The Beatles and Endurance

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With "The Beatles: Rock Band" all the rage for music video gamers, why not ride this wave of piqued interest to reinforce some character traits that propelled The Beatles to mega success? I think you'll find these stories useful in your classroom, home and work with youth in the community.

Below, you'll find a couple of motivational Beatles stories based on our research. Were they perfect moral examples? No. But to be fair, neither were most of the other great athletes and political figures and writers we revere. By telling the stories of what they did right along their path to success, we imbed memorable character motivators in the minds of young people. We're writing our illustrations primarily based upon our reading of one of the most respected biographies of The Beatles: Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, by Philip Norman .
Press On Despite Criticism
(Beatles Succeed Despite Discouraging Comments)
Don't let discouraging comments get you down. Sometimes we simply need to ignore them and press forward with our passion.

Fifteen-year-old John fell in love with his guitar, playing it night and day. His Aunt Mimi, who was raising him, couldn't see the point of his obsession and would try to discourage him. Do you know what it's like to hear discouraging comments, over and over, from those you really respect and want to please? Well, John's Aunt Mimi put it it this way,

"To me, it was just so much waste of time. I used to tell him so. 'The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out of it.'"

But John kept right on playing, putting his heart into the music he loved. In fact he grew up to play guitar, sing and write music with one of the most popular bands ever - The Beatles. That's right, that 15-year-old boy was John Lennon. And yes, Aunt Mimi, he did manage to eek out a living with the millions he made from that guitar.

Aunt Mimi wouldn't be the last to put down The Beatles along the way. Here were some other negative comments they endured: But The Beatles kept playing despite all the negative comments and rejections, becoming so wildly popular that they sold more albums in the United States than any other band or artist. Almost four decades after their breakup in 1970, their fan base continues to grow through games like The Beatles: Rock Band.

[Copyright December, 2009, J. Steve Miller and Legacy Educational Resources ( ). Feel free to post with this attribution. Not for resale. Sources: Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, by Philip Norman (New York: MJF Books, 1981) p. 35; Wikipedia, The Beatles.]


1) Why do you think Aunt Mimi tried to discourage John?
2) Why do you think so many people put The Beatles down and failed to recognize their talent?
3) When should we take criticism to heart?
4) When should we move forward in spite of criticism?
5) In what area of life do you need to move forward, despite discouraging comments?
Don't Let Poverty and Bad Breaks Define You
(Lennon and McCartney Endure)

Some kids seem to get all the breaks. Not only do they get the coolest and most expensive gifts for Christmas and birthdays, but they also get those little extras to give them the edge in life – like the best guitars, professional athletic equipment, or expensive lessons from the pros. How can regular young people – those whose parents struggle just to put food on the table – compete with that?

Well, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the chief songwriters and vocalists for one of the top-selling bands of all time, The Beatles, refused to allow humble beginnings to get in their way.

John Lennon's Humble Beginnings

Let's take John first. Do you know what it's like to grow up without a dad? John's dad left his mom the year after they married. And he didn't just move next door – he sailed from England to America, putting an ocean between them! Soon his mom started a new life with a new man, but she didn’t bring her son into the new family. John was raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, although he had a great relationship with his mom and visited with her regularly (p. 18). But George died suddenly of a hemorrhage when John was 12, leaving him once again fatherless. (p. 23) Later, his real mom would be taken from him suddenly when she was hit by a car. (p. 56)

By age 13 John majored in troublemaking – ever in detention or the principle’s office. (p. 24.) But at age 15 he fell in love with the new rock and roll music he heard at night on alternative radio, with a very weak signal from the continent that kept fading in and out. Soon, he was pestering Aunt Mimi to buy him a guitar. When she finally gave in, he became almost attached to the instrument, strumming it endlessly. (pp. 34-36)

Not being able to afford lessons, his mom would teach him banjo chords, which he could play with the first four strings, leaving the final two strings untuned. He put together a band and they would practice standing in the bath because of the superior acoustics.

His poverty posed another problem - the only way to learn the words to the songs they wanted to play was to buy a record, but none of them could afford to buy records. No matter. John made up his own words to go with the tunes.

Paul McCartney's Humble Beginnings

Now let's look at Paul’s hardships. His parents worked jobs that didn't pay well, so that they could only make ends meet with both parents working. But when Paul was 14, his mom died of breast cancer, devastating both he and his dad. When Paul heard that his mom had died, he asked, "What are we going to do without her money?" (pp. 25-30)

Money Troubles for Their Band

In their mid teens, John and Paul began playing in a band together, called The Quarrymen, playing anywhere people would listen. But their lack of money continued to pose problems, such as:

When they went to electric guitars, they had no money to buy amps. If the organizers couldn't provide one, they'd have to settle for a crappy sound by hooking up through the microphone system.(p. 59)If they played a church event, the church would have to pay for broken strings. They lost an opportunity to be "discovered" when they entered a talent competition. After passing the local heats in Liverpool, they were invited to the semifinals at the Hippodrome in Manchester. It was their big chance to get on TV and let the world view their talents! But their poverty robbed them of the opportunity. They had enough money for the bus trip to Manchester, but had to leave before the evening finals, because the only bus home left before the finals. They had no money to book an overnight stay. (p. 59)

The Power of Perseverance

Many would have gotten discouraged and quit, assuming that only those with money could make it in the music business. But John and Paul kept right on playing and singing. It would take them five more years before they were able to cut an album and start to get some serious recognition. (p. 167) But perhaps, in the end, it was best to take the long, harder road to success. During those years of obscurity, they lost some band members but added George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Time on the road allowed them to sharpen their skills at writing, playing their instruments and performing, so that when they became famous, they were ready to take the world by storm.

Do money problems and family problems get you down? Do you feel everybody else gets the breaks, whether it be in academics, sports, music, or wherever you're trying to excel? The next time you feel discouraged, maybe you'll hear a Beatles song and remember that over 40 years ago, a couple of guys decided not to let family set-backs and lack of money define them. Instead, they co-wrote and published an astounding 180 songs, many of which are riding a new wave of popularity today.


1. What disadvantages did John and Paul grow up with? (poverty, loss of family members, lack of formal musical training, not being able to buy the records to get the words right, etc.)
2. Do you think their heartaches and struggles contributed to their ability to write heart-felt lyrics that so many people identify with?
3. What do you think kept them moving forward when others might have given up?
4. In what area of life do you need to keep pressing on, despite your hardships?

[Copyright December, 2009, J. Steve Miller and Legacy Educational Resources ( ). Feel free to post with this attribution. Not for resale. Sources: Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, by Philip Norman (New York: MJF Books, 1981) p. 35; Wikipedia, The Beatles.]

Other Resources

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