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Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon

It's the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death. If you are a rabid John Lennon fan, please read no further. Seriously. You don't want to see this. And I'll give him some props: yes, I know he wrote a couple of pieces of pretty music. But that's all that he was good for. And I have good reason to feel this way (and so do many others). If you want to know more, read on.

Why is it when a celebrity dies, society fawns all over him or her? Examples abound! Marilyn Monroe, JFK, John Lennon, and more. All people who probably would have passed into relative obscurity if it wasn't for their deaths. Oh sure, at the time they died they were riding the wave of popularity. But, I don't think any of them had it in them to be what the public has since seen them as: larger than life.

Let's take John Lennon and examine him in the cold light of truth. On his 20th Death Anniversary, his son Julian was strong enough to release this letter:

“I wonder what it would have been like if he were alive today,” Julian wrote. “I guess it would have depended on whether he was ‘John Lennon’ (Dad) or ‘John Ono Lennon’ (manipulated lost soul).

“Once I began to look at his life and really understand him, I began to feel so sorry for him, because once he was a guiding light, a star that shone on all of us, until he was sucked into a black hole and all of his strength consumed. Although he was definitely afraid of fatherhood, the combination of that and his life with Yoko Ono led to the real breakdown of our relationship. We did not see each other for extended periods of time and as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind! But the Beatles themselves played no part whatsoever in our demise.”

Julian struck a blow against all absentee fathers with this honest and heart-wrenching letter.

But John Lennon was also a man with a very poor self-image, who (just like a child) was always grasping at the chance to show-off. In fact, he was just plain tacky. He took every possible advantage of the limelight.

For instance, he posed nude repeatedly with his bizarre wife Yoko Ono (she looked like Pol Pot and he was simply pathetically unattractive).

He and Ono staged a 'bed in' for world peace in 1969. Well, we know how well that worked. The only thing that came out of that was more publicity for the needy couple.

Of course everyone remembers when Lennon claimed that the Beatles were 'More popular than Jesus' but I never really saw that as scandalous (although let's credit the poor guy with trying).

He was a very nasty person at times. In later life Lennon expressed great hatred for his mother (who had never abused him, but had chosen to leave his father and live with another man). His father’s second wife, Pauline, testified that the mere mention of her name “triggered a vicious verbal attack on [his mother], whom he reviled in the most obscene language I had ever heard…”

By the late 1950s, Lennon was a profane and brawling street youth. He shoplifted, abused girls, drew obscene pictures, lied “about everything,” despised authority, and was the ringleader of a group of rowdies. The young Lennon was also very cruel. He tried to frighten old people and made fun of those who were crippled or deformed. The new music called rock & roll fit his licentious lifestyle. Later Lennon described himself as “a weird, psychotic kid covering up my insecurity with a macho fa├žade”.

He dabbled in every illegal drug he could find, and cheerfully admitted he ate acid like candy. Gee, what a great role model for our youth of today.

The man who sang about love (“all you need is love”) and peace (“give peace a chance”) was actually very noncompassionate, self-centered to the extreme, and violent. His biographers speak of “the infamous Lennon temper.” He frequently flew into rages, screaming, smashing things, hitting people. He admitted, “I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I beat women”.

Lennon confided to a friend, “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to kill a woman, many women! It was only becoming a Beatle that saved me from actually doing it”.

When Yoko was pregnant with their son (Sean Ono Taro Lennon) John Lennon once kicked her in the stomach during an explosive confrontation; Lennon later hit the young Sean, even kicking him once in a restaurant. In 1979, Lennon flew into a rage and trashed his apartment while “filling the air with a stream of profane invective”. As for love, even Lennon’s celebrated relationship with Yoko Ono was filled with everything but love. After 1971, “John and Yoko’s great love was pretty much a public charade designed to help prop up their often flickering careers”.

Was Lennon very bright? Most definately. But intelligence alone is nothing to respect if it isn't tempered by any virtues. Did he truly believe in anything at all? For the most part, I would say he didn't. His desperate bids for press coverage indicate that he would have said and done anything to get the attention that he craved.

When I hear about his Death Anniversaries, I always wonder what he would have been like should he have lived: Probably not much at all. This year he would be 65. As he once said, "I don't intend to be a performing flea any more. I was the dreamweaver, but although I'll be around I don't intend to be running at 20,000 miles an hour trying to prove myself. I don't want to die at 40."

The only thing that his death should convey to us is that life can be short, and you never know when your time is up.

My sources: memory, various internet sources, and "Lennon in America" by Giuliano.

31 comments:

mal said...

Do any of our idols NOT have feet of clay? You are right, it seems we popularize the memory of people of very high profile and limited social contribution. It seems the stature of people like Monroe, Dean, Lennon et al grows even though the substance was not there.

Thank you Hollywood

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mallory, it seems we popularize the memory of people of very high profile and limited social contribution.

