liverpool to become the western world’s most famous people? On its face, it’s a ridiculous question. But with the perspective of half a lifetime, perhaps not so ridiculous considering how their lives unfolded.

When the group split up, they were all still under 30; most of their adult lives they were not The Beatles. Despite never matching their group success, as individuals, they all had top-selling records and remained revered figures even as their personal stories were marred by unhappiness.John Lennon, harassed by the Nixon administration for his views on the Vietnam war, was nearly deported from the United States. For some time after the Beatles broke up, he downplayed his past as the group’s leader, withdrew from the music scene, and became a contented househusband and father in Manhattan.

Touring with The Beatles, Lennon understood the potential physical danger of crowds. Yet in 1980, shortly after he turned 40, he was brutally murdered in front of his wife by a crazed Beatle fan. He never saw his son Sean grow up or reconciled with his other son, Julian. His half-sister Julia told the Independent that she wished John had never picked up a guitar because his fame destroyed their family relationships, led to his personal isolation later in life, and ultimately his death.

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