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Top 11 Musicians Influenced By the Beatles

Written by: Frank Mastropolo

Sir Paul and Mr. Grohl

February marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival in America of the Beatles, the group that changed the landscape of the music industry. The Beatles produced the first music video (Paperback Writer/Rain), invented the concept album (Sgt. Pepper) and created Apple, their own record label. But the Beatles’ most important contribution may be the inspiration given to a generation of artists to create their own music.

Here are 11 of the best (in no particular order, mind you).

11. Dave Grohl, Nirvana & the Foo Fighters

Before he founded Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl was the drummer of Nirvana, the grunge rock band led by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain, who died in 1994. Grohl joined Sir Paul McCartney and the surviving members of Nirvana to perform as “Sirvana” at the 12.12.12 Concert for Sandy Relief.

Grohl told Access Hollywood that McCartney and the Beatles inspired him at an early age. “When I was young, that’s how I learned how to play music – I had a guitar and a Beatles songbook. I would listen to the records and play along. Of course, it didn’t sound like the Beatles, but it got me to understand song structure and melody and harmony and arrangement. So, I never had a teacher – I just had these Beatles records.”

Even the late Cobain admired the Beatles, said Grohl. “Even in Nirvana – the Beatles [were] such a huge influence. Kurt loved the Beatles because it was just so simple. Well, it seemed simple… they sound easy to play, but you know what? They’re hard!”

Below, watch Dave and Paul’s band play Band on the Run:

10. Joe Walsh, the Eagles

Joe Walsh, guitarist of the James Gang and the Eagles, played in a band during high school but never took music seriously until the Beatles shook the world in 1964.

“I took one look on The Ed Sullivan Show and it was, ‘Fuck school. This makes it! I memorized every Beatles song and went to Shea Stadium and screamed right along with all those chicks,” Walsh told Rolling Stone.  “My parents still have a picture of me all slicked up, with a collarless Beatles jacket and Beatles boots, playing at the prom.”

When the young guitarist heard George Harrison’s solo on And Your Bird Can Sing, he labored to master the Quiet Beatle’s complex riff. Years later, Walsh would marry Marjorie Bach, whose sister Barbara is wed to Ringo Starr. When Walsh told Ringo the story of his relentless practicing, the drummer thought Walsh was insane. Walsh told the Chicago Tribune that Ringo explained, “Nah, nah, nah — he played it twice. It’s two notes playing together!”

Harrison had simply recorded his guitar solo two times and mixed them together. Walsh replied, “I think I’m the only guy who can play it – including George.”

Birthday by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh:

9. Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys

In 1966, the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson recorded Pet Sounds, regarded as the surf rockers’ masterpiece. Wilson’s inspiration came when he first heard the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. “As soon as I started hearing it, I loved it. I mean, loved it!” Wilson told The Times of London.  “I still remember hearing Michelle for the first time, and Girl. What an incredible song! Everything about the way John Lennon sang, and the lyrics he was writing… It sounded amazing. Norwegian Wood is my favorite, too. The lyrics are so good, and so creative… I can’t forget the sitar, too, I’d never heard that before, that unbelievable sound. No one had heard that in rock ‘n’ roll back then, this amazing, exotic sound. It really did inspire the instrumentation I ended up using for Pet Sounds.

“When we were listening to it that night I said to myself, ‘Now I’m gonna make an album just as good as Rubber Soul.’ Not the same album. Obviously there can only be one album that’s Rubber Soul, just like there can only be one Pet Sounds. But it inspired me to do my own thing, and so the next morning I went to the piano and wrote God Only Knows with Tony Asher. 

8. Nancy Wilson, Heart

Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have said they never wanted to be the girlfriends of the Beatles or the wives of the Beatles – they wanted to be the Beatles. “The lightning bolt came out of the heavens and struck Ann and me the first time we saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, Nancy told Believer. There’d been so much anticipation and hype about the Beatles that it was a huge event, like the lunar landing: that was the moment Ann and I heard the call to become rock musicians. I was seven or eight at the time.

“They were really pushing hard against the morality of the times. That might seem funny to say now, since it was in their early days and they were still wearing suits. But the sexuality was bursting out of the seams. They had crazy long hair. They seemed to us then like the punks seemed to the next generation – way out of the box for the time… Right away we started doing air guitar shows in the living room, faking English accents, and studying all the fanzines… Luckily, our parents were both musical and supportive about us getting into music. So it didn’t take all the begging in the world to convince them we had to have guitars. We taught ourselves to play off the Beatles’ albums and the trusty old Mel Bay chord book. Pretty soon we knew every Brit pop song that was out.”

