Saturday, October 09, 2010
Seventy Years of John Lennon
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of music genius and icon of peace, John Lennon. Between now and December, we'll likely hear a lot about him. December will mark the 30th anniversary of his death. That means he was just 40 when he died. Amazing when you reflect on how much he was able to accomplish in such a short life. How is it possible for one person to have written so many memorable songs?
As far as music genius and the impact on the planet's inhabitants go, I would rank John Lennon at the very top of the list. Yes, even higher than Michael Jackson. Lennon was a true prophet of peace and his music and life sought to raise the consciousness of humanity against the insanity of war, conformist thinking, and even the slavery of blind religion. He wasn't above pissing people off, most famously when he uttered as a young man that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Quite ironic, then, that he often resembled Jesus in the 1970s with his long hair and talk of peace.
The self-portrait caricature above is probably one of my favourite drawings by a famous person. Its so simple, yet iconic. There's no mistaking that its John Lennon. His own personal logo, similar to the drawing Michael Jackson did of his dancing feet balancing on tippy toes.
In December, I will be writing a post about his death. For today, though, I will focus on his life. For as long as I can remember, I liked his songs "Imagine", "Woman", and "Nobody Told Me." As a teenager, someone asked me who my favourite Beatle was and I replied Paul McCartney because I was more familiar with his solo work ("Live and Let Die", "No More Lonely Nights", and two duets with Michael Jackson: "Say Say Say" and "The Girl is Mine"). Around the time I graduated from high school, though, I got into John Lennon. I had bought a cassette soundtrack to the documentary Imagine, which came out in the late 1980s, if I remember correctly. I was surprised by how musically catchy, yet profoundly deep his songs were, particularly "Instant Karma", "Power to the People", "Give Peace a Chance", and the one that became one of my favourites: "God." I'll write more about that song in tomorrow's post.
Who was this guy? If you look at the solo offerings of all four Beatles, John's music was far more deep with a kind of humanistic perspective about life. Would the Beatles have ever evolved from the original "boy band" into what many critics consider to be the greatest band in the history of popular music (I'm not one of those, as I think U2 deserves that distinction)? The collaboration between McCartney and Lennon certainly pushed them to create some profound songs that are considered classics today: "Let it Be", "Hey Jude", "Revolution", "Yesterday", "All You Need is Love", "Hello Goodbye", "Come Together", and "Get Back" are just a few of their many hits.
At the height of their popularity in 1970, the Fab Four decided to go their separate ways. Many fans blamed the split on Yoko Ono for leading John Lennon astray like the Biblical Eve. Growing up, I've never heard any Beatle fan speak well of her. This point was driven home to me in college when a professor was commenting on a Beatles song and then simply said "Yoko Ono" and the entire class laughed. I didn't get it. Personally, I think Yoko Ono served as an effective Muse rather than as a great musical artist in her own right. John Lennon's best work were the songs he wrote and performed as a single artist. That's not to take away from his many great songs with the Beatles, but how can one not find the brilliance both lyrically and musically in these songs: "Imagine", "Woman", "God", "Instant Karma", "(Just Like) Starting Over", "Beautiful Boy", "Watching the Wheels", "Give Peace a Chance", "Nobody Told Me", "Power to the People", "Happy Xmas (War is Over)", and "Jealous Guy."
My favourite Lennon song is one that I've liked since I first heard it as a youngster. I consider it to be the most beautiful love song ever recorded. Its definitely on my list of songs to play at my wedding some day. Below is a video of the song. Enjoy!
Happy 70th Birthday, John Lennon!