Today, former Beatle Paul McCartney turns 64, a landmark anniversary made so by his own special blend of diverse musical creativity and sunny disposition captured in the old-fashioned song `When I'm 64', recorded 40 years ago this year.
On this occasion, we pause to celebrate this extraordinary individual and the enduring gifts of music, joy and inspiration that he and his bandmates bestowed on all of us, back in the long-gone heady days of the 1960's.
Much has been said about the 60's, and how the coming of four young men from provincial northern England to American shores in early 1964 proclaimed the opening of that epochal decade. Much has been written about the massive influence of these four musicians of enormous charm and talent on the music, culture, and personality of that era, and hence on everything that followed.
But in all those volumes of analyses, what is not mentioned is that the birth of the Beatles coincided with the opening of the space age. And that is no accident.
The same post-war optimism that stoked the rich and unrestrained musical imaginations of the young Beatles in the late 50's also moved the pioneers of interplanetary travel to set their sights afar and dream of adventures to faraway worlds. In 1957, three months before the Soviet Union deployed the first artificial Earth-orbiting satellite Sputnik 1, John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at a church fest in suburban Liverpool. The Beatles were germinating while the early space age architects were laying plans to explore the planets. By the time of the Beatles' arrival in New York in early 1964, humankind had successfully reconnoitered the first planet, Venus. And the same anything-is-possible spirit, which by the late 60's had brought to full bloom tremendous societal upheaval but also daring artistic experimentation exemplified by the art and music of the Beatles, simultaneously propelled us off the planet and into space. By the time the Beatles had finished their last recorded album, Abbey Road, in 1969, humans had walked on the moon. It was for some of us a provocative and magical time.
In their relentless striving to surpass what they had done before, the Beatles set standards of musical creativity and excellence that are still unmatched today. That ceaseless striving for excellence and the confident pursuit of new frontiers is exactly what has brought us planetary explorers, 40 years later, to Saturn.
So it is fitting that today, in honor of Paul McCartney's most poignant birthday, we have taken sixty-four of our most dazzling images, a kaleidoscope of splendor and spectacle, and put them to motion and sound in a cinematic production. Our voyage through the Saturn system, mystical, psychedelic and the most magnificent there can ever be, is now accompanied by the music of the Beatles, the most imaginative, consistently innovative and visually evocative music there ever was. Both our journey and their music derive from the same wellspring of joy and hope. And as you will see and hear, the match is a perfect fit.
So, Paul...here is our gift, from us to you. Happy Birthday! And we hope you will enjoy the show.
[For information about the `Sixty-Four Sights from Saturn' movie, email .]
Carolyn Porco Cassini Imaging Team Leader CICLOPS/Space Science Institute Boulder, CO