Emmett Lee Dickinson's Influence On The Beatles
In January 2013, the Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum (above the coin-op Laundromat on Dickinson Boulevard) hosted a special exhibit on the influence of Dickinson on the Beatles. Some highlights from the exhibit are shown below.
It is widely known that all four of the Beatles were great admirers of the poetry of Emmett Lee Dickinson, Emily Dickinson's thired cousin, twice removed (at her request). Their regard for the poet is readily noticeable on many of their album covers -- especially on the cover for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band": an image of Emmett Lee appears next to Edgar Allan Poe, Dickinson's vaudeville partner in the comedy duo "Izzy Sharp & Moe."
The tribute to Emmett Lee Dickinson is deliberately obvious on the back cover of the album, where Paul McCartney poses as the great American poet.
Another Beatles' album cover with an obvious tribute to Emmett Lee Dickinson is the cover of "Abbey Road."
First of all, Abbey Road was the name of Washerst's most notorious painted lady, known to the locals as Downtown Abbey, with whom Dickinson is rumored to have had multiple affairs.
Second, all four of the Beatles are dressed to represent Dickinson or someone from his life:
* John, dressed all in white, represents Emmett Lee's third cousin, Emily Dickinson.
* Ringo represents Caldwell Begone and brothers Eberhard and Egan Perish, the owners of the Perish & Begone Funeral Parlor where Dickinson once lived in a basement apartment.
* Paul is dressed like Emmett Lee Dickinson. His lack of shoes is meant to suggest the line, "My shoes -- perhaps are under bed?" from his poem, "I lost my coat -- the other day."
* George is dressed like Phillip Graves, an employee at the Perish & Begone Funeral Parlor and a mentor of Emmett Lee's.
In addition to the Dickinson tributes on the "Sgt. Pepper's" album and "Abbey Road," the Beatles paid tribute to Emmett Lee Dickinson in many other ways.
* "The Beatles' Second Album" included songs with lyrics based on the poetry of Emmett Lee Dickinson.
* "With the Beatles" depicted the Fab Four in Dickinson's customary black attire.
* The Beatles appear on the cover of "Magical Mystery Tour" in vintage costumes on loan from the Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum (above the coin-op Laundromat on Dickinson Blvd). The costumes are from a past Moss & Hornwort Jubilee (Washerst's annual celebration), from the Pageant of Herbivores, the Jubilee's opening parade.
* The song and album "Let It Be" was named after Dickinson's mother's sister, Beatrice Incross, from Leddit, Pennsyvania. She was known fondly in the Dickinson family as "Leddit Bea."
Left: With the cover of the "White Album," the Beatles paid tribute to Emmett Lee Dickinson's third cousin, Emily Dickinson.
Right: In September of 1964, the Beatles performed at the Calvert Street Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, where Emmett Lee Dickinson performed with Edgar Allan Poe in their comedy duo, "Izzy Sharp & Moe." Dickinson and Poe were the first to tell "why did the chicken cross the road" and "waiter, there's a fly in my soup" jokes.
Above left: "All You Need Is Love" is based upon a song by Lennon & McCartney about Emmett Lee Dickinson called "All You Need Is Corn." Center: "Baby's in Black" is "Dedicated to Emmett Lee Dickinson, the original Man in Black." Right: "Nowhere Man" was dedicated to Emery Dickinson, Emmett Lee Dickinson's father.
Emmett Lee Dickinson was fascinated by the many uses of corn, from food and beverage recipes to personal care and health and wellness remedies to pharmaceutical and industrial products. He was obsessed with analyzing the calendar and weather patterns associated with the planting season. For many years, Paul McCartney (on the left in the photograph at the left) would make an annual pilgrimage to a Washerst cornfield with Emmett Lee Dickinson look-alike Raynor Schein (on the right). McCartney knew of Dickinson's love of corn, and he said that the setting allowed him to connect spiritually with the poet. "Pop changes week to week, month to month," said McCartney, but great poetry lives on forever."
Above left: The Fab Four frequently paid tribute to Emmett Lee Dickinson by posing as the American poet at press conferences and before and after concerts. Above right: Paul McCartney posed as Dickinson for the poster of a concert film about Dickinson's influence on the Beatles.
All things Emmett Lee Dickinson (poetry, museum stuff, Washerst facts and figures, etc.) © 2013, 2014, and 2015 by Jim Asher