On the 70th anniversary of his birth, I’ll be the first to admit that there was a time where I was obsessed with the man, since being a Beatles fan at the age of 5, I delved into the mythology, the legend that made up the story of John Lennon’s life. It was always an intensely sad and morose feeling listening to songs like “Across the Universe” and “Imagine” with the knowledge that a man who was at such peace to write these things was dead, assassinated, murdered by a man who made no more sense than the Catcher In the Rye he claimed to be. I too, as a tremendous Beatles fan, fell victim to blaming his wife Yoko Ono, of destroying the band and was also blinded as to how far love will make someone go. Yet as I reach the final mark of adulthood, I find myself almost at odds with the continuing legend.
Sure, there’s using his image and fame for peace, that’s noble, and true to what Lennon himself believed in, Peace is truly more than just limited to the life of one person, and using a status of fame and fortune for a good cause is never a bad thing. Yet, it’s almost a twist in the gut to at the same time release a remastered Lennon catalog, things that have stripped down the original versions. If anything, this is something ignoble, and something Lennon never would have stood for.
“It’s better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. I don’t appreciate worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or of dead John Wayne. It’s the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison — it’s garbage to me. I worship the people who survive. Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo.”
So although it is painful to acknowledge the death of a prolific man before his time, it is almost criminal how his image continues to be used for profit. I do not stand to say that I believe Yoko Ono is a woman without talent but I will say that she is a woman without shame. Remarkably, she claims to stand for what her late husband stood for, but has no problem with keeping the money that comes along with it. She refuses to forgive his killer, even though in John Lennon’s message of peace, it would be understanding, and moving, to forgive a man who did not know what he was doing. John Lennon was a great man, a great musician, a great writer, but he was not God. He never wanted to be. So yes, on his 70th birthday, celebrate his music, his fight for peace, and mourn that he died a horrible death. But please, do not spend your money doing it. John Lennon is no Che Guevara. Every time you see him featured in a TV ad, what he stood for dies a little. Remember the man for the man that he was, not the image that Yoko Ono has made him be.
So in remembrance of his music, I give you three songs which were symbolic of his musical output (inspiring, anthemic, and introspective), and a great cover of one of his best.
1. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)
2. Bring on the Lucie (Freeda People)
3. Watching the Wheels- John Lennon
4. Jealous Guy- Donny Hathaway