The Value of Rock and Roll Music

John Lennon is turning over in his grave.  One of his biggest songs, All You Need is Love, is now a GAP commercial with Katy Perry singing it as she poses for the camera in GAP clothing.

If only John, Paul, and their manager, Brian Epstein, had had a clue about contracts and song rights back in the day. If only Brian hadn’t advised them to sell their rights in the 60s before anyone realized how valuable they’d be a half a century later.

Michael Jackson got some good advice in the 80s. He and Paul McCartney recorded a record together in 1981 (The Girl is Mine), and while they were working on it at Paul’s place, Paul told him that the real money was in owning the rights to songs. Paul had the entire Buddy Holly catalog, plus many others, but not his own.

Michael Jackson found out a little while later that Northern Songs (which owned the Beatles catalog) was up for sale.  According to his biography, he asked Paul if he was going to bid on them.  According to Paul’s biography, Michael went behind his back. Both biographies agreed that Yoko (John’s widow) wasn’t interested in splitting the cost with Paul to buy them back. One has to wonder why.

At any rate, Michael won the bidding war in 1984 and secured the Northern Songs catalog for $47.5 million.  No matter what you think of Michael Jackson and how he ran his personal life, you’ve got to admit that the guy was pretty smart when it came to business.

After Michael’s untimely death in 2009, his family sold the rights to the Beatles catalog for over 200 million dollars to Sony/ATV. Jackie, Randy, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Rebbie, LaToya, Janet, Katherine, Joe, Prince, Michael, Paris, and Blanket would never have to worry about money ever again.

These days, 70’s rock stars are cashing in and selling their songs to the highest bidders – Tina Turner, Paul Simon, Elton John, the list goes on and on.  Maybe they don’t care about their works becoming TV commercials. Maybe they are being realistic and planning for their descendants.

John Lennon was a dreamer (but not the only one). He didn’t want to cheapen his art that way. He wanted his stuff to remain pure.  Those of us old enough to know the Beatles songs in the 60’s and to know the Beatles songs now, can understand John’s feelings towards his creations.  They were as special then as they are now.

Sunday’s Parade section of the newspaper showed Paul McCartney on the cover with the catchy title – 16 Things You Didn’t Know about Paul McCartney. Guess what? I knew 15 of them already. That’s what happens when you’ve read all the books written about him. It was my pandemic pastime.

I thought I was special. As it turns out, there are a whole bunch of us who know all the little details of John and Paul’s careers.  Millions and millions of us. That’s why Katy Perry sings All You Need is Love on the GAP commercial.

Beatles’ songs sell clothing. They can also get a bunch of senior citizens to line dance in the rain on a Saturday in October.  John and Paul, we still love you. George and Ringo, too.

But mostly the songwriting duo of the century –John and Paul.

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