The Word by Nancy Wilson and the Court Yard Hounds:

7. Billy Joel

One of Billy Joel’s most requested songs is Theme From an Italian Restaurant, a medley of three individual pieces that began as one, The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie. “Then I wrote the other pieces either prior to that or after that,” Joel explained to The Republican. “It was kind of based on side two of Abbey Road. I think the Beatles all came in with individual song fragments and George Martin helped them sew it all together. It’s looked on now as a work of genius but I said, ‘I know what happened. They didn’t finish the songs, they didn’t feel like it, and George Martin said, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ and then they called it Golden Slumbers.”

The Beatles inspired Joel to become a musician during an era of clean-cut teen idols. “The single biggest moment that I can remember being galvanized into wanting to be a musician for life was seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show,” Joel told Spinner.

“Hollywood tried to take control of rock ‘n’ roll… they tried to pretty it up, they tried to sanitize it. So they come out with Frankie Avalon and Fabian and Bobby Rydell… and all of a sudden there’s this band with hair like girls… and they played their own instruments and they wrote their own songs. And they didn’t look like Fabian, they looked like these working class kids like we all knew… and I said at that moment, I said, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to do that. I want to be like those guys.’”

Back in the U.S.S.R. by Billy Joel:

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16 Responses to Top 11 Musicians Influenced By the Beatles

  1. Luke Spanton Reply

    February 5, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Michelle Phillips made the list, but not Jeff Lynne? Seriously?

  2. Matt Blick Reply

    February 5, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Influenced by the Beatles – lots of people here

    http://beatlessongwriting.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Under%20The%20Influence

    from Motorhead and Abba to Jim Carrey and Steve Jobs!

  3. Steve Reply

    February 5, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Great article! Though I thought there was one somewhat glaring omission: the amazing, underrated, fantastic band from Rockford, IL, CHEAP TRICK! They’ve covered several Beatles tunes: “Day Tripper”, “Magical Mystery Tour”, and of course covered all of Sgt. Pepper’s which is incredible. And I almost forgot their cover of John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” and “Losing You.” And many of their original songs owe a debt to the Beatles…

  4. R D Perry Reply

    January 2, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Everyone old enough to have been a part of that transformative season (the Sullivan shows) for the U.S. can’t help but grin when they read this. There are always new stars emerging with their unique sound, but very rarely do you get a whole new genre. Throw in the political, social, cultural, & philosophical influences… and it stands alone in history. I love reading here that it affected soon-to-be stars just the same as it did to me. It seemed like it would last forever, but sadly was for just a few years. Yet we still talk about it… nuff said. Great piece!

  5. billy Reply

    January 30, 2015 at 8:14 am

    ur dumb

  6. lenjerii pat Reply

    April 11, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    even if there aren’t so many comments, this article is awesome

  7. online comment Reply

    October 5, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Very insteresting

  8. Ben Lynch Reply

    October 25, 2016 at 2:09 am

    Hi,
    I’m using this article (I hope that’s OK) for my Extended Project (EPQ) and I of course, have to cite the sources I use. Just wondering what year this was written?
    Great piece and many thanks.

  9. BR Reply

    January 30, 2017 at 7:22 am

    In 2010 I read an online article that had an interview with Ernie Isley of The Isley Brothers about a recent tribute to Jimi Hendrix, in which he says that Jimi played for The Isley Brothers & lived with them & that they & he were fans of The Fab Four from the moment they all watched them on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. I always thought that Jimi was only a later period Beatles fan,I knew he played Sgt.Pepper live the weekend it came out,& he played Day Tripper live also,& several people on different message boards said that when he was asked where the direction of music was going,he said ask The Beatles.

  10. BR Reply

    January 30, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Ozzy Osbourne has been a big Beatles fan since he was an early teenager,and he picked She Loves You as one of his favorite songs for Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest songs and Sgt.Pepper is one o his favorite albums.

    Ozzy Osbourne has been a big Beatles fan since he was an early teenager,and he picked She Loves You as one of his favorite songs for Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest songs and Sgt.Pepper is one o his favorite albums. He says that not loving The Beatles is like not loving oxygen and he called The Beatles the greatest band to ever walk the earth.

