It was on this day in 1980 that John Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman. It is crazy that someone who I never met, would never meet, and who died 14 years before I could even have a thought on the matter, could at the same time mean so much to me. There was just something about the Beatles, and particularly John Lennon, which caught my attention when I was about 14. Even in the midst of the pop songs, there was always a layer of melancholy that an angsty youth could always get behind. Once I really listened to the Beatles, I was hooked, in their entirety, I worked my way up from Please Please Me, to Let It Be (or as everyone always wished it had been titled, Get Back, which was it’s original name). But really, John was always my favourite Beatle. His edginess, and his dark humour were very attractive qualities, not to mention I always felt he was just always trying to figure himself out, not to mention his politics rocked (pun slightly intended). I remember always feeling like I had grown up in the wrong decade, if I could, I would have been a youth in the 60’s. Beatles soundtrack in hand, I would really try my hardest! I’ve read probably 6 books on the Beatles, 3 of which were probably on John Lennon and his life.
John Lennon was probably the first counterculturalist to really catch my heart. His transformation from rock and roll cover band, to Hamburg Mop Top, to psychedelic hero, to reflexive music is a stunning story. There are a lot of dark parts to it as well. Lennon was forced to choose between his mother and his father at the age of five, his mother would have a minimal involvement in his life as he lived with his aunt and uncle, she also died when he was 17 (see the amazing movie Nowhere Boy for more on this), he was also known to be physically abusive to some of his friends and also both Cynthia Lennon and Yoko Ono. Ono even left him for several years because of his spiralling in the 1970s. Lennon was a man dogged by negativity, even while purporting love. I don’t think it takes away from his overall message to acknowledge this, our hero’s rarely can live up to our images of them, and sometimes they need condemning too. People always say that the late 70s were a time of change for Lennon though, where he reconciled some of his dark past. His past was filled with darkness, his first solo album Plastic Ono Band has some songs on it that will really crush your heart. I don’t want to be dismissive of the abuse, because no abuse is justifiable no matter who you are, and Lennon certainly had his problems.
I think what really caught my eye in youth though was John Lennon’s passion and message for peace and love, along with the dark heavyhanded humour embodied in it. Particularly, his vocal support of non-violent direct action, as well as his politics really set me onto the path I would take on in my life. Sadly, his life ended too shortly. In a way, he still lives on through his music, and the legacy he helped entrenched into the 20th century. Whether fighting the man to enter the US, or telling people that the Beatles would be more popular than God, John Lennon always seemed to stand up for his principles. Sitting in Montreal in a “bed in” and asking people to give peace a chance might seem silly, but the fact that we recognize John’s efforts even today is a testament to the strength of his message.
I wonder if John’s message could have had anymore impact on a 15 year old boy then it did on me. The flower power pacifism has always really stuck with me, even when I fully do not identify with it. In any case, aren’t we all in someways a Nowhere Man?
Merry Christmas all, I will pick up writing again on New Years Day.