Visit me at (Click here for link) I have "moved" some older posts to this site.

John Lennon (and Heroes)

This is an Elton John song dedicated to John Lennon. It was recorded a couple of years after Lennon's death.

I didn’t really get into music until I was in high school. Like many people that I have talked to over the years, high school was, by and large, a lonely time for me. Music therefore became a refuge, a means of both connecting to the world and escaping from it. This is why I would often gravitate toward songs that could be a bit on the depressing side. In both the lyrics and emotions expressed, I could personally relate to both the feelings and the message. Much of the stuff that I listened to, which can be loosely classified as “classic rock,” was already considered old at that time. The fact that some people my age saw it as old and outdated only added to the appeal. It was just one of many signs that I was deeper and smarter than they were.

Like many classic rock aficionados, the first band that I really loved was The Beatles. In my humble opinion, there is no rock band in history that produced such a wide variety of incredibly catchy songs. My favorites then, as now, came from their later period when the music became more experimental, no longer consisting of nothing but catchy love songs. And the most experimental of these songs tended to be written by John Lennon. In both lyrical content and style, his songs had an edge not found in most of Paul McCartney’s music. His voice also had a raspy, soulful, world-weary quality, the same difficult to define traits found in all of my favorite voices: John Fogerty, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, etc.

With Lennon, however, it was more than just the music. In reading books about him and The Beatles, I found aspects of his personality that I thought were pretty cool: his sarcastic sense of humor, brutal honesty, liberal (“hippy”) idealism, and ability to recognize the silliness of his ridiculous level of fame. In many ways, he was a perfect hero for someone suffering from “teen angst.” He seemed able to see the stupidity all around him, and he was willing to take unpopular steps to make a better world, particularly with the various “publicity stunts” and songs designed to bring “peace.” As a kid growing up in the 1980’s who somewhat idealized the 1960’s, Lennon seemed to be the ultimate ‘60’s rebel hero.

So like many young people, I looked for heroes and tended to idealize them. Like Lennon, however, my childhood heroes were hardly perfect people: Magic Johnson, Bruce Springsteen, Babe Ruth, Jack London, J.D. Salinger, John Fogerty. Their primary appeal, however, was not the ethical quality of their lives. In an entertainment-crazed culture, my heroes became the best artists and athletes. I admired them for their remarkable talents, not for their general behavior. With Lennon, however, his flaws – drug use, infidelity to his wives, naïve idealism, occasionally foolish public statements – were almost part of the appeal. In his music and life, he could be so brutally open and honest, and agree with him or not, there was no denying the passion of his convictions. He put himself out on display, which was part of the reason why he provoked such strong positive and negative reactions. He made it more difficult for people to put him on a pedestal, a fact that could be annoying to those who did not want their heroes to be human.

A few days ago, people throughout the world were commemorating the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death. No other entertainer, not even Elvis, can provoke such a reaction decades after his or her death. Some of this is due to circumstances. History is filled with examples of people who have become more deeply immortalized and idealized because they died a “martyr’s death.” If he were alive today, I wonder how much attention Lennon would still receive. How many more songs would he have recorded? Would he have reunited with The Beatles at some point? Would he still be out there today, fighting for “peace”? Or would he have gone back to what he did for most of the last five years of his life, staying at home as a full-time househusband? We will never know. But we can hopefully agree on one point. Whatever you think of Lennon’s politics and music, his murder, like all murders, was an unspeakable tragedy. And in his case, we lost a brilliant individual, a man whose youth could hardly be described as normal, just as he was reaching the age when most of us truly start to grow up.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this tribute to John Lennon and including this beautiful song! I hadn't heard it.

    I read parts a few times. That's how deep and less gifted people compensate.

    deep and smart ;)



Comment (Anonymously if you wish)