By: Robert Benson
He dreamed of world peace. He was an artist, poet and an outspoken voice of the hippie generation. He was an influential musician, a peace activist, an absent father and a devoted lover and husband. He abused alcohol and drugs, sneered at normality, yet took time off from his rock and roll career to raise his son. But most of all, he was a Beatle. He was and still is, John Winston Lennon.
Born in Liverpool on October 9, 1940, John Lennon was shot to death on December 8, 1980 by a fanatical fan. The world mourned his death as millions grieved for the man who was the heart and soul of the world's best rock and roll band, the Beatles.
He had an unusual childhood, shuttled back and forth between his mother Julia and her sister Mimi. John eventually spent his formative years with his aunt Mimi and Uncle George and as Mimi recalls, “His mind was going the whole time, and it was either drawing, or writing poetry, or reading.”
Yet, he was an unruly, stubborn and a disobedient, troubled youth. He failed at art school, yet swore to his aunt that "one of these days I'm going to be famous and you'll be sorry.” John had a premonition of things to come, as he knew he was a bit different than most people. As he looked back, he explained: “I always knew I was going to make it, but I wasn’t sure in what manifestation. I knew it was just a matter of time.”
There are many words to describe John Lennon. He called himself a leader, yet did some of his best work alone. He was an alleged wife beater, very outspoken, often putting out controversial quotes to the media; either to make a point or just to be outlandish. But when he spoke, people listened. The Beatles pushed musical boundaries further than any other group. They quit touring. Their last concert was in San Francisco at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. They were that big. But, John thought that the concerts had just become a freak show, no one could hear the music and the only reason to be the Beatles was to make and play the music.
The decision to quit touring also came on the heels of one of the most controversial quotes in rock and roll history. In an interview, John made the mistake of saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. This quote caused quite a backlash with Beatle boycotts and public record burnings. Their manager, Brian Epstein, immediately arranged a press conference and John reluctantly apologized and said what he said was wrong. Could any another person have said something like that and then go on to even bigger stardom?
He was a partner with his boyhood friend, Paul McCartney and together they left a musical writing partnership and a legacy that are unequaled to this day and may never be. The Beatles, with their producer George Martin, changed music in dramatic fashion, with studio techniques that had never been attempted.
They pioneered the concept album with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which the editors of Rolling Stone magazine list as the greatest rock album of the rock era.
He had the attention of our government with his antiwar protests and at one point was under FBI investigation. He sang of love and peace and living in harmony, with all people coming together as one. There are some who called him a genius. He could be nasty, resentful and meanspirited. He fought his demons and it seems he was winning, until December 8, 1980.
We can only recall his career, from the beginning, until the end and who doesn't know the story about the four lads from Liverpool. He was part of the group that changed rock and roll music history.
We can only wonder what John Lennon would be doing if he were alive today. How active would he be in promoting world peace? Would he still be creating wonderfully crafted rock and roll songs? All we can do is Imagine, and that is the shame of it all.