Cover image for Speaking Words of Wisdom: The Beatles and Religion Edited by Michael McGowan

Speaking Words of Wisdom

The Beatles and Religion

Edited by Michael McGowan

Coming in June

$124.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09729-9
Coming in June

$27.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09743-5
Coming in June

260 pages
6" × 9"
2024

American Music History

Speaking Words of Wisdom

The Beatles and Religion

Edited by Michael McGowan

“Formal religion and personal spirituality are often overlooked in the story of rock, but as this fascinating book shows, both played a vital role. The Beatles are the perfect case study.”

 

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“More popular than Jesus.”

Despite the uproar it caused in America in 1966, John Lennon’s famous assessment of the Beatles vis-à-vis religion was not far off. The Beatles did mean more to kids than the religions in which they were raised, not only in America but everywhere in the world.

By all accounts, the Beatles were the most significant musical group of the twentieth century. Their albums sold in the hundreds of millions, and the press was always eager to document their activities and perspectives. And when fan appreciation morphed into worship, Beatlemania took on religious significance. Many young people around the world began to look to the Beatles—their music, their commentary, their art—for meaning in a turbulent decade.

Speaking Words of Wisdom is a deep dive into the Beatles’ relationship to religion through the lenses of philosophy, cultural studies, music history, and religious studies. Chapters explore topics such as religious life in Liverpool, faith among individual band members, why and how India entered the Beatles’ story, fan worship/deification, and the Beatles’ long-lasting legacy.

In the 1960s, the Beatles facilitated a reevaluation of our deepest values. The story of how the Beatles became modern-day sages is an important case study for the ways in which consumers make culturally and religiously significant meaning from music, people, and events.

In addition to the editor, the contributors to this book include David Bedford, Kenneth Campbell, John Covach, Melissa Davis, Anthony DeCurtis, Mark Duffett, Scott Freer, Murray Leeder, Sean MacLeod, Grant Maxwell, Christiane Meiser, and Eyal Regev.

“Formal religion and personal spirituality are often overlooked in the story of rock, but as this fascinating book shows, both played a vital role. The Beatles are the perfect case study.”
“Musical creativity is, as Paul McCartney says, magical. One might say miraculous. Given that the Beatles wrestled in their musical messages, activities, and public pronouncements with the nature of spirituality, both religious and secular—and that they themselves inspired widespread idolatry—this book becomes a highly important and fascinating project. This volume’s authors present, with a wide variety of backgrounds, a very high level of research and insight into the Beatles’ collective and individual faiths, beliefs, ethic, questioning of dogma, and their reception, all in a beautifully organized context molded by generations of their families’ religious upbringings and the crises that institutional religion faced in the mid-twentieth century. The Beatles’ core gospel of sharing love and the search for truth is considered here as never before.”

Michael McGowan is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Florida Southwestern State College. He is the coeditor of David Foster Wallace and Religion: Essays on Faith and Fiction and author of The Bridge: Revelation and Its Implications.