David Hoppe

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:: Ringo is 70

Time flies for a generation

By David Hoppe

Ringo turned 70 last week.

Yes, that Ringo. Ringo Starr, the former drummer with the Beatles. He celebrated his birthday in New York City, where he asked everyone to join him by saying "peace and love" at noon. Then he played a concert with a band of fellow geezers, including Sir Paul McCartney.

I must say, Ringo looks great. Not a day over 60.

I wish the same held true for Ringo's fellow Beatle, John Lennon. If he were still alive, John would be turning 70 this October.

These are numbers that take some getting used to. By way of a little perspective: When the Beatles officially broke up in the Spring of 1970, Ringo, the oldest member of the band, was just 29 years-old. And yes, that makes it 40 years since the boys called it quits.

I think it was 1970 when I saw the Marx Brothers' movie, Duck Soup for the first time. Its irreverent anarchy was a revelation, in part because the film itself was so obviously from a bygone era. Duck Soup was made in 1933. That made it three years closer to me in 1970 than the Beatles' break-up is to a 20 year-old today.

Unlike the Marx Brothers, who by 1970 were relegated to the outer reaches of late-night television and campus film festivals, the Beatles remain a commercial powerhouse. Remastered versions of their albums sold 2.25 million copies in five days after their release in 2009, keeping the Beatles brand prominent in the charts.

There's comfort in this for people of a certain age. The climate may be out of whack, job security's out the window and our politics looks more and more like mud wrestling, but the Beatles still sound good. Better still, many of our kids and grandkids have come to the Beatles on their own. Something in the music speaks to them, and that's heartening because many of us would like to think the Beatles speak for the better part of ourselves.

That doesn't keep some of us from letting out a brief sigh at the thought of Ringo turning 70. It was the Beatles that asked if our loved ones would still need us and feed us at 64. That question's more pertinent than ever.

Here we are pushing into our 60s and President Obama has assembled a commission to make recommendations about how to deal with the country's expanding budget deficit. Apparently, the first things this bipartisan group wants to mess with are Social Security and Medicare.

Now this is a country where most adults have little in the bank. But these same people have been paying taxes all their working lives. Social Security and Medicare are, in fact, their savings accounts. The very idea that these funds might be cut or privatized for the benefit of corporations when, for example, the U.S. continues to pay for the biggest military in the world.well, why not give peace a chance?

"All you need is love," sang the Beatles. It turns out that's only partly true. Wishing doesn't make it so. For a brief moment that seemed to last a lifetime, the Beatles managed to pull off something extraordinary: In the span of about three years they completely blurred longstanding lines between avant-garde art and popular culture, bringing a veritable bazaar of concepts, styles and attitudes into mainstream consciousness.