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Night Lights Classic Jazz

Fab Four Jazz: The Beatles’ Influence On Jazz In The 1960s

The Beatles’ explosive arrival on the American music scene in 1964 shook up the jazz world just as much as it did the rest of America—perhaps even more so.

Grant Green, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"

The Beatles’ explosive arrival on the American music scene at the beginning of 1964 shook up the jazz world just as much as it did the rest of America — perhaps even more so. In the wake of the Fab Four’s barrage of hit singles, constant radio play, and all-encompassing Beatlemania, jazz critic Martin Williams even felt compelled to reassure Downbeat readers that autumn that the magazine was not switching to primarily pop-rock coverage, contrary to recent rumor.

On Night Lights

This program features some early jazz interpretations of the Beatles’ music from

  • Stanley Turrentine
  • Gerry Mulligan
  • Woody Herman
  • Bud Shank

and others, as well as reflections on how the British group affected the jazz scene from cultural historian Michael McGerr.

More Beatles-Related Jazz Content

  • Blog-O-Jazz unearths Duke Ellington on the Ed Sullivan show circa 1970, doing a Beatles’ medley.
  • More from historian Michael McGerr on Night Lights
  • For more on jazz interpretations of the Beatles, check out this rundown at
  • Read jazz writer Martin Williams‘ 1965 Downbeat parody of how his fellow critics might potentially review Beatles albums. (Ironically enough, pace Williams’ opening line, the Beatles would indeed be reviewed and written about in the pages of Downbeat over the next few years)
  • Jazz singer Carol Sloane shares her memories of the Beatles’ impact with Jazzwax blogger Marc Myers.
  • Listen to a previous Night Lights program about jazz musicians in 1960s and 70s pop-rock songs: Jazz Cameos.
  • Watch Ella Fitzgerald perfom “Something in the Way He Moves” on The Ed Sullivan Show.

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