The Most Amazing Thing (To Me) About John Lennon's Legacy

Monday, December 07, 2015

As hard as it is to believe, tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of John Lennon's death. For the past few weeks I've grappled with what I could write about on Go Retro in regards to Lennon that doesn't already get mentioned on a regular basis. I know the Internet is going to be teeming tomorrow with tributes and editorials and any opinion here is just going to be a drop in the bucket compared to the big media sites.

But here goes -- for a while I've been thinking about what is the most amazing thing (to me) about John Lennon. Yes, he was a messenger of peace and yes, he had a quick wit and trademark Liverpudlian sense of humor. And yes, there is that splendid body of musical work that includes not just what he accomplished with the Beatles, but all of his post-Fab compositions. Even discounting the experimental screeching tracks he recorded with Yoko Ono and the years vacant of new music where he focused on being a househusband and doting dad to son Sean, he left us with a remarkable solo song catalog, not the least of which is Double Fantasy, where every track (yes, including Ono's) hits it out of the ballpark for me. That album will always be on my list of top favorites, even if it is bittersweet that it was Lennon's last one before his untimely death.

So what IS the most amazing thing about John Lennon's legacy? I believe it is this...that such a flawed human being is still so revered, worshiped, and loved 35 years after his death. And I don't mean this in a bad way.

John Lennon was a flawed human being...but then again, show me someone who isn't. Lots of demons drove this man, starting with an unconventional childhood where he was raised under the wing of his Aunt Mimi, his mother's watchful sister. His father, a merchant seaman, was never around, and Mimi contacted social services twice for the right to look after John. His mother was eventually struck and killed by a drunk, off duty policeman when John was 18.

Lennon had a rebellious streak in school, often coming (literally) to blows with his peers and teachers, eventually being thrown out of college. He didn't treat the women in his life very well including Ono at times (although by the time of his death he was enjoying a strong relationship with her and had really seemed to find peace and happiness in his life.) He only married Cynthia Powell because he got her pregnant, later meeting who I believe was his true soulmate without a doubt, Ono, and divorcing Cynthia to follow his destiny.

And then he betrayed his soulmate by flirting with other women and taking one to bed right in front of her at a party, an incident that prompted their "Lost Weekend" period of separation in the marriage (where Yoko played pimp and gave her blessings to him and his mistress of her own choosing, May Pang.)

I could go on and on...drug usage, a hot temper, the falling out with McCartney (I can't fault Lennon here...McCartney was the real cause of the breakup of the Beatles as far as I'm concerned) and most heartbreakingly, the way he eventually pushed aside his first (and way more talented of his two children) son, Julian, after Sean was born.

But none of it matters. Lennon was a human being like all of us, a real person with faults. Towards the end of the life, he seemed to come to terms with it all and most likely would have strengthened his relationship with Julian in the coming years, had he lived. And I believe that's why us fans still love him so. We sympathize with him, we get it, and we forgive him for his mistakes.

Lennon's been called a hero throughout the decades -- and while some may take offense at the use of the title, it isn't that inaccurate. Heroes don't have to perfect and in fact, many fictional ones often are not. I read an article the other day that stated, "Heroes are both like people we know and not like people we know. Like ourselves and maybe, in some cases, better selves." 

The feeling was mutual. Despite his immense fame, John Lennon just wanted to be like one of us -- to walk down the street and eat in a restaurant without having to play the role of "Beatle John." He finally did achieve that normal level of anonymity while living in his adopted New York City where he told a radio interviewer hours before he died that he loved the freedom NYC gave him. 

And of course, there's the magnificent music. Thanks for it all, John -- you're always in our hearts. We all shine on. 


  1. Wonderful! I loved your tribute, Pam--nothing more needs said.

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