Beatles biography ‘One Two Three Four’ wins the Baillie Gifford prize
Craig Brown, the author of the recent Beatles biography 1-2-3-4: The Beatles in Time, has received the most prestigious literary award available in Britain by claiming the Baillie Gifford prize.
The book, which arrived 50 years after Paul McCartney’s earth-shaking announcement that The Beatles had split up, is made up of a mixture of diaries, historical information, fan letters, interviews, lists, autobiography and more. Judges of the Baillie Gifford prize claimed that Brown’s work has “reinvented the art of biography”.
Martha Kearney, chair of the judging panel, called the book “a joyous, irreverent, insightful celebration of the Beatles, a highly original take on familiar territory.”
She added: “It’s also a profound book about success and failure which won the unanimous support of our judges. Craig Brown has reinvented the art of biography,” Kearney told The Guardian. “In the deep gloom of 2020, we have discovered a shaft of light.”
“The idea of there being a fresh book about the Beatles is quite hard to imagine as there is so much written about them – but it is such an original book” she continued. “It is like a collage – he has picked so many fascinating details from so many sources and woven them together to give us new insights about the Beatles. It is such a funny book, but also very profound.”
Brown, who has built up an acclaimed reputation as a journalist for Private Eye, will be awarded the £50,000 prize money. Reflecting on his work in an interview for the award, Brown said: “Even now, it strikes me as bizarre that they were all under the age of 30 when the Beatles came to an end, and that the gap between I Want to Hold Your Hand and Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? was just four years.”
He concluded: “I was also keen to show their effect on everyone from HM the Queen to Charles Manson. I felt that all this would be best conveyed in a multiplicity of short chapters juxtaposed like prisms, to form a kaleidoscope.”