John Lennon

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"I resent being an artist, in that respect, I resent performing for fucking idiots who don’t know anything. They can’t feel. I’m the one that’s feeling, because I’m the one that is expressing." —John Lennon, expressing his love for his fans.[1]
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John Ono Lennon, born John Winston Lennon (1940–1980), was an English musician, abusive boyfriend and father, unfaithful husband,[2] and peace activist (go figure), best known for being member of the Beatles. He is considered the pessimist Beatle, with optimistic Sgt. Pepper, spiritual George Harrison, and Ringo. John was the most publicly political member of the Beatles, opposing the Vietnam War and promoting peace in general. For this he was hounded by the FBI, who even put music reviews of his solo work in his dossier, "Lacking Lennon's usual standards" and "Yoko can't even remain on key."[3]

He attracted fierce criticism from conservatives and the media for, among other things, his many LSD-influenced songs, his comment that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, appearing naked with his wife Yoko Ono on the cover of an album of bizarre sound experimentation titled Two Virgins, and the chorus of "Ballad of John and Yoko", with its shocking (at the time) reference to Christ and crucifixion.[4]

John was murdered in 1980 by Mark David Chapman, a longtime fan of the Beatles who, after becoming a born again Christian, was angered by John's comment that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus",[5] as well as by the lyrics of his post-Beatles songs "God" and "Imagine".[6]

Opinions are divided over whether he was a political/social revolutionary or just a dick, but as with most things the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, which is to say, he was both.

War protest[edit]

Lennon spoke out against the Vietnam War in particular and war in general. This is pretty apparent in songs such as Give Peace a Chance and Imagine. He also starred in a movie (shamelessly plugged featured in the song A Day in the Life.[note 1]) How I Won The War based on an earlier novel by Patrick Ryan about the pointlessness of armed conflict.

More popular than Jesus[edit]

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue with that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first -- rock'n'roll or Christianity. Jesus was alright, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
—John Lennon

Lennon said in 1966 that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." The remark went unnoticed in UK, but sparked gigantic controversy in Jesusland, resulting in public burnings of Beatles' records, ban of Beatles' songs on the radio and public demonstrations. It remains in history as a monument to how ... eccentric America is.

Other statements about religion[edit]

After the break-up of the Beatles, John released the song "God" in 1970. In the song's lyrics, John sings that he does not believe in magic, the I Ching, the Bible, tarot, Hitler, Jesus, Kennedy, Buddha, mantraWikipedia, Gita, yoga, kings, Elvis, ZimmermanWikipedia, or the Beatles.

In 1971, John released the song "Imagine". The song contains the lyrics "Imagine there's no countries / It isn't hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion, too", and has been called an "atheist anthem".[7] However, he also sings about having no possessions, which is awkward considering the number of possessions he had.

In 1980, John stated in a Playboy interview that "People always got the image I was an anti-Christ or antireligion. I'm not. I'm a most religious fellow. I was brought up a Christian and I only now understand some of the things that Christ was saying in those parables. Because people got hooked on the teacher and missed the message."[8] He also said that "the whole religion business suffers from the 'Onward, Christian SoldiersWikipedia' bit. There's too much talk about soldiers and marching and converting. I'm not pushing Buddhism, because I'm no more a Buddhist than I am a Christian, but there's one thing I admire about the religion [Buddhism]: There's no proselytizing."[8]

Notable compositions and/or recordings[edit]

With the Beatles[edit]

  • Help!
  • In My Life
  • Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  • Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
  • A Day in the Life
  • Strawberry Fields Forever
  • I Am the Walrus
  • Revolution
  • All You Need Is Love
  • Happiness Is a Warm Gun
  • Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey
  • Revolution #9 (unfortunately)
  • Come Together

Post-Beatles[edit]

  • Give Peace a Chance
  • Power to the People
  • Instant Karma!
  • God
  • Imagine
  • Jealous Guy
  • Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
  • Woman Is the Nigger of the World
  • Beautiful Boy

Bad things[edit]

Relationships[edit]

John's first wife was Cynthia Lennon (née Powell). Before they were married, there was an instance in which he became angry after seeing her dance with Stuart Sutcliffe at a party. The following day at the college Cynthia and John attended, John followed her into a bathroom and struck her, causing her head to hit the pipes on the wall behind her.[9] As a result, she broke up with him, until three months later, when Lennon apologized to her and asked to get back together. She agreed, and later recalled that he was never again physically abusive towards her, although he could still be "verbally cutting and unkind".[10]

John admitted to hitting women in a 1980 interview, saying, "I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically – any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit."[11] He also hit his son Julian when he was a boy for trivial reasons such as bad table manners, according to their housekeeper.[12]

After marrying Cynthia, John repeatedly cheated on her, including with Yoko Ono.[12] After Cynthia returned home one day to find John and Yoko sitting on the floor wearing robes, Cynthia and John's marriage was soon over. John actually tried to sue Cynthia for divorce on grounds of adultery, seeking full custody of their son Julian, which he didn't receive.[13] When the divorce was settled, Cynthia was driven to auction off much of what John left behind in order to make ends meet.[13]

"Imagine no possessions"[edit]

He wrote the above words in "Imagine", but Elton John penned an alternative version about John and Yoko's acquisitiveness: "Imagine six apartments, it isn’t hard to do, one is full of fur coats, another’s full of shoes."[14] They owned five apartments in the Dakota building, one of New York's most exclusive addresses, used for various purposes including one for Ono's studio and for storage.[15]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. "I saw a film today, oh boy/The English Army had just won the war/A crowd of people turned away/But I just had to look/Having read the book.

References[edit]

  1. Jann S. Wenner: The Rolling Stone Interview: John Lennon, Part II 4 February 1971
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon#Personal_relationships
  3. While Nixon Campaigned, the F.B.I. Watched John Lennon New York Times, 21 September 2006
  4. The Ballad Of John And Yoko, LyricWiki
  5. Jones, Jack (1992) Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Killed John Lennon. Villard Books. p. 118. ISBN 0-8129-9170-2.
  6. Jones, Jack (1992) Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Killed John Lennon. Villard Books. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0-8129-9170-2.
  7. Atheists should be louder and prouder, The Independent, November 1, 2006.
  8. 8.0 8.1 1980 Playboy Interview With John Lennon And Yoko Ono, Playboy, January 1981.
  9. Lennon, Cynthia (2005). John. Crown Publishers. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-307-33855-6.
  10. Lennon, Cynthia (2005). John. Crown Publishers. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-307-33855-6.
  11. Quoted in Eagles' Chris Long stirs moral debate after calling John Lennon 'a bad guy', Philly Voice, May 7, 2018
  12. 12.0 12.1 You Don't Have to 'Imagine' John Lennon Beat Women and Children—It's Just a Fact, Vice, Sep 10, 2015
  13. 13.0 13.1 When Loving Lennon Became Difficult, Los Angeles Review of Books, December 18, 2020
  14. Quoted in "More a Voyeur", Colm Tóibín, London Review of Books, Vol. 41 No. 24 · 19 December 2019, pages 3-6
  15. Imagine No Possessions, The Economist, 9 Dec 2010