“It’s a Lovely, Lucky Thing to Have Children”
As a gay man in 1960’s England, it would have been impossible for Brian Epstein to imagine ever having children. Forget gay marriage or adoption—Brian was worried about staying out of jail. Homosexuality was a felony. Brian fondly called the Beatles his “boys” and while scandal-seeking journalists have suggested that this endearment underscored salacious desires, I think it was reflective of a lovelier, though more complicated truth. For Brian, the Beatles weren’t just treasured clients—they were the children he could never have.
Like many good fathers, Brian dreamed big dreams for his boys—“The Beatles are going to be bigger than Elvis!” he proudly boasted, and “the Beatles are going to elevate pop music to an art form!” He believed that the Beatles would spread a great message of love across the globe. And he moved mountains in the service of these dreams—convincing EMI to sign the Beatles after they (and every other record label) had already passed on the band; crafting the famous Beatles’ suits, haircuts, and performance-ending bows; twisting Ed Sullivan’s arm into booking the Beatles when a British band had never made an impact in the United States; and so on. And yet the most important thing that Brian gave the Beatles was not a business item. It was, simply put, love. Engineering the great runaway freight train that was the Beatles in the 1960’s was a man who nurtured them, protected them, and encouraged them to think of their band as a family. Brian’s love for the Beatles’ was an unconditional love—the love of a father to a child. The kind of love that the Beatles sang about so often.
Luckily for Brian, the trickster amongst his boys John Lennon once said that there were only two people in his life that he actually listened to and would do what they told him to—Brian Epstein and Yoko Ono.
My own father died when I was 20, and my mother died just a few years after that. I was an only child, so the loss was devastating and exhaustive. My home felt so quiet in those years. I didn’t feel so much alone as I felt quiet… And now it’s 20 years later, I’m married to an inspiring wife, I have two delightful children—and my home is noisier than I ever imagined possible! It’s full of childish laughter, joy… and the lovesongs of the Beatles.
I’ve loved sharing the Beatles with my children in part because it completes a circle that began when my parents first played the Beatles for me. It feels like witnessing magic to see my kids respond to their songs almost exactly as I did, to truly see how cross-generational this band really is.
And just as I’ve loved sharing the Beatles with my kids, I’ve loved sharing the Brian Epstein story with them—because it’s the story of a man who in the face of tremendous obstacles made a spectacular dream come true. What father doesn’t want his children to grow up with that kind of inspiration?
I dedicated “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story” to my mother and to Brian Esptein’s mother, because it’s with these fab ladies that it all truly began. But in many ways, “The Fifth Beatle” really belongs to the next generation.
John Lennon said, “Make your own dream. That's the Beatles' story, isn't it?” I suppose it is. But digging deeper than that, it’s really the story of the man who made the Beatles—the story of The Fifth Beatle, Brian Epstein.