Perhaps because most of us are under-achievers who also have limited social contribution. We want to justify our lives, so we do so by idolizing someone who shouldn't be. It's idolizing the easily attainable.

michelle said...

I couldn't agree more!

I try hard to help my children not "idolize" anyone. I certainly encourage them to find someone to look up to and feel safe with. Hopefully one of us parents, but a teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or family friend will work for me. Of course little man thinks The Incredible Hulk and Santa Clause are AWESOME, but I think for the most part his dad and mom are still the best. His teacher being a close second.

Kathleen said...

Well done!

snicksnack said...

...you mean Monroe was supposed to be more than T&A? Good post!

Tabasamu said...

Interesting post, Saur! I didn't know all that about him, though I always thought he was a shameless self-promoter with some musical talent.

Brianne said...

I completely agree that we should not idolize who we are "told". Many of us sometimes feel as though we should follow the crowd, and even idolize who is/was popular. I don't know much about John Lennon, nor have I ever wanted to, thankfully.

Quite the opposite for me is idolizing those who did great things for this world, and never got the right recognition for it. Those are the people that deserve the tributes! I look up most to Rosalind Franklin, for example. And there are plenty of others out there.

AP3 said...

We all have a good side, and a dark side. I chose to focus on Lennon's good side in my blogs today, and you've focused on his dark side. It's all part of him. And he certainly was among the first to admit his faults. When someone dies young, much is left unsaid and undone. We project the rest based on our impressions of the deceased person, and on what's inside of us. Who knows what Lennon would be like at 65? He was no saint, though, you're right about that.

Saur♥Kraut said...

AP3, thanks, sweetheart. You're right. And who knows? He could've been another Robert Blake or he could've become a quiet hermit.

Brianne, funny, I didn't remember her name till I googled her. I did read an in-depth article about her once, and I now recall it. Another great idol of mine is Marie Curie.

TC, thank you.

Snicksnack, ;o)

Kathleen, thanks, hon!

Michelle, well *I* still have a soft spot for The Incredible Hulk, myself.

Ted said...

As a musician I have to acknowledge what he contributed to pop music. He was taken out of context on the Jesus comment and betrayed by the interviewer who just wanted to sell papers. He was open about his shortcomings, controlled by yoko and a perfect example of why we need God's love.I think he didn't want to live like he did and may have killed himself if chapman hadn't got him first. I remember his slaying but don't celebrate his death or his life and I play his songs because they are a good starting point for pop school.
Saur, you definitly calls them like you sees them.

uncle joe said...

As a goofy kid I used to waste time wondering what " Place famous person here" was doing at this very moment. Now that reality shows are a reality I realize that I was better off not knowing and wasting my time daydreaming. I appreciate John Lennon for his musicianship mostly. Living inside the bubble is not for me.

Lee Ann said...

That was very enlightening. I liked the Beatles music, but I never followed them as such. I did not know the reality of his life or the other Beatles for that matter. We do see celebrities in a different light.
I think we saw a similar thing after Elvis' death. I am not an Elvis fan and did not know his life story either, but through media have been informed of different aspects of his life as well.
People are not always as they seem!
Good post.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lee Ann, ah yes, Elvis is an excellent example. Thanks, hon!

Uncle Joe, I think most people would agree with you. And often times, I don't want to know about a singer or actor. I don't care about them personally, I just want to enjoy their art. But when they make it their goal to intrude in my life with their shenanigans, then I get to judge them for what they are (or aren't).

Ted, Saur, you definitly calls them like you sees them. *wink* I've been accused of that.

Ellen said...

Wow, I certainly received an education today. I also didn't know that much about him, even though I was a Beatles fan. I do remember the "love-in" and a few other shenanigans he was famous for, but was unaware of the anger aspect. I might need to take off those "rose-colored" glasses....

uncle joe said...

T-Shirt Idea: I'll split the profits with you 30/70 (me 30) since you're Saur and I'm not.


SAUR PAUR

bananarama said...

Sean Ono TAro Lennon? Isn't taro a root vegetable?

Fred said...

Interesting post. I ran over to Aral's site to look at both sides. He certainly was a complex man.

Tan Lucy Pez said...

I don't revere public figures. But I liked John Lennon then, and I like him now. He wasn't any kind of saint, and he didn't pretend to be.

FTS said...

When I was young I idolized some local pro athletes, like any young boy. I grew out of it, and although I still love the game of baseball, i also have enough perspective to know the game is bigger than any player, coach, or owner. I respect Lennon for his abilities, that he could write, play and sing better than I ever thought about, but that's where it begins and ends. I can separate respect for talent from character.

Saur♥Kraut said...

TLP & FTS, I can understand that, and I know where you're coming from. ;o)

Fred, it is interesting, isn't it? There was an article today that said that NO one really could figure out exactly WHAT he was. And maybe he couldn't figure it out, either!

