Stuart with George (L) & John (R) in Hamburg
Stuart Fergusson Victor Sutcliffe (23 June 1940 – 10 April 1962) was a British artist and musician best known as the original bassist for The Beatles. Sutcliffe left the band to pursue his career as an artist, having previously attended the Liverpool College of Art.
Sutcliffe and John Lennon are credited with inventing the name, "Beatals", as they both liked Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets. The band used this name for a while until Lennon decided to change the name to "The Beatles," from the word "Beat." As a member of the group when it was a five-piece band, Sutcliffe is one of several people sometimes referred to as the "Fifth Beatle."
While not initially a proficient guitar player, Sutcliffe worked at becoming a decent addition to the band. He had some musical training, taking piano lessons as a child, and he sang in his church choir. As George Harrison commented in The Beatles Anthology
He wasn't really a very good musician. In fact, he wasn't a musician at all until we talked him into buying a bass. We taught him to play twelve-bars, like "Thirty Days" by Chuck Berry. That was the first thing he ever learnt. He picked up a few things and he practised a bit until he could get through a couple of other tunes as well. It was a bit ropey, but it didn't matter at that time because he looked so cool. We never had many gigs in Liverpool before we went to Hamburg, anyway.
— George Harrison
At times, he did take center stage and sang lead for the band. Here is Stuart singing "Love Me Tender":
When the Beatles played in Hamburg, he met photographer Astrid Kirchherr, who became the love of his life and to whom he was later engaged. She would become the primary reason that Sutcliffe gave up his life as a Beatle and remained in Germany to pursue the life of an artist.
After leaving the Beatles, he enrolled in the Hamburg College of Art, studying under future pop artist, Eduardo Paolozzi, who later wrote a report stating that Sutcliffe was one of his best students.
Sutcliffe earned other praise for his paintings, which mostly explored a style related to abstract expressionism.
While studying in Germany, Sutcliffe began experiencing severe headaches and acute sensitivity to light. In the first days of April 1962, he collapsed in the middle of an art class after complaining of head pains. German doctors performed various checks, but were unable to determine the exact cause of his headaches.
On 10 April 1962, he was taken to hospital, but died in the ambulance on the way. The cause of death was later revealed to have been a brain hemorrhage.
The DVD Stuart Sutcliffe - The Lost Beatle
is available from Amazon
For more information on Stuart Sutcliffe, please visit his official website
Posted on February 19, 2014.