John Lennon would have turned 75 years old today.
Lennon, of course, was a Beatle, an author, an actor, a poet, an activist, and if you believe what you read on the internet lately, one of the worst people to have ever walked the Earth.
It seems that, on the eve of what would have been his birthday, and approaching the 35th anniversary of his assassination by a deranged religious fanatic, John Lennon has become an easy target for hack internet writers looking to tear down a dead hero in order to crank out more clickbait for their websites. In particular, several articles have popped up attacking him for hypocrisy by juxtaposing the lyrics to his song “Imagine” with things that he did years before he wrote it. While I am directly addressing these folks, I will not grant them the dignity of a link. That’s exactly what they would want.
John Lennon was, and is, a hero of mine. I don’t pretend that he was a saint, or flawless. In fact, it was his imperfections, the cracks in his persona, and how he reacted to them that makes him heroic.
A product of a fractured home, raised by his aunt because his father abandoned him and his mother was unstable, Lennon was the most materially well-off of The Beatles when he was growing up. He was also the worst off when it came to his family. At least Ringo had his mother around.
Growing up with abandonment issues in a blue-collar, working-class town in post-war Britain, Lennon was a product of his time. He was into rock music and The Goon Show, and not too much else. His enviroment had formed him into a clever, mean-spirited, creative, misongynistic young man with artistic leanings and a cruel streak.
Together with Paul McCartney, he grew into one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
He was also a womanizer who cheated on his young wife and didn’t pay much attention to his son, Julian. He never made a secret of this, and spent much of his shortened life trying to make amends.
Lennon still had a lot of demons to overcome, and this recent onslaught of web articles that want to dump on his legacy tend to ignore the fact that he did, indeed, overcome many of those demons and had done so much to redeem himself as a human being that, by the time he was gunned down, it was a loss not only to the world of music, but to humanity as a whole.
People have been circulating video of Lennon mocking handicapped people on stage. This clip is over fifty years old. Lennon frequently explained that it was his sick way of dealing with his fear and misunderstanding, and that he regretted it deeply. At the time, he was goofing around like Spike Milligan and the Goons did, but he came to realize how hurtful that could have been, and he stopped doing it.
Lennon suffered from stage fright following the break-up of The Beatles, and his final full-length concerts were benefit shows to raise money for mentally-challenged children. He donated millions of dollars to the cause, quietly, after his 1975 “retirement.”
Lennon found enlightenment about women, largely thanks to Yoko Ono. He expressed downright remorse over writing the song, “Run For Your Life,” with its stalker/abusive lyrics. In his later years he seemed determined to atone for that tune.
He didn’t live long enough to atone for the way he ignored his first son. He may never have been able to do that, but we do know that he was trying. Determined not to make the same mistakes with his second son, Lennon dropped out of the music business for five years so that he could properly raise Sean. He made serious attempts to spend more time with Julian, and had mended his relationship with his first wife, Cynthia, into a decent friendship.
Shortly before his assassination he had returned to making music, and it looked like he was about to share with the world his take on maturity. The Double Fantasy album was filled with anthems about growing old gracefully. The true beauty of Lennon’s music was that he’d acknowledged his flaws and was really trying to make himself a better person.
The reason “Imagine” is so powerful is that it was written by someone who recognized that he had been part of the problem, and was pleading to be part of the solution. It is truly tragic that we were robbed of the opportunity to see how Lennon would have dealt with the world in which we now live.
A huge part of that world is the internet. One of the drawbacks of the internet is that it uses the ultimate cullmination of all the world’s technologies to allow attention-seeking parasites to crap all over everything in sight, whether it deserves it or not. Now, because of his birthday and the milestone anniversary of his death, the clickbait leeches have dropped trou and squatted over the grave of John Lennon.
Nobody should have their entire creative legacy judged by bad jokes they made in poor taste when they were barely out of their teens. We don’t judge artists by the poor life choices they may have made. Lennon’s music is no less important because he was a human being with human failings. The fact is, John Lennon, though the music he made with his fellow Beatles and as a solo artist, has done more good for humanity as a whole, and for hundreds of millions of individuals, than any of these misery merchants who are trying to make a name for themselves at his expense.
I can only wonder…if John were still with us, would he sing, “Imagine there’s no internet trolls…”
STUFF TO DO
We are going to try this STUFF TO DO podcast thing again this week. If you want a quick audio run-down of what’s happening in town over this weekend, then give a listen to this widget and then scroll down and look at the graphics we were able to scrounge up. If you’re actually listening to this thing, let me know, because I’m thinking about dropping it.
That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features, and thanks for reading.