Bananarama, yes, it is! weird...?

Uncle Joe, oh, they'll sell like hotcakes! ;o)

Ellen, rose colored glasses... yeah, we all wear them at times.

Liquidplastic said...

You know the saying, "let the dead bury the dead" ... and so many of us are dead to our true reality it's easy to worship man made stars, alive or dead.

I too have been eduated. A very interesting post .. raw and to the point.

Kathleen said...

Really, at the end of the day, history will prove if we made a real and significant difference in the human condition. I have learned through trial and tribulation, we can only lead by example.

Lennon, I loved his music and ignored his life. I'd be copping out if I did not say I didn't admire his lifestyle. Likewise, I was someone who did not look at media stars as icons.

The bigger issue is that because of his fame he died at the threshold of his home. There is a price to being famous.

Jamie Dawn said...

"Marilyn Monroe, JFK, John Lennon, and more. All people who probably would have passed into relative obscurity if it wasn't for their deaths. "

I don't agree with that statement. We don't know what JFK would have done in her presidency and beyond. Marilyn could have been a huge star even as she aged if she could have managed to overcome her personal problems. She was so incredibly beautiful, and beauty sells. She was an icon. I don't think she would have faded away.
I do agree that because of their deaths, they have become "gods" which most likely would not have been the case had they lived out their lives.
John Lennon's dark side was real. I think he should be remembered, but not "adored."

Good post, Saur. Made me think!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I'm too tired to get into this but in a nutshell.

Yes, I agree, celebrity and it's hold on us is so desperate and all consuming it disgusts me.

No, your wild generalisions about Lennon prove only that he was human and as shit as the rest of us but fortunately he was a very important part of the best band ever.

And the bit about bigger than Jesus was an earthquake of a moment in popular culture but kinda hard to fathom now when people are anti-Jesus left right and centre. It's like saying Dylan plugging in meant nothing.

A treu legend and long may is records be heard!

Anonymous said...

The book you quote Giuliano has been almost entirely discredited which rpetty much leaves your own memory and the internet as the source for your tear down of John Lennon.

Was he perfect? Absolutely not. Was the the violent, drug-addled, misongynistic loser your portray him to be? No.

Lennon was an artist. Many artists are tormented, passionate people. Should we stop revering Van Gogh, Hemmingway, Woolfe or Shakespeare because they weren't always the nicest people in their private lives?

Many of these people, through their art, have promoted love, peace, tolerence and charity. Just because they weren't perfect people doesn't mean they don't deserve some credit for the positive influence they had on society.

Or do you think it would be a better world if we all spent our time ignoring the lyrics of "Imagine" and instead listening to hate mongers like Michael Savage who contribute nothing but hate and intolerence to society?

No one is telling you you have to like John Lennon, but there's nothing wrong with celebrating his art and the anniversary of his tragic death. And next time you want to whitewash someone, check your sources.

Ruby Lynx said...

You know, I muse about the day I get to sit next to David Letterman and talk about my bestselling book or whatever art will make me famous enough to get me there. At times I think of all the things people I've encountered in my past could say to tear me down. At times I think, "Well, I'm such a fuckup that maybe I shouldn't bother wanting to be successful." There are lots of talented people who are not elegeble for sainthood. Any of us can look back on things we've done and cringe. So Lennon did some unsavory things. He did what he wanted and didn't give a fuck what anyone thought. He made people think. What more can you really hope for as an artist?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ruby Lynx, He made people think. What more can you really hope for as an artist? Decent behavior.

Anonymous, The book you quote Giuliano has been almost entirely discredited By whom?

Should we stop revering Van Gogh, Hemmingway, Woolfe or Shakespeare because they weren't always the nicest people in their private lives? Yes!

hate mongers like Michael Savage huh? Check your sources.

Too bad you weren't strong enough to put your name to your post. But I guess I wouldn't either, if I was going to post something so weak. It's OK if you like the lyrics of his outdated songs. I like some old songs too. But do you really think that he's some marvellous sage who was putting forth things that no one had ever thought of before?

And no, we should revere no one if they're not worth of it. We can certainly enjoy what they gave us, though.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daniel, I agree with most of what you said. I don't think he was a legend, but that's OK - some people think Elvis is, and I'm not there either. ;o)

Saur♥Kraut said...

Jamie Dawn, thanks! We don't always have to agree, but I'm happy to talk about it.

Kathleen & LP thanks for the contributions. ;o)

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Elvis was great.

I went through a phase of having the same hair as him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Saur. I never liked or trusted John Lennon right from the time the Beatles first hit the radios. I was only 12, but I had some instinct about his cruel face that scared me. I never understood the fawning over him, and regarded his "peace" activities as a total sham. I shed no tears when the pretentious wanker died and wondered why everyone was upset that Chapman thought he was a hypocrite. he was. Deal with it, Lennon fans!