Beatlemania, a Balm for the Bipolar Soul (in memory of Oliver Sacks)

“Beatlemania” Sweeps U.S. and America Swoons

The first 45 (yes 45!) I ever bought was the Beatles’  “Love, love me do” when I was about seven years old. I bought it at Murphy’s Five and Dime for about a dollar. When I got it home I slipped it out of its sleeve and played it over and over on the “stereo”.   I wasn’t as fond of  the song on the flip side, not sure why. But O my God, I still just love “Love, love me do”. I have used it in just about every wedding homily I have ever preached. I have even sung it from the pulpit. Badly of course, bipolar badly.

My girlfriends and I had a lip sync Beatles band . We used hairbrushes and bed-posts for microphones. My cool friends got to be John and Paul. My funniest friend got to be Ringo. I got to be George. George who played bass and sang backup. Joani, the little bipolar girl singing in the background.

The Fab Four in those Fabulous Eaton Jackets
The Fab Four in those Fabulous Eaton Jackets

Beatlemania, like Bibliomania, is a spiritual diagnosis. It started with all those hysterical teenage girls screaming when the Fab Four deplaned in New York. The Beatles’ star rose in the heavens when they starred on the Ed Sullivan Show. John, Paul, George and Ringo were only together for seven years (until that evil Yoko broke them up!) And in those brief seven years they made thirteen albums from “Please, Please Me” in 1963 to  “Let It Be” in 1970. My little collection of 45s gradually grew to include all thirteen 33 rpm LP’s. My little collection all alphabetized in plastic milk cartons.

The classic music of the Beatles, for folks of my generation, rivals the likes of Bach and Beethoven. And not just for my generation. Paul McCartney recently rocked out on Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report (where I used to get most of my news!) And O my God, I just bet the Beatles are still on just about everybody’s Ipod.

They are on mine – 99 songs. The Beatles are a balm for the bipolar soul. There is nothing more cathartic than cranking up Beatles tunes in the car. There is nothing better than belting out Beatles tunes in the shower. (Both the car and the bathroom having such great acoustics!)  The Fab Four’s discography has a song for virtually every mood on the manic-depressive continuum. And each song is equally fabulous.

–       “Yesterday, All My Troubles Seem So Far Away”

–       “Help! I Need Somebody”

–      ” A Hard Day’s Night”

–       “I Feel Fine”

–      ” We Can Work It Out”

–       “Nowhere Man”

–       “Baby You Can Drive My Car”

–       “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

–      “The Fool on the Hill”

–       “With a Little Help From My Friends”

–       “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”

–       “Across the Universe”

–        “Strawberry Fields Forever”

–         “Yellow Submarine”

–       “Here Comes The Sun”

–       “Magical Mystery Tour” and of course,

–       “Let It Be”.

Use your imagination and I am sure you can come up with more.

Beatles songs are a balm for the bipolar soul. They are kind of like Bipolar psalms. Biblical psalms are full of lamentation. They are unafraid to unload on God. Why have you cast me into darkness? Why have you laid me so low? Why am I stuck in this God-awful pit? But in these very same psalms light miraculously pierces the darkness  — miraculous, dazzling, dancing Light.  And then something like a “thank you” escapes the psalmist’s lips.

And Beatles songs are also a balm for the bipolar brain. Don’t take my word for it. You can read all about it in  “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain”.  Written by Oliver Sacks, the noted Harvard neurologist and pioneer of the mind — who died just this week — “Musicophilia” documents how…

“We are a musical species no less than a linguistic one. This takes many different forms. All of us (with very few exceptions) can perceive music, perceive tones, timbre, pitch intervals, melodic contours, harmony, and (perhaps most elementally) rhythm. We integrate all of these and “construct” music in our minds using many different parts of the brain. And to this largely unconscious structural appreciation of music is added an often intense and profound emotional reaction to music.”

The inexpressible depth of music,” Schopenauer wrote, ‘so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from it’s pain….Music expresses only the quintessence of life and its events, never these themselves.'”

And as the book jacket says: “Music moves us, persuades us, and reminds us. Music can lift us out of depression and set us to dancing. Music is more than words. In fact, it occupies more areas of the brain than does language.”

We are musical creations. Music is a God damned miracle.

Yes, music is a miracle, especially Beatles music,  a balm for the Bipolar soul.

So friends, what you got on that Ipod?


Note: For my loyal readers who might notice, this is an updated post of the summer past.


  1. Joani, thank you for another great blog post. Country music singer Clint Black has a great song titled, “State of Mind.” In this song the lyrics are:

    Ain’t it funny how a melody can bring back a memory
    Take you to another place in time
    Completely change your state of mind

    I have always appreciated the truth contained within these simple yet profound lyrics. How a melody can bring back a special memory and literally transport me right back to where ever it was the special experience took place when I heard that particular melody.

    Music is indeed balm for the soul. Thank you for reminding us of the gift music can be for us all.

    Peace friend, chuck.


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