Today in History: Nov. 20

The double CD Beatles Anthology 1 was released 21 years ago today. It included the first new single, “Free as a Bird,” created by The Beatles since “The Long and Winding Road” in 1970. “Free as a Bird” is credited to the four Beatles and producer Jeff Lynne.

On November 19 that year, the first of three parts of a documentary about the group aired on ABC and concluded with a new music video for the new single:

 
The video, directed by Joe Pytka, captured and presented almost every Beatles detail in what was striking digital animation for 1995. (The Blue Meanies make cute cameos.)

The song itself had been a John Lennon demo from 1977 that he had recorded at home on a cassette; the tape recorder sat on his piano, so the single track had his vocal and piano part inextricably entwined. The three surviving Beatles and Lynne added lyrics, instruments, and vocals around that fragile single track. The ukulele played at the end was played by George Harrison, but no one told Pytka that the sound was anything other than a uke from an old Beatles recording, so when Harrison asked to appear (from behind) in the video, Pytka turned him down, a decision he reported that he regretted after Harrison’s death.

John Lennon’s demo:

 
The song reached the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic.

* * * *
Zarya, the first module of the International Space Station, was launched on this date in 1998.

* * * *
Leo Tolstoy died on this date in 1910. Francisco Franco died on this date in 1975.

* * * *
Robert F. Kennedy was born on this date in 1925. Duane Allman was born on this date in 1946.

* * * *
Kaye Ballard is 91 today. She officially retired from performing in 2015 after more than seven decades in show business but continues to give interviews and interact with fans on her Facebook page.

Estelle Parsons is 89 today. (Watch the video I linked to.) Don DeLillo is 80 today. Dick Smothers is 77 today. Bob Einstein (Super Dave Osborne) is 74 today. Vice President Joe Biden is 74 today. Veronica Hamel is 73. Judy Woodruff is 70. Joe Walsh is 69. Bo Derek is 60 today. Sean Young is 57. Mike Diamond is 51. Joel McHale is 45.

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