Historians analyze The Beatles’ cultural effect

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by Punch Shaw,

from Fort Worth Star Telegram,

How far have the Beatles come since that fateful night in 1964? One indication of their continuing impact on American life and culture is It Was 50 Years Ago Today!: An International Beatles Celebration, being held this weekend on Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona campus.

The three-day academic conference (full disclosure: I am moderating a panel there) is intended to celebrate the Beatles and the anniversary of the Ed Sullivan appearance and to bring together professors, students and the public to take a closer look at how the Beatles changed the world.

“Our students are keenly aware of the Beatles,” said Ken Womack, 48, associate dean of academic affairs at Penn State Altoona and organizer of the conference, who got to know the band’s music by watching Beatles cartoons as a child in Houston.

Indeed, John, Paul, George and Ringo are no strangers to college classrooms. Womack noted that courses on the Beatles “have become commonplace.” A university in Liverpool even offers a master’s in Beatles studies.y

The keynote speaker at the event is Mark Lewisohn, a British music historian who is considered one of the foremost experts on the Beatles. He recently published Tune In, the first of a planned three-volume biography of the Beatles, The Beatles: All These Years. To give you an idea of how exhaustive Lewisohn’s research is, the tome comes in at a hefty 932 pages, and it covers only up to the end of 1962 — more than a year before the band played The Ed Sullivan Show.

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