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February 7: The Fifth Beatle

Lawrence Bush
February 7, 2010

The Beatles arrived in America on this day in 1964 and launched a cultural tidal wave. They were accompanied by their 30-year-old manager Brian Epstein, who had paid for the recording of their first demo record, convinced George Martin to sign them, invented their “mophead” hairstyles, outfitted them in suits, and arranged for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Epstein, with no prior experience of artistic management, had an earth-shaking case of beginner’s luck: The Beatles occupied all of the five top slots of the Top Forty Hits listing by April and went on to be, in John Lennon’s words, “more popular than Jesus.” While in America, they and Epstein were introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan, and Paul McCartney reported that Epstein stood in front of a mirror, pointing at himself and saying “Jew!” over and over while laughing aloud. Epstein died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills in 1967.
If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian Epstein.” —Paul McCartney

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.