John Lennon: A Time to Remember

Seventy years after his birth (on October 9, 1940) and nearly 30 years after his passing, John Lennon shines on as a musical and cultural icon.

The reissue of our Lennon Opus Collection, Remember roughly coincides with the arrival in theaters of Nowhere Boy, a John-as-teen biopic that’s earning strong advance notice, and a star-studded tribute concert at New York’s Beacon Theater. All this activity celebrates a man whose impact transcends his art. That’s quite an accomplishment given that Beatlemania remains the pop craze to eclipse all pop crazes.

Certainly much of Lennon’s towering standing three full decades after his murder rests on the powerful music he created as a Beatle and solo artist (the portion of his career that Remember chronicles). But the force of his personality and reach of his worldview took him to another level.

I recently read Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland, an account of the rise and fall of our 37th president, and was struck by how Lennon loomed over the 1972 elections. Picture that: a Brit rock star with the potential to alter the course of a U.S. presidential race! Or at least some very powerful people thought he had that kind of sway.

The “Smart Beatle” was plenty brainy, but he didn’t fit into that pat role. (Nor did the “Cute,” “Quiet” and “Funny” Beatles, for that matter.) His perspective was too complex and just plain big to peg.

The power-to-the-people counterculture firebrand was simultaneously an ahead-of-his-time marketer who, in tandem with his wife, Yoko Ono, dreamed up low-cost, high-impact campaigns like the Bed-In for Peace media blowout and War Is Over billboards. He’d have been all over social networking ... or maybe a step ahead of it.

Within a few years, Lennon transformed himself from a leather-clad roughneck in Hamburg clubs (the chapter covered in another film bio, 1994’s Backbeat) to a meditative truth seeker in India. But the rock ‘em, sock ‘em Lennon in Germany had a tender side and the reverent visitor in Rishikesh was no softie. The backbone and unflinching honesty of the guy is what makes the music on Remember feel unpredictable and exciting.

It’s hard not to speculate where Lennon would have taken his music if somehow that fatal attack outside his home at New York’s Dakota apartment building had never happened. But that’s really the crux of Lennon’s appeal. He might have gone in any of a hundred directions. Just imagine.

comments (3)

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    • peterinbrat
    • 9/25/2010 1:01 AM

    I've got a new job near a Starbucks and I stopped by for my morning coffee there four times this week. I like the cozy furniture and passible coffee. Hearing John Lennon was nice the first time, but it was playing EVERY day. Now you've lost me as a customer. Good luck with the CD sales. Collegetown, Ithaca NY 8:15 MWThF this week, but not again. I also felt bad for the counter people. By the way, people under 40 don't buy CDs anymore, but they do buy coffee.

      • wewells
      • 9/27/2010 5:43 PM

      In reply to: peterinbrat

      Had to stand up for the over 40 crowd... We may not buy as many CDs, but we do still buy & artists such as John Lennon and Robert Plant are right up my alley. As for the repetition... I don't know the policy of that particular Starbucks store nor do I know Starbucks' general policy, but I do know I've heard employees suggest to each other a change of tunes in more than one location - I've always assumed Starbucks allows stores to choose from a list of CDs. Why not just ask the barista?

    • Junior298
    • 9/26/2010 8:33 AM

    I’m pleased that “Starbucks Coffee Company” recognized the value of ‘John Lennon’s’ artist musical talent. And I really believe the ‘Beatles’ were decades ahead of there time.

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