Over the years, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr dealt with a good deal of tragedy in The Beatles. The band’s former members have seen violence, illness, and death in their many years of knowing each other. Before all this, though, the band’s young members made a pact with one another. The first bandmate to die would come back to let the others know if there was anything after death. McCartney said that this could be chilling.
Beatles guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe died in 1962
Before McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr set the blaze of Beatlemania, the band had two other members: Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe. Best was the drummer when the group played residences in Hamburg. The band fired him in 1962 and replaced him with Starr.
Sutcliffe was a close friend of Lennon’s from art school who joined the band as a guitarist. With Lennon, he helped come up with The Beatles as the band’s name. His true skill was as a painter, though, and Sutcliffe left the band in 1961 to pursue the art form.
In 1962, after a period of complaining of worsening headaches, Sutcliffe died of a brain hemorrhage. Stuart was kicked in the head during a fight in 1961, and some believe the injury resulted in his death.
Paul McCartney said the band had a pact to visit each other from beyond the grave
The band learned of Sutcliffe’s death from his girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr, when they arrived in Hamburg for a new residence. They were devastated, particularly Lennon, who had been the closest with Sutcliffe.
Though he’d left the group in 1961, Sutcliffe continued to be a presence in their work. His face of him is on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bandand many believe Lennon references him in the song “In My Life.”
According to McCartney, the band also half-expected Sutcliffe to make a different kind of appearance in their lives. They’d made a pact in their early days as a group, and they were at least a little afraid Sutcliffe would honor it.
“If one of us were to die, he’d come back and let the others know if there was another side,” he said, but The New Yorker. “So as Stuart was the first one to go, we did half expect him to show up. Any pans that rattled in the night could be him.”
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are the two surviving members of The Beatles
Years after Sutcliffe’s death, a fan murdered Lennon outside his New York City apartment in 1980. In 2001, Harrison died of cancer.
McCartney and Starr are the two surviving members of The Beatles’ most well-known lineup. Best, who left the group in 1962, is also still alive. Starr said that it is still a joy to play with his former bandmate.
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“It lifts everything, in a joyous way,” he told The Irish News in 2021. “So, yeah, I had a great time. We’re still pals. We don’t hang out with each other a lot. But if we’re in the same country, and if we’re in the same town we always have a dinner, and we say hi or he comes over here or I go over to his house.”