I doubt it’s escaped your attention that 2020 has been fucking awful. Train wreck after train wreck has ravaged this shitty, choking, boiling, drowning planet, and while the ongoing American protests would likely be the highlight of any other year, it’s unquestionably the Covid-19 viral outbreak that’s the definitive year event. As of this moment, we have no idea how many people will die, but we know that hundreds of thousands already have and that millions hang in the balance as the world’s struggling hospital apparatus tries to keep up with demand from a choking, dying populace.
As you may already know, celebrities took it upon themselves to try and cheer everyone up. The iconic song Imagine by former Beatles star John Lennon was covered into the ground by famous people, evidently thinking the song is about imagining being able to go outdoors again. While annoying as hell and demonstrable of the vapidity of celebrity culture, it’s still a testament to the cultural power of a singer who’s been dead since 1980, most known for a band that’s been dead since 1970, a whole fifty years ago.
This fifty-year anniversary should be a great time for Beatles fans, with the annual ‘Beatleweek’ in Liverpool surely having a truly mind-blowing lineup in store. Alas, it was unceremoniously booted to the curb, like so many other cultural events this year. People looking for their Beatles fix this year are left wanting. But… There is one other notable Beatles event this year.
he classic George Harrison track from the Beatles Abbey Road album, Here Comes the Sun, has been seeing a renaissance. It’s a gorgeous track of unparalleled optimism, emblematic of the only Beatle who continued to uphold the message of their other (among many) iconic songs, All You Need is Love. It’s a song that clashes marvellously with the sheer shittiness that is 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic in particular. Now, if there’s anywhere that is more steeped in that shittiness right now, it’s a hospital. So naturally, it’s hospitals who have sought to co-opt the song.
To keep up morale, hospitals across the US have been blasting a lot of optimistic music. Playing a key role, the choice of Here Comes the Sun appears to have arisen at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, all the way back in April, possibly even earlier. In this case, the song has been used specifically for when a Covid-19 patient is either discharged from hospital or removed from a ventilator to allow them to breathe on their own again, possibly for the first time in weeks.
It’s not hard to see why this choice was made. The instrumentals are just viscerally joyous, and the lyrics are at a perfect line of not hitting too close to reality, while still fitting the situation. Lines like “Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter.” And later leading to “Little darling, the smile’s returning to their faces” seem appropriate while not being exact.
Some reports claim to only play the first few seconds, but there’s no knowing how all the hospitals are doing it. And yes, this phenomenon isn’t just confined to that one hospital, or even New York for that matter. A Reuters article mere days after the first reports states that hospitals in Detroit are doing the same thing. Another article refers to this happening in New Jersey as well! I really could go on, with more reports from Boston and even Iowa, but I think my point is proven. It’s most likely arrived in many more places without much fanfare, simply now seen as a fact of hospital life in fighting Covid-19.
In some small way, fifty years on from the dissolution of what many would call the world’s greatest band, their influence is still being felt on global culture. Unlike the trite recordings of Imagine by hack celebrities, at least Here Comes the Sun is being used as a tool by those who need it most to help those who need it most… Of course, we have no comment from those in the hospitals who’d rather they played the Rolling Stones or whatever, but hey, that’s splitting hairs. Perhaps it’s not the fiftieth-anniversary commemoration many Beatles fans would prefer, but it’s heartwarming all the same.
Now, if only Paul and Ringo would have some cultural relevance this year, we’d at least have a living Beatle to congratulate.