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The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. They became the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed act in the history of popular music. The group’s best-known lineup consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later utilized several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical and other elements in innovative ways. In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity first emerged as “Beatlemania”, but as their songwriting grew in sophistication, they came to be perceived by many fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era’s sociocultural revolutions.
The band built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin enhanced their musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first modest hit, “Love Me Do”, in late 1962. They acquired the nickname the “Fab Four” as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year, and by early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the “British Invasion” of the United States pop market. From 1965 on, the Beatles produced what many critics consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles, and Abbey Road. After their break-up in 1970, they each enjoyed successful musical careers. Lennon died in 1980 after having been shot by a deranged former fan, and Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001. McCartney and Starr remain active.
They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. According to the RIAA, as of 2012 the Beatles have sold 177 million units in the US, more than any other artist. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful “Hot 100” artists. As of 2012, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with 20. They have received 7 Grammy Awards from the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and 15 Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people, the Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with EMI Records estimating sales of over one billion units.