My beloved husband describes my 2009 emigration to the U.S. as my own mini-“British Invasion.” I prefer to believe that he means it as a compliment.
Fifty years ago, there was another distinctive British invasion from Liverpool as the Beatles, or the “Fab Four,” hit America’s shores for the first time and took the U.S. by storm with “Beatlemania.” Their performance on the Ed Sullivan show, which my husband informs me was a big deal back then, was one of the most watched broadcasts of the era — more than 70 million people tuned in, according to pbs.org, even though poor George Harrison could not rehearse due to tonsillitis, according to beatlesbible.com.
The Beatles began the original “British Invasion” and were soon followed by other bands from the United Kingdom who also made it here: the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Kinks, the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits and Freddy and the Dreamers.
While there is a wealth of information about the “Fab Four’s” arrival in the U.S., I have picked up on media reports which demonstrate that even the Beatles, with all their British fame and fans, were nervous about being welcomed and successful on this side of the Atlantic (Oh boy, do I understand that feeling from back in 2009):
• John Lennon said “the idea of having a hit record over there, it was just something you could never do” (cnn.com).
•George Harrison questioned “They have got everything over there, what do they want us for?” (cnn.com).
•According to goodreads.com, Ringo Starr said, “America: It’s like Britain, only with buttons” (I have no idea what this means!).
• In spite of their own success in Britain, they were all star-struck and wanted to meet Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan (which they did).
So why are my thoughts turning to the Beatles? Well, in December during a trip to the land of my birth, we visited Liverpool and went to the Cavern Club where the Beatles first performed. And on the evening of Feb. 2, the performance will be recreated at the City Center as the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill will host a fundraising concert and dinner with a fantastic tribute band flying in from New Jersey – Britishmania (I love that name). They are recognized as one of the best and most authentic cover bands in the world.
There is another reason I chose this subject to write about which I have not discussed before, so please indulge me. When I first came to Richmond Hill from England, I frankly was daunted by turning my life upside down and emigrating. Of course, I am blessed with a wonderful husband and his (now my) family living here, but it was the international organization of Rotary – with a very Southern flavor — that first welcomed me into this community, and for that I am eternally grateful. I am a huge fan of the work done by Rotary, and in my small way, I try to play an active part.
January is Rotary Awareness Month, so it seems appropriate to mention that Rotary started more than 100 years ago and has more than 1.2 million members throughout the world, according to rotary.org. Yes, joining Rotary is a good way to network and to meet people, but more importantly it is a great way to give back to society. I must admit I did not know about Rotary’s huge drive to eradicate polio, research Alzheimer’s disease, provide clean water and sanitation or extend literacy throughout the world. I did not know about the scholarships, educational grants and donations given to those in need in our community — often year after year. Above all, I did not know how much money has to be raised to keep doing it.
But I do now, which is yet another reason why I will be there Feb. 1 — plus, obviously, to wave the British flag and celebrate my heritage!
God bless America!
Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009. She can be contacted at email@example.com or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.