The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became regarded as the foremost and most influential music band in history. Rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, the group were integral to pop music’s evolution into an art form and to the development of the counterculture of the 1960s. They often incorporated classical elements, older pop forms and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways, and later experimented with several musical styles ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As the members continued to draw influences from a variety of cultural sources, their musical and lyrical sophistication grew, and they were seen as an embodiment of the era’s sociocultural movements.
Led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, the Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960, with Stuart Sutcliffe initially serving as bass player. The core trio of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, together since 1958, went through a succession of drummers, including Pete Best, before asking Starr to join them in 1962. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act, and producer George Martin guided and developed their recordings, greatly expanding the group’s homeland success after their first hit, “Love Me Do”, in late 1962. As their popularity grew into the intense fan frenzy dubbed “Beatlemania”, they acquired the nickname “the Fab Four”, with Epstein, Martin, and other members of the band’s entourage sometimes given the informal title of “fifth Beatle”.
By early 1964, the Beatles were international stars, leading the “British Invasion” of the United States pop market and breaking numerous sales records. They soon made their motion picture debut with the mock-documentary A Hard Day’s Night (1964). From 1965 onwards, they produced increasingly innovative recordings, including the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (also known as the “White Album”, 1968) and Abbey Road (1969). In 1968, they founded Apple Corps, a multi-armed multimedia corporation that remains active. After disbanding in 1970, the four members each enjoyed success as solo artists. Lennon was shot and killed in December 1980, and Harrison died of lung cancer in November 2001. McCartney and Starr remain musically active.
The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 800 million records worldwide. They are the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were inducted individually from 1994 to 2015. They have also had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful artists; as of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. They were also collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the twentieth century’s 100 most influential people.