    Here Ozzy Osbourne says that he doesn’t anyone will ever be as great as The Beatles and he said they were all great,even George Harrison and Ringo Starr were great.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FD0_MtCDcQQ

    Here is a video of Ozzy Osbourne meets Paul McCartney for the first time and they hug each other.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkudA0P27Q0

    Here Ozzy Osbourne says how hearing She Loves You at age 15 inspired him to go into music.

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/entertainment/news/ozzy-osbourne-beatles-moved-me-30320049.html

  11. BR Reply

    January 30, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Here in this article by Ger Tillekens about The Beatles chords,Bob Dylan is quoted saying what he thought in 1964 about The early Beatles music,he said that they were doing things nobody was doing and that their chords were outrageous,just outrageous and their harmonies made it all valid.

    http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME03/Words_and_chords.shtml

    Here in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Song Writers Bob Dylan( who is the number 1 greatest song writer,and John Lennon is number 3,and Paul McCartney is number 2.) is quoted about a car trip when he heard a lot of Beatles songs on the radio, he said they were doing things and that he knew they were pointing the direction where music had to go.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-songwriters#john-lennon

  12. BR Reply

    January 30, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Bob Dylan talks of Beatles friendship

    Legend admits: ‘I’m in awe of McCartney’

    May 16, 2007

    Bob Dylan has spoken in depth about his longstanding friendship with The Beatles and his particular bond with George Harrison.

    Talking to Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan talked freely about Harrison’s struggle to find his voice within the songwriting collective of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

    “George got stuck with being the Beatle that had to fight to get songs on records because of Lennon and McCartney. Well, who wouldn’t get stuck?” he asked.

    Dylan highlighted the writing talents of Harrison, saying: “If George had had his own group and was writing his own songs back then, he’d have been probably just as big as anybody.”

    Speaking against popular belief, the singer also denounced any rumors of competitiveness towards Lennon and McCartney, asserting, “They were fantastic singers. Lennon, to this day, it’s hard to find a better singer than Lennon was, or than McCartney was and still is.”

    Nodding his cap to McCartney in particular, Dylan concluded: “I’m in awe of McCartney. He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. He can do it all. And he’s never let up… He’s just so damn effortless.”

    http://www.nme.com/news/bob-dylan/28350

  13. BR Reply

    January 30, 2017 at 7:33 am

    As The All Music Guide says in their excellent Beatles biography “That it’s difficult to summarize their career without restating cliches that have already been digested by tens of millions of rock fans, to start with the obvious,they were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century.”

    “Moreover they were among the few artists of *any* discipline that were simultaneously the best at what they did *and* the most popular at what they did.” They also say as singers John Lennon and Paul McCartney were among the best and most expressive in rock.

    http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-beatles-mn0000754032/biography

    Also on an excellent site,The Evolution of Rock Bass Playing McCartney Style by Dennnis Alstrand,Stanley Clarke,Sting,Will Lee,Billy Sheehan,George Martin and John Lennon are quoted saying what a great,melodic and influential bass player Paul has always been.

    http://www.alstrand.com/evolution/evolution.html

    And Wilco’s John Stirratt was asked in Bass Player which bass players have had the most impact on his playing and the first thing he said was, Paul McCartney is one of the greatest bass players of all time,if you listen to what he was tracking live in the studio it’s unbelievable.” “With his tone and musicality he was a huge influence,he covered all of his harmonic responsibilities really well but his baselines were absolutely melodic and inventive.”

    http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/15716769/windy-city-wingman-john-stirratt-lays-roots-wilco

    In this 2010 interview the blogger says that John Stirratt has an affinity for good melodies so it’s not surprising that Paul McCartney is one of his musical icons and then he quotes him saying that he’s always absolutely in awe of his playing,including Paul’s Beatles years.

    http://audreeanne.blogspot.com/2010/02/interview-wilcos-john-stirratt-talk.html

    And in an online 1977 Eric Clapton interview,Eric Clapton In His Own Words he says that there was always this game between John and George,and he said partly because John was a pretty good guitar player himself http://www.superseventies.com/ssericclapton.html . He played live with John as a member of John’s 1969 Plastic Ono Band.

