The Beatles have been voted No. 14 on the list of CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice .
A list of the most influential artists in history chosen by country stars themselves, another honoree is revealed each week on CMT Hot 20 Countdown .
Although John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison paid their dues on the club circuit in England and Germany and had achieved success in the United Kingdom, they led the British Invasion of the U.S. after Capitol Records released the album Meet the Beatles in January 1964.
Their career exploded on Feb. 9, 1964, during their first appearance in the U.S. — a live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show that included “All My Loving,” “She Loves You,” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” An estimated 73 million people watched the performance with 60 percent of the America’s TV tuned into CBS variety show.
Despite their undeniable musical energy and, at the time, shockingly long hair, it was clear that the Beatles were a social phenomenon, although no one could have predicted the impact their music and lives would have in the years to come.
“If you’re going to bring up the best and most influential acts of all time, it’d have to be the Beatles right off the bat,” Ronnie Dunn said. “It’s just such a broad stroke appeal that they had.”
“The revolution that the Beatles began in music and culture, there was nothing like it,” Rosanne Cash said. “Our lives changed with ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’ That was it. … My life was utterly changed after that.”
“The Beatles changed everything,” Martina McBride agreed. “I mean, they recorded for such a short amount of time, and when I think about ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘I Am the Walrus’ in just a couple of years, I don’t even understand how people can advance like that and can just make that much music — and so much different kind of music. And those songs will be around forever. If we all still here in 10,000 years, they will still be playing those Beatles songs.”
Alabama’s Teddy Gentry recalled the spark he and Randy Owen felt after hearing the Beatles’ music.
“Me and Randy just flipped,” he said. “We couldn’t wait to get together on the weekends and just sit down with a guitar and learn a new Beatle chord — ‘Whoa, this is cool!’ — when we were just learning to play guitar. These guys were not only country fans but just loved music.”
All three members of Lady Antebellum are major admirers of the British band, too.
“My first Beatles record was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, which is weird because that’s a pretty trippy experimental record to be my first Beatles record. But that was my introduction to them. And then I kind of went back and found out all the other stuff. Amazing band. Best songwriters in the world.”
Lady A’s Hillary Scott says countless musicians have learned from the Beatles.
“It’s a great way to learn harmony,” she said. “And also they do a lot of three-part and, I think, from the top. A lot of the harmony would come in really early in the song, which is something we do in our music, as well.”
“And it’s not always a harmony part,” bandmate Dave Haywood noted. “At times, they have dueling lead parts there — both basically parts you can sing. If you’re singing along to a Beatles song, you can end up on one part, end on another part, and that’s something everyone’s been trying to emulate, It’s neat to see how they do that, and I know it happened so organically for them. But it’s something we’re all trying to copy, as well.”
Charlie Worsham says the Beatles were the first of their kind.
“You know, the way that Elvis was the first of his kind,” he explained. “Nobody knew what Elvis would be until there was Elvis. Nobody knew Beatlemania until the Beatles. Everything since is compared to them.”
Worsham has learned from the Beatles’ songwriting.
“The songs were such great lessons in why it’s important to write with originality and to keep things simple and detailed in a way that they can become universal. It sounds counterproductive, but in a way, the more specific and simple you get, the more the songs can apply to everyone. ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ for example. I don’t know who Eleanor Rigby was. She’s a figment of somebody’s imagination, but everybody has felt lonely like the way the story of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ tells you.”
Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers says McCartney remains one of the best acts touring these days.
“Beatles are just incredible,” he said. “I grew up listening to cassette tapes of the Beatles. I would drive in cars with my friends’ parents or with my parents, and it would always be on and you just can’t avoid the Beatles’ music.
“It’s everywhere you go, and I was lucky enough to see Paul McCartney again at Bonnaroo this past year and, honestly, it was one of the most compelling performances I’ve ever seen in my entire life. He played for three and a-half hours, and it was just amazing. Hits the whole time, the whole crowd was just completely captivated — singing along all the words.”
Like older musicians, Smyers remains astounded that Lennon and McCartney happened to be in the same band.
“Two of the best song writers of all-time,” he said. “It’s crazy that they ended up in one band and wrote all of those amazing songs.”
Mary Chapin Carpenter concurs.
“A friend of mine, Shawn Colvin, made a very astute observation one night,” Carpenter said. “She said to the audience, ‘I believe that it’s proof that God exists because the Beatles met one another.'”
Check out the rest of the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice list, and find out who will be announced each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT on CMT Hot 20 Countdown.