More Like Us?
Preface: Imagine Paul singing to the tune of Sgt. Peppers–
“It was 34 years ago today/ They murdered the best who ever was to play…”
There is not much new to be said about John Lennon. Suffice it to say that for many, he was the greatest single figure in pop music history. Murdered at age 40, just as he was undergoing a renaissance of creativity that surely would have carried him through his middle age years with vitality and dignity, the loss of his art to humanity is incalculable. It’s no exaggeration to state that this sentiment is shared by millions. Go to YouTube; watch his videos & read the comments. People are still genuinely angry, hurt, and saddened over his death. No other musician who died prematurely, including giants like Otis Redding, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Charlie Parker; none of them have managed to stay in the mind of popular consciousness like the figure of John Lennon.
Perhaps it is the fact that he was assassinated, while the others mentioned (except Redding) were, in some form, victims of a self-inflicted death. Lennon was always a leader and rebel genius. His ideas, lifestyle, and his music were perceived as dangerous to the ruling class. For years in the 1970’s he was under surveillance by the FBI as a subversive, and the US government attempted more than once to have his visa cancelled in order to deport him back to England. More than any other popular artist in my lifetime, Lennon was a political figure. “Imagine”, one of his greatest songs, is a socialist anthem for human rationality. In the aftermath of 9/11, two decades distant from his slaying, that song was blacklisted from all commercial radio stations, due to its content. That is the staying power of art.
One quality that must be admired in Lennon, was his ability to see his mistakes, his missteps; and then take corrective action before they became serious character flaws. One example would be his experimentalism with psychedelia which seemed promising around the Revolver/ Sgt. Peppers period and reached its peak with “Strawberry Fields Forever.”John Lennon, the leader of this style, was the one who pulled the Beatles out of it; allowing the band to redefine itself again with the White Album, Let it Be and Abbey Road. Today psychedelia is considered a relic of the 1960’s, and those last Beatles records are acknowledged classics, largely due to Lennon’s leadership. The same pattern repeats itself in his dabbling with eastern mysticism/TM and his naïve bed-in approach to protest imperialist war. John Lennon was a restless spirit searching for answers, and often seemingly boxed himself in; but like any gifted magician, managed to extricate himself while becoming wiser in the process. The rebuilding process he repeatedly went through, was a painful period of self-honesty that allowed personal growth and renewal. This allowed his music to remain fresh, while many of his contemporaries stagnated, and is the mark of an ever-improving creative genius. It is the primary reason his life is still a standard for all other artists.
More Like Us? credits:
RS: guitar & vocals
TomP: percussion & production
Craig Roy: bass