Thursday, December 9, 2010

life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting my friends

It’s terrifying to think that it has been over thirty years now since John Lennon’s death. Thirty years, since a woman lost her husband, two young boys lost a father that neither of them truly got to know, and the world lost a hero that its never seen the likes of since.
In a strange sense, the anniversary of his death is also comforting: in those thirty years, Lennon has not become forgotten, forced to live only in the dusty memories of photo negatives and scratchy studio recordings. He is still alive among us, because the memories of him are relived for us by his friends, lovers, bandmates and children. For many, thirty years go by and the only ones still singing your songs are your intimate relations, the people who truly knew you and felt your love. But Lennon succeeded in creating this sense of intimacy with thousands – nay, millions – of people who he never even met. Many of whom, like me, were born years after his death.
I read an article yesterday that wondered what John Lennon would be like today. No doubt he would have continued to be a force in the music industry, pushing forward to create more radical sounds and challenging the norms of what is "good" music. 
The article supposes that Lennon's life would have been most akin to the life of his former Beatle-mate George Harrison, who also left the world far too early. Which makes sense. Even though the two men differed in fundamental senses of their ideology – John imagined a world of “no religion,” whereas George searched for most of his life for a higher meaning – they were similar in several ways. Music was not about profit or celebrity, touring or accolades. That all came secondary. Music was their passion, but the celebrity that went along with their careers was just the spoiled bit that they had to swallow in order to do what they loved to do. George wanted to live the world as best he could so that he could reach some higher level of understanding – nirvana, salvation, it really depends on your religion as to how you view George’s quest.
But John wanted to change the world. His nirvana would come from encouraging people to wake up and live their lives the way they wanted to, not the way that people told them to. Whether he was begging for peace or spurring on revolution, touting the merits of artistic self-expression through living only for yourself before proclaiming that “love was all you need,” Lennon was nothing if not a contradiction.
But maybe that’s the source of his widespread appeal, the reason that he has garnered devoted fans worldwide over the last half-century. Through his contradictions, he is relatable to everyone. His emotions run the gamut A through Z. There is a little something there for everyone. Even if you can’t jive with the more political tones of his later work, maybe you have found yourself needing to “hide your love away” or feeling duped by a “Sexy Sadie” all your own. Or maybe it’s the notorious wit that has you, or his dalliance with Lewis Carroll-esque poetry, or his sketches of grotesque little creatures from his college days. Or, maybe you have caught yourself once or twice pulling a facial expression that you saw him do in the train scene of A Hard Day’s Night (you know the one I’m talking about).
In his personal life, he was notoriously hard on himself and on others. But through his own twisted expectations, he relieves his fans of a lot of their own guilt. He seems to be telling them to breathe steady because you’re not the only one. He wants you to love, but he identifies with your hate, he was a proponent of the avant-garde with a taste for the classics, he was tender as well as hard, weak as well as strong. There is something in John Lennon that everyone can identify with, even if what is identifiable for you is his inconsistencies. Whatever your feelings on Lennon’s musical career, his personal life, the way he treated his women and his sons, you can’t deny that he ultimate got what he wanted: he changed the world.


JessM said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I watched several John docs on t.v. this week and cried at the end of every one. I'm just about to turn 23 and still I feel like a friend of mine is dead, even if he was killed 7 years before I was born.

Roo said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I have to say that I have never been a huge Beatles fan but I really enjoyed this post and that I agree with your last sentiment a lot

Dolly Rocker Girl said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

JessM -
I feel so much the same way. I kind of avoid certain websites around the time of certain peoples' death anniversaries because it's just too much for me sometimes. Same goes for films/docus. I love the film "Imagine" but I am so afraid of actually watching it because I know that I will break down in tears. It happens to me when I read books as well. The first time I read Cyn Lennon's "John," as well as when I first was reading "JL: The Life," I just stopped reading and put the book away after a certain moment in his timeline. Because it really hurts to think he's dead.

But it's not just that I'm a Beatle nut that this happens - well partially because of that, but ... it also happens with other artists. Sometimes a certain song plays - whether its "Rags and Old Iron" by Nina Simone, or "Are You Lonely Tonight?" by Elvis, or Chet Baker's "My Funny Valentine" - and it becomes real. There's a little voice somewhere that is there to remind you that these great people are not there in the world anymore. I weep when I hear certain songs because the feelings that go along with them are sometimes too much to bare.

Dolly Rocker Girl said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Roo - I'm glad that you could find something to relate to even if you're not a big Beatles fan. I think connection on an personality/emotional ... more individual level can be at times more intimate than a connection through liking their music. But that's the wonderful thing about a lot of great artists - they make that connection possible.
As JL said, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." And maybe there's some more truth to that than we even realize :)

Klara Tavakoli said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

When I saw that you posted about Lennon, I was weary, thinking it might all be sentimental and worshipping like so many people tend to be over him. He was definitely flawed and despite my being 'religious' about The Beatles since I can remember, my two favorites have always been Paul and George, not John. I like how you pointed out that many people respond to Lennon because of his contradictions. I often feel irked by how so many people don't even understand him - they see 'love and peace' on the surface of his legacy and just run with it... yet he was never there for his first son, Julian. Paul and George were both loving fathers (Paul was even loving to Julian) despite living the same crazed life of fame, which indicates a greater strength than what Lennon possessed.

