The music of the Beatles rocked the world, and the murder of head Beatle John Lennon shocked it. Today TGIF music columnist Bill Provick, who grew up as part of the Beatles generation, attempts to explain the impact of Lennon's life and sudden death.
John Lennon dreamed of "life in peace" for everyone in Imagine and he was right when he added he was not the only one.
While his fellow Beatles filled us with pleasure, it was always Lennon that filled us with ideas.
For me, Lennon lived in and through his music. All the publicity about his changing lifestyle was just so much background. It was the images, the emotions, the humor and the pain he shared with us that earn him such a special place in our minds and hearts.
The others accepted their roles: Paul McCartney as the gifted composer / arranger / performer; George Harrison the slightly bitter, inhibited lesser-light whose belated bid for artistic credibility drowned in his religious propaganda, and Ringo Starr as the anti-star, the gifted amateur who endeared through his off-beat charm.
But through it all, and under intense pressure, Lennon insisted on being himself. Right or wrong, he dared to speak his mind and forced us not just to listen, but to think.
When Beatlemania threatened to turn them all into golden idols, he fought back. He publicaly stated that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus Christ. He didn't believe they were, or even should be, but he wanted to shock some sense into his near-hysterical public following.
A mere pop band was being deified and perhaps he sensed that crucifixion usually followed. And he was always crucified in the media, but, as always, he stuck to his convictions.
You tended to hate him or love him, but he made you react.
Enduring personal respect
The others had immense popularity spiced with artistic respect but it was Lennon who inspired the enduring personal respect that sparked such intense loyalty.
We didn't always agree with him, and even he had to revise some of his stances, but it was all part of his human nature -- the very humanness that set his music apart from everyone else. Only Bob Dylan has come as close to turning messages into memorable music.
Lennon was tortured. He grew up without a dad, lost his mom early, and was raised by his aunt. It was little wonder he soon became a rebel in need of a cause.
Anthems to live by
His causes were always admirable if not practical. He gave us anthems to live by: "All you need is love," "Give peace a chance," "Whatever gets you through the night."
Like many, I saw myself in the musical mirrors Lennon provided. He was the Beatle who dared to look at the darker side of love -- primarily the fear of rejection that lurks like a landmine in any romance.
Unlike most of the other musicians providing soundtracks for our lives, Lennon shared his ups and downs. He touched numerous responsive chords within us, often magically articulating our very own thoughts, hopes and fears.
This personal, long-distance bonding of psyches made Lennon's music transcend mere entertainment.
I never knew him but I knew what he brought to my life. Just being able to speak our troubles out loud often helps, hearing them reflected in our music provided a near-magical solace.
Lennon was a close personal friend who was always as close as the nearest turntable.
Rock's rarefied lifestyle
Lennon was caught in the rarefied lifestyle of a rock superstar but he didn't let it eat him alive as it had done others. He even strove to remain the working-class here, with partial success.
And he taught us valuable lessons -- including the fact that fame and fortune don't insulate people from their personal demons. In Lennon's case, those demons were frequently loneliness tied to jealousy.
No matter what, we were all still vulnerable. We could still be scared and scarred by life.
"Hatred and jealousy, gonna be the death of me
I guess I knew it right from the start
Sing out about love and peace
Don't wanna see the red raw meat
The green-eyed goddamn straight from your heart"
- John Lennon, "Scared"
And like so many of us in the post-peace-and-love '70's, he was more than a little tired. He suspended his musical career and, again like many of us, turned his attention to raising a family of his own.
Again, I could relate to it.
I suffered through the teen-age trauma of first loves with the Beatles. And understood how one could get moony and dewy-eyed over McCartney crooning silly love lines to Michelle.
At the same time I could relate even better to Lennon's flair for
looking at the darker sides of the clouds. I could understand how traditional insecurity can turn a person into a emotional bully.
"Well I'd rather see you dead little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head little girl
Or I won't know where I am
Better hide your head in sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end..."
- Lennon-McCartney, "Run For Your Life"
And now, more than 15 years later, Lennon re-entered my life in a more active manner, and I found I could still relate to his new music. Double Fantasy - including his beautiful song to his young son:
"Close your eyes / have no fear
The monsters's gone / he's on the run
And your daddy's here
Beautiful, beautiful boy..."
- Lennon, "Beautiful Boy"
But the monster wasn't gone.
He waited on the streets of New York City.
And as I tuck my boy into bed, I feel the fear and I feel the loss.
And I can't stop feeling what this man taught me -- never stop imagining, never stop dreaming.
And the music plays on, still transcending its own medium, and giving life -- and now death -- a little more meaning.
It's a dream worth keeping.
"So long ago .
Was it in a dream? Was it just a dream?
It seem so very real, it seemed so real to me
Took a walk down the street
Thru the heat whispered trees
I thought I could hear
Somebody call out my name
As it started to rain
Two spirits dancing so strange..."
- Lennon, "#9 Dream"
- Bill Provick
The Ottawa Citizen
E-published here with permission.