This Day in History: March 4th

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – FDR told us “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and  John Lennon’s comments on religion spark outrage. All this, and “The Old Man and the Sea”, in today’s “This Day in History”.

On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States. On the same day 72 years later, while the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 32nd President. In his address, FDR outlined his “New Deal”, and told Americans that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

On this day in 1789, the first session of the U.S. Congress was held in New York City. The U.S. Constitution took effect at the session.

On this day in 1952, Ernest Hemingway completed what he described as his best work, “The Old Man and the Sea.” The book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. It was his last significant work of fiction as the troubled author committed suicide less than a decade later.

Birmingham, Alabama, disc jockeys Tommy Charles, left and Doug Layton of radio station WAQY rip Beatles album covers, Aug. 8, 1966.  The broadcasters started a "Ban the Beatles" campaign after  John Lennon was quoted as saying his group is more popular than Jesus. Charles took exception to the statement as "absurd and sacrilegious." WAQY has decided not to sponsor an anti-Beatle bon fire, but says it will ship all Beatle materials it collects back to England. (AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

On this day in 1966, an interview with The Beatles John Lennon appeared in the London Evening Standard. In the lengthy interview, Lennon stated “Christianity will go…It will vanish and shrink….We’re more popular than Jesus now.” The line din’t spark any controversy in England; but once it crossed the pond, appearing in the American magazine DATEbook, a firestorm of outrage began to build. While the line was part of a bigger look at Lennon’s view on the importance of religion, what struck a nerve with American audiences was the “we’re more popular than Jesus” analogy. Five months after the article first ran in the UK, the “Bigger than Jesus” scandal was in full effect on American soil. Many disc jockeys declared Lennon’s remarks as blasphemous, and began banning the band’s music. In August of 1966, boycotts started around the South. In Birmingham, local disc jockeys Tommy Charles and Doug Layton, organized not only boycotts, but burnings of the band’s music and memorabilia. Lennon would go on to apologize, and try to explain what the quote meant.

“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.” –John Lennon

The damage had been done though at that point. The scandal put the brakes on Beatlemania in America. Though it didn’t destroy it, the pandemonium surrounding the group would never reach the same heights afterwards.

Copyright 2014 WIAT-CBS42

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