Last night, the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards were broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
This year, the annual award show not only paid tribute to those making television today, but to the 50th anniversary of two momentous events in television history. Namely, the TV coverage surrounding President Kennedy’s assassination and The Beatles’ US television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Six-time Emmy nominee Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”) presented the segment on television’s role in the coverage of President John F. Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. The segment connected the tragedy to another event that captivated the nation for entirely different reasons: the performance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show 77 days later on Feb. 9, 1964. Following the tribute, six-time Grammy Award-winning artist Carrie Underwood took the stage to commemorate these events with a performance of The Beatles’ “Yesterday.”
It should be remembered that after the heartbreaking assassination of John F. Kennedy, a hopeless feeling was hovering over America and The Beatles Ed Sullivan Show performance could not have happened at a better time! The country was ready for some much needed uplifting distraction. The four young guys from Liverpool mesmerized Americans with their new sound, their unique look, their energy and their charisma!
On February 9th, 1964 at 8 o’clock, history was made after an incredible 73 million people nationwide tuned in The Ed Sullivan Show to watch The Beatles’ first live performance on American television. At the time, it was the highest rated television show ever.
That night, Sullivan opened the show by briefly mentioning a congratulatory telegram to The Beatles from Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. After, he introduced The Beatles and his voice was almost immediately inaudible by the screams of hundreds of girls in the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!”
John, Paul, George and Ringo came onto the stage and opened with “All My Loving.” The Beatles followed that hit with “Till There Was You,” which was sung by Paul McCartney. During the song, a camera cut to each member of the band to introduce him to the audience by displaying his first name on screen. When the camera cut to John Lennon, the caption below his name also read “Sorry Girls, He’s Married.” The Beatles then wrapped up the first set with “She Loves You.” The Fab Four came back on the second half of the show to perform two more of their hits, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
After this legendary performance, The Beatles appeared three more times on The Ed Sullivan Show; however, it was their first performance on February 9th, 1964 that ignited “Beatlemania” and gave way to an important musical movement: “The British Invasion.” It became a key moment for an entire generation and a pivotal event in TV history, which revolutionized popular music forever.