And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did
On the ninth day of October, 1940, John Winston Lennon was born in Liverpool England to Julia and Alfred Lennon. Only a month earlier – almost to the day – Nazi Germany had begun sustained bombing raids on Britain, which would continue until May of the following year. His parents split, he had an absentee father and a preoccupied mother, so he was raised by his mothers sister and her husband for most of his childhood and adolescence. Sadly, his mother was struck by a car and killed when John was only seventeen, but not before buying him his first guitar. He formed a band, added some new members, met Paul McCartney and George Harrison, changed the name of the band to The Beatles and went off to play Rock & Roll in the clubs of post-war Hamburg Germany. In 1962 they signed a record deal with Parlophine (EMI) records, and the rest is history.
On December 8, 1980 John Lennon was gunned down and killed outside of his New York City apartment building.
Some say there was a bombing raid going on in Liverpool the night John was born. It would seem John Lennon came in and out of this world surrounded by violence. Perhaps this lends to the duality that is John Lennon.
John Lennon left behind a legacy of music and mythos that still fascinate and intrigue us. Sure there’s The Beatles, but there’s also the notorious Yoko Ono, the battles with the Nixon administration, and no shortage of outspokenness and political incorrectness. From claims of being “bigger than Jesus” to naked album covers, it seems Lennon was surrounded by controversy at every turn. Much, if not all of which was self imposed.
For better or for worse, John Lennon was the darkness of The Beatles. It was that darkness combined with the light (literally and figuratively) of Paul McCartney that balance the collaborative genius that was Lennon/McCartney, or McCartney/Lennon. For every All You Need is Love there is a Run For Your Life, and for every “Strawberry Field” there is a plea for “Help”. Yes John Lennon spoke out against war, and urged us all to “Imagine” a better world, but he also struggled with anger management issues (like assaulting female news reporters) and Heroin addiction,while being guilty of mocking handicapped and disfigured children, and being – at best – an intermittent and absentee parent to his first son Julian. It is also my strong opinion it was Lennon’s actions (and particularly his inactions) that sealed the breakup of The Beatles indefinitely.
Yet every person has a duality, it’s just that John Lennon seemed to be Ying and Yang personified and on steroids, where polar and contrary forces interconnect and in John’s case to great extremities which were clearly apparent. Good and Evil, light and darkness on an amplified scale and ever under the scrutiny of the the media microscope.
Google decided to recognize John Lennon’s 70th birthday with one of its custom Google doodles, and it is likely Lennon will continue to be iconisized in movies, books, art, theater and the news media. Certainly the sadness and circumstances of his untimely death – as it often seems to go – played a major role in jettisoning him into the hallowed halls of music’s fallen heroes, his spirit dwelling in a fictitious utopia with the likes of James Dean, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison and Marilyn Monroe.
Thirty years ago we lost a man. A man who gave us the gift of song. Not a God, not an immortal, but a man who through sharing and wearing his darkest and innermost emotions on his sleeve left us with beautiful music.
A man I wish was still with us.
Happy Birthday John.