So much has been said about this subject and maybe it doesn’t even matter. I mean, why do we have to choose a favorite Beatle? Can’t we just appreciate them all? Yes, yes we can. But we are human beings and competing and making choices is fundamental to our nature.
So, who is the best Beatle? Let’s immediately start with the culling. George and Ringo-both great in their own right-just simply do not have the cultural and musical impact of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. George has written some great songs, both with the Beatles and on his own, and he has a guitar tone that is unique to him. When you hear it you know it’s George Harrison.
According to other members of the band, Ringo was a lifesaver in the band’s early days on the road. In their early concerts, they couldn’t hear themselves singing or playing their instruments. But, Ringo was able to keep the beat and they desperately clung to his timekeeping and steadiness to stay on course. Perhaps, this is what negatively affected Ringo’s greatness. He had to be so consistent just to keep the band playing together that he was unable to get outside of of the box.
Now the real argument begins. I’m going to just say it from the outset. I’m a Paul guy. Sure, he’s had some cheesy songs-he even has a self effacing song addressing that issue. In Silly Love Songs, Paul says “Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And, what’s wrong with that?” This is, of course, a reference to himself as “some people” and the criticism that he wrote lightweight songs, lacking the gravitas of Lennon.
Personally, I don’t think it’s really a contest. I think it’s really Paul in a blowout. I think that John Lennon was able to become a part of the cultural zeitgeist by being perceived as a rebel, a bad boy and a tortured soul. He became a hip choice. He also died young and people are assessing him on his life as a completed work. Paul McCartney has continued on and people are still judging him and his work that he has continued to make for 30 plus years since John’s death.
John also committed some notoriously bad acts in his personal life that contradict his reputation as a peace icon.
In many ways, Paul is negatively judged by the cultural kingmakers because he writes many straightaway pop songs and he, seems, well, happy. If someone is a happy musician, it seems like they just don’t get the critics’ endorsement.
It was acknowledged even by John himself, that Paul was a superior talent. He had musical ability that exceeded the others and he had the ability to write melodies that the others did not possess. John was supposedly quite jealous of Paul’s ability to make a melody. Paul’s talents as a musical polymath cannot be overlooked either. When John was asked “Is Ringo the best drummer in rock music?” John responded by saying “he’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles.” John was referring to Paul.
Paul, even within John’s lifetime, produced a lot more solo music than John did. He had a string of hits and he continued right on. For sure, John made some good songs like “Wheels” and “Woman”. (I’m not a big fan of “Imagine”-I know, blasphemy, right?) But, Paul has numerous hits and prolific output.
To quote Bob’s Bloggery “I think Paul had at least as high a batting average as the others and he came to the plate much more often. This, I think, gives him the edge. So, with no disrespect to the other three, I think my answer is Paul McCartney.”