John Lennon’s life and legacy has much to teach us about how and why we need to build a better society – based on love and freedom. John would have been 70 this year (born October 9, 1940) – but was killed three decades ago (December 8, 1980). We now need to understand his music and messages more than ever. His messages fit perfectly with some of the other social leaders profiles on this site. Click below for the most creative and complete tribute to John on the web!
This article focuses on John’s contribution to the social changes that took place during the past 50 years. In particular, his roles as a progressive radical and social critic show the best of what an entertainer can accomplish. The US government, especially under Nixon, persecuted and harassed John Lennon. Read selected reviews here about the film “The US versus John Lennon.” To learn more about John Lennon’s life and music visit his official site.
With each major anniversary of John’s death, the media pay tribute to John’s life and music. The following is an excerpt from an article on the 20th anniversary of his murder.
John Lennon was not God. But he earned the love and admiration of his generation by creating a huge body of work that inspired and led. The appreciation for him deepened because he then instinctively decided to use his celebrity as a bully pulpit for causes greater than his own enrichment or self-aggrandizement. For several key years in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Lennon and Yoko Ono turned their lives into a virtual “Truman Show” to promote the issues they believed in.
One of Lennon’s many gifts was his humor. He knew that many people were laughing at them. He didn’t care. He cared that the message was being heard. If disbelievers were going to ridicule his peace protests, that was at least preferable to them being engaged in violence. One of the secrets of Lennon (and indeed all four Beatles) was that he took his work seriously. But he never took himself too seriously.
What is the Lennon legacy? There is the astonishing body of music. The jaunty anthems he wrote in the early Beatle years (1962–1965) may have been teen love songs, but they displayed an exuberant joy that is surprisingly undiminished by the passage of time. Then, once Bob Dylan showed him that lyrics could be personal, Lennon tapped into his feelings and revealed a gift for sensitivity and self-awareness that completely belied his oft-proclaimed status as “just a rocker.”… Of all Lennon’s legacies, one of the most enduring, and perhaps the most impressive, is who his enemies were. The true measure of his greatness was that in the 1970s he terrified the most powerful man in the world (Nixon). …
It’s hard to think of a single artist or entertainer prior to, or since, John Lennon who had that kind of impact. No other creative artist has ever induced that level of fear in a man who is ostensibly the most powerful man in the world. Ideas, honesty, passion, humor and brilliant empathetic songs it seems were more powerful. Just imagine that….
And that is why today my eyes are red. My heart is heavy. I will play John Lennon music today. I will watch the video of Lennon chewing gum as he sang “All You Need Is Love” live to 400 million people by satellite in June 1967. I will laugh as I watch him tweak stuffy pomposity again and again: “Those in the cheaper seats clap. The rest of you just rattle your jewelry.” And I will weep still more tears at the loss of a man who inspired me in my childhood — and who inspires me to this day. It’s a drag. And I’m inconsolable.
In 1994, John Lennon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other performers inducted that year included: Bob Marley, The Grateful Dead, and the Animals.
John Lennon didn’t invent rock and roll, nor did he embody it as toweringly as figures like Elvis Presley and Little Richard, but he did more than anyone else to shake it up, move it forward and instill it with a conscience. As the most daring and outspoken of the four Beatles, he helped shape the agenda of the Sixties – socially and politically, no less than musically. As a solo artist, he made music that alternately disturbed and soothed, provoked and sought community. As a human being, he served as an exemplar of honesty in his art and life. …
Having experienced the horror of a world at war as a child and then living through the Vietnam era as a young man, Lennon came to embrace and embody pacifism. His was the voice and vision that powered such Beatles classics as “All You Need Is Love” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Yet Lennon also had a dark side that found expression in pained outcries dating as far back as “Help,” and his was the most naturally adventuresome musical spirit in the band, as evidenced by such outre tracks as “I Am the Walrus” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” …
Although Lennon was a complicated man, he chose after the Beatles to simplify his art in order to figure out his life, erasing the boundaries between the two. As he explained it, he started trying “to shave off all imagery, pretensions of poetry, illusions of grandeur…Just say what it is, simple English, make it rhyme and put a backbeat on it, and express yourself as simply [and] straightforwardly as possible.” His most fully realized statement as a solo artist was 1970’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. …
Many of Lennon’s post-Beatles compositions – “Imagine,” “Mind Games,” “Instant Karma,” and “Give Peace a Chance” – have rightfully become anthems, flaunting tough-minded realism, cosmic epiphany, hard-won idealism and visionary utopianism in equal measure. For all of the unvarnished genius of Lennon’s recordings, however, much of what lingers in the public memory goes beyond musical legacy. Rather, it has to do with leading by example. …
During the early Seventies Lennon fought the U.S. government to avoid deportation – a campaign of harassment by Nixon-era conservatives that was overturned by the courts in 1976 – and came to love his adopted city of New York. That same year, Lennon had his first #1 single – somewhat ironically, he was the last Beatle to top the charts as a solo artist – with “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” from the album Walls and Bridges. He was joined on vocals by Elton John, who cajoled Lennon into joining him onstage at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974. It would turn out to be Lennon’s last public performance.
