In terms of body mass, probably the Beatles.
And in terms of body count, definitely Jesus; though he has had a headstart. I’m sure by two thousand years from now a few crusades will have been waged off the back of ‘Penny Lane’.
Of course, the first thing I did was google it. Jesus came out with approximately 173,000,000 to the Beatles’ 50,800,000.
On the other hand, the second highest result for Jesus is called ‘Dress up Jesus‘. A silly little website that just cost me about five minutes of digitised blasphemy.
It’s a tricky question.
Jesus has had more influence on the course of history, by an immense margin. Even putting aside the headstart; I doubt the Beatles will ever have the same kind of impact. Though Lennon in particular had some beautiful political ideas.
Jesus is probably one of the most successful political activists of all time. Though I still wonder if the real Jesus (if there is one that lived anything close to the life we hear described) would be happy with the way his name’s used.
You can read the story of Jesus as one of a freedom fighter against an oppressive regime. One who rejected the ‘capitalism’ of the time and rejected violent approaches, but encouraged direct action.
Jesus sounds like a cool guy, but I can’t help but think that everything built up around him sounds like lies told by people who stood to gain something.
Systems of control.
The Beatles remain one of the greatest and most surprising pop acts to ever have recorded music.
There’s a creativity there that is incredible. Listen to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows‘ and try and pretend it was recorded in the 60s. Listen to ‘I want you (she’s so heavy)‘ and try not to get horny. Hell, listen to ‘I wanna hold your hand‘ and try not to sing along.
That’s impact. That’s important. That makes people happy and brings people together, and it doesn’t start wars or be used to justify prejudice.
Which is something.
I can’t even track whose had the bigger impact on my life. I was raised Catholic, and learnt a lot of my morality from what I was told Jesus did and said. I learnt even more morality from working out what I disagreed with in those same teachings. It’s a good starting point, except for the fact that education is so close to brainwashing.
I can believe in the Beatles more than I can believe in Jesus, but possibly I’ve learnt more from Jesus.
But then again. I do think music teaches. Like I say, it brings people together. For me, it helps me feel. I think I’ve learnt empathy from music, which sounds bizarre.
When I look at it like that, Jesus’ words pale in comparison. The weakness of words. Nothing says ‘love one another as you love yourself’ more than empathy; more than sharing a feeling with another.
For me it’s the Beatles, for the world it’s Jesus.
For better or worse.
Illustration by Maria.