Valentine’s Day no doubt brings many sappy love songs to pay tribute to one’s beloved. In 1967, 400 million people watched John Lennon and others sing his attempt at more than this: a universal message of love that would bridge nations and minimize the world’s social, political and economic cleavages. The Beatles were asked by the BBC to do so and succeeded. Heck, they even quote their She Loves You and other love songs of days gone by – they meant more than romantic love.
Starting with Le Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, All You Need Is Love fits the hippy era of optimism toward collectively achieving peace through caring for one another.
You might call this naive (didn’t Rolling Stone Keith Richards respond to All You Need is Love as a question, retorting, “Try living off it!”). You might call this a product of the times (civil rights, Vietnam). You might call it a joke, since the Beatles humor comes through in the tune, putting it the same category as Yellow Submarine.
Politics is about how we resolve our conflicts, though. In this regard, maybe it is grand and impractical, but love really can be the solution. That is, if everyone, every country gets on board.
Likely? No. Worth giving in, then? Also, hopefully, no.
The shifting time signatures of the song, and Sir Paul’s bass playing which suggests more chords than are used… both highlight the complexity not just of the structure and composition of the song, but of achieving love as means to utopia. As if, then, the flower power Beatles were still aware of the challenge of realizing idealism. So, you may say they were dreamers. But like an ideology paints a picture of the world as it is, it has a prescription for change: this magic pill is love is all you need, truly. So, work at it!