    And there is a great online article by musician and song writer Peter Cross,The Beatles Are The Most Creative Band Of All Time and he says that many musicians besides him recognize Paul as one of the best bass guitar players ever.He too says that John and Paul are the greatest song composers and that to say that John and Paul are among 2 of the greatest singers in rock and roll is to state the obvious,and that John,Paul and George were all excellent guitarists and that George is underrated by people not educated about music but that Eric Clapton knew better,he also says that both John and Paul played great leads as well as innovative rhythm tracks.

    John Lennon co-wrote,sang and played guitar on one of David Bowie’s first hits Fame in 1975 and David invited John to play guitar on his version of John’s beautiful Beatles song Across The Universe.Brain May,Ozzy Osbourne,and Liam Gallagher and many more call The Beatles The Greatest Band Ever.’

    http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Beatles-are-the-Most-Creative-Band-of-All-Time&id=222245

    Also on Music Radar Tom Petty,Joe Perry and Richie Sambora in What The Beatles Mean To Me all say how cool and great they thought The Beatles were when they first saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 when they were just teen boys,Richie was only 5.Tom Petty said he thought they were really really great.

    Robin Zander of Cheap Trick said he’s probably one of the biggest Beatles fans on the planet.Brad Whitford of Aerosmith said that a lot of that Beatles influence comes from Steven Tyler’s collaboration with Mark Hudson both whom are absolute Beatles freaks and he said I guess the goal is to try and emulate probably some of the best music of the last 50 years which has to be The Beatles.

  14. BR Reply

    January 30, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Also in an excellent Beatles book Ticket To Ride by Denny Somach where so many other well known popular respected rock musicians and artists are interviewed about The Beatles praising them including Jimmy Page,Brian Wilson who says he’s always loved The Beatles. And Brian Wilson called John & Paul the greatest song writers of the 20th century on a 1995 Nightline Beatles tribute show,(which had on music artists from every type of music,a young black jazz musician,a middle aged black opera singer,Steve Winwood,Meatloaf,and classical violinist Isak Perleman,who said he plays his children Bach,Beethoven Mozart and The Beatles)and he played With A Little Help From My Friends on the piano and he said he just loves this song. He also said that Sgt.Pepper is the greatest album he ever heard and The All Music Guide says in their Beach Boys biography,that Brian had a nervous breakdown after he heard it.

    Brian also said that when he first heard The Beatles brilliant 1965 folk rock album Rubber Soul he was blown away by it.He said all of the songs flowed together and it was pop music but folk rock at the same time and he couldn’t believe they did this so great,this inspired him to make Pet Sounds.

    John Lodge and Justin of The Moody Blues are interviewed in this book and Bill Wyman and Ron Wood says how The Rolling Stones became good friends with The Beatles in 1963 after John and Paul wrote 1 of their first hits,the Rock n Roll song,I Wanna Be You’re Man.

    Ron Wood was asked what his favorite Beatles songs and he said there are so many apart from the obvious like Strawberry Fields I Want To Hold Your Hand is one he said he used to like a lot ,and he said he really loved We Can Work It Out.He also says that The Beatles used to have a radio show every Friday where they played live and spoke and he would never miss an episode. He said in fact whoever has the rights to those shows should dig them up,because they are incredible.

    Justin Hayward says that the album he always really loved ,and he said it was when they started experimenting with chord structures ,was A Hard Day’s Night.He says they began to move away from the standard 3 chord thing and just went into more interesting structures .

    He said A Hard Day’s Night was the album for him and their song If I Fell was the song.He said it started in a different key to how it ended up,and it’s a beautifully worked out song and that there are some songs on that album that were very emotional and evocative. He said that for everybody just starting to write songs as he was,it was a real turn on and eye opener.

  15. BR Reply

    February 1, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Also on Music Radar Tom Petty,Joe Perry and Richie Sambora in What The Beatles Mean To Me all say how cool and great they thought The Beatles were when they first saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 when they were just teen boys,Richie was only 5.Tom Petty said he thought they were really really great.And Alan White from the group Yes is also interviewed.

    http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/tom-petty-what-the-beatles-mean-to-me-219800

    http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/aerosmiths-joe-perry-what-the-beatles-mean-to-me-219308

    http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/bon-jovis-richie-sambora-what-the-beatles-mean-to-me-219479

    http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/alan-white-from-yes-what-the-beatles-mean-to-me-219747

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