The Beatles arrive at JFK airport in 1964
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On this day, January 20, in 1988, The Beatles were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At that point, the band had split up 18 years prior in 1970, following the release of their 12th and final album Let It Be. Eight years earlier, On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was tragically murdered in New York City outside his home. The band’s position in the Hall of Fame was long overdue – but there was a problem. Paul McCartney refused to attend the event which was hosted by Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger.
Jagger touched upon the band’s humble beginnings, while also thanking them for writing their first smash hit I Wanna Be Your Man. He then said: “We had a lot of rivalry in those early years, and a little bit of friction, but we always ended up friends. I like to think we still are, ’cause they were some of the greatest times of our lives, and I’m really proud to be the one that leads them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Two of the remaining members of the Fab Four then arrived on stage, as well as some family. Ringo Starr and George Harrison were joined by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and his two sons Julian Lennon and Sean Ono Lennon. And Harrison was quit to make a comment about Macca’s absence. He said: “I don’t have to say much because I’m the Quiet Beatle. It’s unfortunate Paul’s not here because he’s the one who had the speech in his pocket.”
But he wasn’t there to take pot-shots at his former bandmate.
Harrison added a touching ode to his absent brothers. He said: “Anyway, we all know why John can’t be here, and I’m damn sure he would be. It’s hard to stand here supposedly representing The Beatles. It’s what’s left I’m afraid. But we all loved him so much and we all love Paul very much.”
Despite McCartney missing his own band’s induction, he was not silent.
McCartney, around the same time, released a statement on the stage of the band’s relationship. He said: “After 20 years, the Beatles still have some business differences, which I had hoped would have been settled by now. Unfortunately, they haven’t been, so I would feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling with them at a fake reunion.”
The Hey Jude singer did go on to change his tune years later, however.
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In 1994 McCartney inducted Lennon into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. He also did the same for Starr in 2015, after supposedly arranging his induction. McCartney once claimed: “I said: ‘Let me see what I can do.’ And I talked to Bruce Springsteen and I talked to Dave Grohl, and they both said [Starr] should be in. And I said I’d do the induction. That took care of it.”
Back at The Beatles’ ceremony, Harrison was keen to point out that he and the rest of The Beatles just wanted to start a band to play music.
Harrison said at the induction: “I supposed basically the reason we became a band was [because] of all the other people in the Hall of Fame already, including Leadbelly, because they stole his tunes and turned it into skiffle and we all became skifflers when we were 13. We just wanted to get guitars, get in a band, because we didn’t really have proper jobs at the time.” George said he was thrilled to be at the Hall of Fame and thanked rock ‘n’ roll singers like Little Richard for inspiring the Fab Four.”
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