The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ Played in Court During Manson Trial
by Sterling Whitaker, January 19, 2013
|John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images|
Manson was the self-styled leader of a group of quasi-hippie misfits called the Family. He had once entertained notions of a career in music and had long been a fringe character in L.A.’s music scene, hanging around with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and even recording a demo at his expense.
Manson’s paranoid delusions eventually led him to conceive the notion that the lyrics from certain Beatles songs — most notably ‘Helter Skelter,’ ‘Revolution 1,’ ‘Revolution 9,’ ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Piggies,’ all from the ‘White Album’ — were calling him to stir up racial unrest in order to bring about a race riot in which the black population would rise up against the white population and topple the existing order, creating a situation in which he and the Family would be installed as the new hierarchy.
In a scene truly stranger than fiction, the ‘White Album’ was played in court on Jan. 19, 1971 during the Manson trial for the murder of Sharon Tate. Jurors listened intently in order to ascertain if the Fab Four had, indeed, called Manson to his nefarious deeds through song, but when it turned out that — surprise! — Manson and his followers were simply crazier than hell, they were subsequently convicted and sentenced to death.
In 1972 the death sentence was abolished in California, automatically reducing Manson’s sentence to life in prison. He has been denied parole on 12 separate occasions since then, most recently in April of 2012, when a ruling found that Manson would not be eligible for another parole review for 15 years.