So it's great to read your post and see that you delved deeper than just a surface reading of Lennon - to see him for what he really was - a flawed but talented man who in many ways helped shape our world. And that is how he would want people to remember him, anyhow. He was honest about who he was and that's why it's wrong for people to alter his persona to fit some kind of myth of peacefulness. In his life, he tended to be a jerk to many... despite his high ideals. It's a lot cooler to remember him as he truly was. And I like him only because he was well aware of his own shortcomings.

Dolly Rocker Girl said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Klara - I’m happy that you enjoyed my post. I’m quite ‘religious’ about the Beatles as well. Here’s a post that I did quite a while ago about that very thing:

Despite my deep, deep love for the group – I really despise the hubbub that people have generated around all four of these men over the years, turning them from really fantastic musicians to: commodities, fictional characters, stereotypes, like the kind of stock characters that they played in AHDN … almost inventions of the pop-rock industry. This especially happens to John. Because of his untimely and terrible death, he has become a martyr in the world of rock and roll, a man who told us all to “imagine” a world of peace, had a kooky wife who he laid in bed with for extended periods of time, and really revolutionized pop music. Not that these things aren’t true – but to a certain extent. John is not a God, he was a flawed – but very talented – human being. He used drugs (frequently), he treated his wives like crap, really neglected Julian, and was nowhere near as self-assured and confident as he put on to the world. HE was the “Nowhere Man.”

I think it’s funny that he is hailed for his peace-loving ways, with the song “Imagine” most cited. But on the Imagine album, there is also the vindictive “How Do You Sleep?” – which ripped apart every aspect of Paul’s life (his mother’s death, his wife and children, the songs he wrote, and played into one of Paul’s insecurities – that he wasn’t really talented but just was attractive to get attention and his talent was over-exaggerated). He put all the hate he had for this guy he knew and loved for YEARS out for the whole world to see. Don’t get me wrong, “How Do You Sleep?” is a great song – its one of my favorites – but its ruthless. And then there’s Cold Turkey (post-heroin addiction), Working Class Hero & Steel and Glass (and a lot of other songs about his dissatisfaction / disillusionment with society) and all the songs about hurting women in various ways (Run for your life; Jealous Guy) as well as songs like Mother, I’m So Tired, Don’t Let Me Down, Gimme Some Truth, etc. that directly address his various insecurities. He puts his faults, his insecurities, his perceived shortcomings out there for everyone to hear. So why don’t people listen?

Dolly Rocker Girl said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Continued ...

Like you, I prefer Paul and George. I obviously really like John, but it’s harder for me to become as passionate about him as I am about George. But even with George, I acknowledge his faults. He did coke for much of the early 70s, he cheated on Pattie, he had a PERM for a few years. But you gotta accept what comes with the people you love. But even still … I see a difference between George/Pattie relationship and the John/Cyn marriage. Despite George’s neglect of his first wife Pattie, which ultimately led to the collapse of their marriage, it wasn’t as unjustified as John’s complete abandonment of Cyn and Julian. George was getting deeply into religion and couldn’t relate to his wife who was very much part of the social scene of Swingin’ London. He wanted to meditate, she wanted to go to clubs.

But I feel like there’s also less built up around George because he wasn’t as much of a public figure as John. Obviously he was because he was a member of the biggest band in the world, but he didn’t go on talk shows/do interviews/etc. unless he had to or if he liked the person. And he wanted to talk about his work, not his life. Which is a big difference from John. John invited people into his personal life, talking about his beliefs, opinions, loves, hates – he rarely held back about what he thought. And granting so many people that access also invites people to rewrite your life.

“It’s a lot cooler to remember him as he truly was.” I totally agree. To rewrite his history is to do him an injustice; it’s like saying that the way he lived wasn’t good enough to be remember as it really happened. I see this happening on the other end of the John Lennon-spectrum. There are people out there who are perhaps too overzealous in wanting to compensate for the idolatry bestowed on Lennon and they rip him to shreds and say all the acclaim is entirely meritless. But I don’t agree. He was really talented. There’s a reason that the band that he founded and led is considered the greatest band to ever exist.

Kirby said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You said it perfectly. I too see myself as somewhat of a free spirt, but that is because what I'm seeing is the girl I want to be and what is inside, not what others see me as. I so admire Anita's personality and I can only hope that I will really take it seriously one day. I would hate to look back on my youth full of regret. This really is the time to do things, it is just so hard when nobody wants to go along with you. It would be nice if all of us bloggers could get together and do the things we want to do. I've made a New Year's resolution list(I'll probably post some on my blog) and this year I know that I have to change somethings, make my imagination become a reality. As much as I can, I know that I can't time travel.
I am so happy that my post inspired you!
by the way-- I love this JL post, I think it is a mark of a true fan when they realize their idols are human.

Klara Tavakoli said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Dolly Rocker Girl - just read your reply, love it! Good to see like-minded individuals out there... (and I thought I was overly analytical about The Beatles and their relationships, or just about anything that happened in the 60's!)) How fun to find someone willing to have this type of dialogue. And I'm in full agreement with your response there, BTW :) XO - Klara