Saturday, October 9, 2010

Still the Hero

John Lennon has been getting a lot of attention this week in acknowledgment that today would’ve been his 70th birthday. I don’t have much to add to the many eloquent tributes and reflections coursing through the media mainstream. It’s hard to disagree with Boston Globe music writer Sarah Rodman’s sentiment that in a kinder world, John Lennon would still be here today. We can only imagine what he would be doing. (That said, I don’t think one person’s mental illness-induced violent act is necessarily attributable to the meanness of the world – even if that is the case ... but I digress.)

Like all of us, Lennon was a flawed character, but what endeared him to so many was that he readily admitted that, balancing humility and pride while debunking his fame and celebrity. He’s remembered for that, and his passion, creativity, honesty and sincerity as an artist – in short, for his humanity.

On more than a handful of occasions he danced a blessed dance with the muse. And there’s no denying that many of The Beatles’ best songs were mostly Lennon compositions. But I never bought into the Paul-dismissive notion that it was Lennon’s band and John wrote all of the insightful, artistic tunes, while McCartney cranked out the pop pablum and music-hall schlock. After The Beatles, both composers had their share of hits and misses, only John’s came over a much shorter period of time, marked by an extended hiatus.

John’s solo work during the dissolution of The Beatles and the ensuing decade was infused with heartfelt, personal messages. There was some great music; though, I have to admit that not all of it resonated with me. Of course, there’s no denying that “Imagine,” “Instant Karma,” “Working Class Hero,” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Cold Turkey,” “Gimme Some Truth” and “Mind Games” are songs that would be shining lights in anyone’s catalog. Despite these highlights, there’s one thing John’s post-Beatles life made very clear: There are more important things in life than fame, work or even art, and he lived that recognition, day in and day out, for the last half-decade of his life.

Among John Lennon’s better post-Beatles’ recordings, this is my personal favorite and, perhaps, the most characteristically “Lennon-esque” song of his solo output. We could all use a little more immediacy to our karma these days, I think.

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