In the 2019 romantic comedy, Yesterday, director Danny Boyle imagined what life would be like if magically over night, a struggling musician, that nobody has ever heard of only, is the only person who remembers The Beatles and becomes famous, playing their songs. 

A crazy premise, yes, but it got me thinking about what would happen if certain other artists had never existed. No Leonardo da Vinci nor Michelangelo. No Pablo Picasso nor Vincent Van Gogh. No William Shakespeare, nor Ernest Hemingway. No Jane Austen nor Emily Dickinson. Oh, what would we do. 

Image by Pixabay.

If someone showed up writing like Shakespeare today, I doubt that he or she would make much headway, considering the old English and all. Now the plot twists in Romeo and Juliet would remain as popular as ever. A gender-bending Twelfth Night would probably cause some controversy — those hating it, those loving the twist. Who knows about Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear and Shakespeare’s many other works?

But I think of other artists too. Book clubs swoon over Jane Austen. If her work just disappeared and someone else came back with a story like Pride and Prejudice would this new version still be read in middle schools across the country? Would there still be discussions about Elizabeth’s suitors and would reader’s continue to look pass Mr. Darcy’s failures and see that he in fact is caring and considerate?

Image by Pixabay.

Like The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band have been in our consciousness for a very long time. Springsteen has been playing music for fifty years, releasing his first song in 1973. The band started their 2023 tour in February in Tampa, Florida and will run through the end of the year. The shows mark the band’s first tour dates since 2017. If like the movie, an electric storm wipes out everyone’s memory of Springsteen’s discography and someone new came along playing Born to Run or The River or Dancing in the Dark, would fans still be lining up to hear the music?

Oh, I think that’s an easy answer, they’d be as big as any songs of today.

It’s a question with no right answers, but still fun to analyze and predict! What do you think?

19 thoughts on “Yesterday

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  1. That’s an interesting premise. Thinking of a few of the samples you provided, like The Beatles or Shakespeare or Austen, their works provided the template for so many contemporary works that followed them. Would be interesting indeed to imagine what would’ve happened without them.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, I can’t recall where I saw it, but I remember a writer poking fun of Star Wars and Harry Potter and joking about how all the great movies steal from the same plot ideas . . . poor orphan boy saves the day, etc. ,etc. Ha, ha, I don’t know if I buy into that completely, but the Yesterday idea is an interesting one to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It is such an interesting premise! I agree that Bruce’s music would still be great — but I think there’s an element of who the creator is and their willingness to do the work to build an audience. Whether it was 200 years ago or 50 years ago, these brilliant minds brought us content because they were persistent (and probably lucky) enough to get published. What if the person writing these things today didn’t have that charisma or visibility?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those books are being read in middle schools today Brian, in the form of graphic novels! While not the lovely, flowing prose we are used to in novel form, they are suited for pre-teens and above in a format they relate to, the stories are being told and the lessons are being learned. I only have first hand knowledge of the female authors because that is what my grands are drawn to, but I bet other greats are out there as well. For my girls Austen, the Bronte sisters, Louisa May Alcott live on and the girls get the message.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If Jane Austen were overnight to disappear, I’d like to think that her flowing prose and plots would still have a place in society today. I remember as a kid having to work to read Louisa May Alcott, but once you got used to it, generally liking the stories. But, who knows. It just hit me as an interesting question.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yesterday was one of my favorite movies that year. Great premise in that film, and I do believe great works are great works regardless of the author. The only question is would they be marketed the same and thereby be ensured to reach the masses. Sometimes great works don’t find their audience because of poor marketing, timing, etc. But if they traveled the same path as the originals, I definitely think they’d still be highly-regarded.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shakespeare gave the English language so many words and expressions. Really, his plays did a lot to shape and standardize English — quite the mixture of dialects and vocab in his day. It would certainly have developed in a different way had he not been the success he was.

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  5. I enjoyed that movie. Although I’m conflicted on the ending. In any case, I think much of our literature would be too dated to be popular today, even if it’s a timeless story. FYI, I’m an Elizabeth married to Mr. Wickham.

    Liked by 1 person

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