The Music Universe recently interviewed Vivek J. Tiwary, author of the New York Times best selling graphic novel and soon to be TV series The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story. It is the story of Brian Epstein, the man responsible for discovering the British supergroup and who had such a profound impact on the band. Discovering the band when they were disorganized teenagers playing pubs in Liverpool, he masterminded their transformation into a revolutionary, trailblazing, pioneering band that would have more impact not just in music but also in the arts and society than any other rock band in history. It’s fair to say without Brian Epstein, the world would not have The Beatles we know today, if at all.
But The Fifth Beatle is not a book about The Beatles. It tells the remarkable story of Brian Epstein, a gay, Jewish man living in England at a time when one could be arrested for being gay. Dying at the age of 32, he would not live long enough to see how his work behind the scenes would influence the way bands made their deals. He laid much of the groundwork that paved the way for bands to profit handsomely from their work.
From thefifthbeatle.com: “The Fifth Beatle charts Brian Epstein’s discovery of The Beatles and his work to sharpen them into the stars they became—crafting their infectious image and presentation from truly rough and tough beginnings, securing a record deal when no one wanted to touch them, successfully bringing them to a world stage with a scale and scope no music impresario had ever attempted, and eventually proving through “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that pop music could be an inspirational art form. Brian Epstein’s boast—“The Beatles will be bigger than Elvis!”— seemed absurd in 1961, but proved not just prophetic but humble by 1967.”
Even influencing the writer of The Fifth Beatle, Tiwary set out to tell the story of Brian Epstein when he himself decided to go into music management and realized in order to be successful in it, study the person and the band that literally changed the music industry. But in 1991, there was virtually nothing to study about Brian Epstein, his life or how he came to be a part of The Beatles lore and how influential he was not just in the music business but to The Beatles themselves. All four members really loved Brian, with John Lennon stating that Brian, along with his wife Yoko, were the only two people who he would listen to.
This project took almost 20 years of painstaking research, along with the amazing graphic artwork but as Tiwary notes in the following audio interview, this was a labor of love on a gentleman who was both influential and beloved by many of the people who he crossed paths with. The Fifth Beatle was originally released as a hardcover graphic novel in 2014, with the paperback edition just being released in October 2016. Tiwary has become the authority on Brian Epstein and a Beatles historian who is often asked to comment on anything related to Epstein. For his work and his devotion to Brian Epstein, he was asked to play a significant role in the induction of Brian Epstein into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The book will be coming to life on TV or a streaming service in the near future, with the surviving Beatles and the wives of John Lennon and George Harrison giving their permission and blessing to have Beatles music officially licensed to appear on a television series—the first time The Beatles have ever given their permission to do so.
The Fifth Beatle is a wonderful, colorful, amazing story and tribute to a music legend. Without the efforts of Tiwary, Epstein’s influence in music today may have been lost to history. The audio interview includes many stories about the creation of the graphic novel, and more about this extraordinary figure.
From Vivek J. Tiwary: “It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my ‘historical mentor,’ if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.”
Artwork by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker
All images provided by M Press