“Lennon Lives Forever: Twenty-five years after his death, his music and message endure” by MIKAL GILMORE. Rolling Stone Issue 989 — December 15, 2005
This 25th anniversary tribute provides details on the shocking and senseless way that John Lennon was murdered.
It had been a good night. John Lennon had just finished making music with his wife, Yoko Ono, that he regarded as some of the best music of his life, and his judgment wasn’t off the mark. He had also learned, just a bit earlier, that his and Ono’s album Double Fantasy — the first collection with new music from Lennon in five years, following a mysterious sabbatical — had gone gold that day. Now he and Ono were on their way back home from the studio to see their son, Sean, the five-year-old whom Lennon had devoted himself to more than to his career. Their car pulled up to the Manhattan apartment building where they lived, the Dakota, and Lennon got out. It was a balmy night, for December. He moved to the Dakota’s entrance, then he heard a voice call his name.
Nothing made sense that night. John Lennon was murdered, shot five times in the back, in the presence of his wife. It was a murder of madness. A future was gone — Lennon wouldn’t make music again, he wouldn’t get to kiss his son — but also, the past suddenly made no sense. A story that had started in hope had ended in blood. It was an awful payoff. Lennon had constructed the Beatles — the group that in its time meant everything — and then in his work after he left the band, he had strived for an honesty and an idealism that was unlike anything rock & roll had produced before. In doing so he threatened not just cultural conventions but also unforgiving powers, because he had an unusual command: He had made music that had moved the world. This violent ending ruined the epic.
Lennon’s first diversions came in the way of drug experiences — a pursuit that he shared with the other Beatles, as their experiments with marijuana, then LSD, affected the growth of their music on Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — followed by a devotion to Eastern mysticism and meditation. …
The song “Imagine,” in particular, put forth some daring notions — “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . no hell . . . no countries . . . no religion . . . no possessions . . . imagine a brotherhood of man” — and it did so in a beguiling and haunting way. The song was a prayer, the most radical prayer that ever played widely on radio. “‘Imagine,’ both the song and the album,” Lennon said, “is the same thing as ‘Working Class Hero’ and ‘Mother’ and ‘God’ on the first disc. But the first record was too real for people, so nobody bought it . . . ‘Imagine’ was the same message but sugarcoated. . . . ‘Imagine’ is a big hit almost everywhere — anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic, but because it is sugarcoated it is accepted. Now I understand what you have to do: Put your political message across with a little honey.” Lennon’s gambit worked. Imagine reached Number One on Billboard’s album charts, and it produced an unorthodox anthem that has never been equaled in popular music. It was also the last great album Lennon would make until the last few weeks of his life.
In 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono moved to New York. Lennon felt vitalized by its art and music and politics, and he and Ono became friendly with some prominent radical activists, including Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman of the Yippies. Lennon had been politically concerned for some time, but in New York his politics grew more radical and outspoken. For years, starting before the end of the Beatles, Lennon and Ono had pursued a media-directed campaign for the cause of peace — which at that time meant promoting an end to the war in Vietnam, though they were also advocating the larger philosophy of nonviolence that had guided India’s Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In March 1969, following their marriage in Gibraltar, Lennon and Ono flew to Amsterdam, where they staged a “bed-in” for peace. …
Lennon studied feminist history and theory. “It’s men who have come a long way from even contemplating the idea of equality,” he told Playboy. “I am the one who has come a long way. I was the real pig. And it is a relief not to be a pig. The pressures of being a pig were enormous. They were killing me. All those years of trying to be tough and the heavy rocker and heavy womanizer and heavy drinker were killing me. And it is a relief not to have to do it.”
After his death, things changed around us. America entered the years of Ronald Reagan; Britain, the years of Margaret Thatcher. Modern history was reversing its hopes. Rock & roll, and later hip-hop, has still pushed against that reversal, but it has never pushed as hard as it did in the years of John Lennon. That isn’t simply because Lennon was killed. Rather, it’s because he lived. The Beatles set something loose in their time: a sense of generational transformation that moved quickly from the blissful to the artistic to the political, and for a few remarkable years, it seemed irrefutable.
The story of our times since then has been the product of a determination to make sure that nothing like that could happen again. While “Imagine” can still be played on radio because its music sounds familiar and comforting, there’s little — if anything — with that sort of nerve in today’s mainstream pop. The free market of ideas just isn’t that free right now. A pop star as popular as Lennon proclaiming similar ideals in our current environment would run the risk of being judged a heretic.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
Why “Imagine”? Why Now? by Danny Duncan Collum – Sojourners
Sojourners Magazine, January-February 2002 (Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 52)
This innovative and inspiring article stresses the ongoing importance and implications of John Lennon’s most famous song (lyrics above). In particular, Imagine teaches how much we must change and quickly if we want our world to survive.
The song has again become a vital statement of hope and even a resource for resistance. Who would have thought that, 30 years later, John Lennon’s “Imagine” could be rescued from the dustbin of commercial sentimentality? Sure, it was wheeled out every Dec. 8 to commemorate the anniversary of Lennon’s death, but everyone knew the song was as dead as its singer. Now, in the post-Sept. 11 world, the song has again become a vital statement of hope and even a resource for resistance.
How did this happen? “Imagine” was not Lennon’s greatest solo hit; “Instant Karma” easily surpassed it on the charts. Even in 1971, the line “imagine no religion” was a hard sell in the pop marketplace. And on pop radio, that line about “no possessions” made for a bumpy segue into the car commercials. But back in ’71, the song overcame those obstacles mostly on the basis of its ear-candy melody. It also came into an environment in which political protest was a fairly popular phenomenon. But there was more at work in the song even then. It was, and is, a stunningly direct and simple appeal to the human need for transcendence. In the midst of horrible war and domestic strife, the song asked the audience to listen to a tiny voice that suggested humans were made for peace and community.
When he was alive, Lennon said that “Imagine” was really “Power to the People” with a sugar coating. But that was only half right. The song was also the sequel to “All You Need is Love.” In other early ’70s songs, Lennon set to music the Freudian and Marxist interpretations of religion as a projection and an opiate. In “Imagine” it is placed alongside the nation-state as a tool of division and war-making. But in both “All You Need is Love” and “Imagine,” you can also hear the sound of an unrelentingly honest man looking for a credible way to capitalize Truth. …
But with the passage of time, the song disappeared into the haze of oldies radio and Clintonesque boomer hypocrisy. The endearing melody became instrumental elevator music. The utopian message was co-opted by the gods of the computer industry, whose propaganda proclaimed that digital globalization would create a world without borders, or hunger, or stock market downturns. Finally, by the turn of that ugly, old century, it seemed there was nothing left to “Imagine.”
Then came Sept. 11. Within hours, the song turned up on the famous Clear Channel radio chain list of dangerous or discomfiting music to be avoided in the new war era. Then came the America: A Tribute to the Heroes telethon on Sept. 21, and there was grizzled old Neil Young, God bless him, sitting at a grand piano, delivering an absolutely beautiful, and absolutely defiant, rendition of the dangerous ballad itself. On that night the verse “Imagine there’s no countries… nothing to kill or die for, no religion, too…” became a pointed rebuke both to al Qaeda and George W. Bush. The line about “no need for greed or hunger…” suggested itself as a constructive program of enlightened self-defense. The somber chords of the verses became a dirge for New York, Lennon’s adopted home, and the soaring bridge (“you may say I’m a dreamer…”) gave a distant glimpse of blue sky. It was by far the deepest moment of the evening.
Now we’re in a war, and one with a just cause, for a change. But even a “just” war is bound to become a deathly, divisive, and deceitful thing. In these days, we will all, in our own ways, need to hear quiet voices that remind us what we are really here for. “Imagine all the people sharing all the world….”
This editorial was published right after John was killed.
‘Hello, Goodbye’ is now just goodbye.
John Lennon was born in 1940, when the bombs were general all over England. War was a commonplace of his childhood, and when we try to sort out what he brought to the generation that mourns him so deeply, we naturally think first of his music, and then of the ways in which he and the Beatles tied that music to the peace movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular, used their huge popularity to disseminate a sort of benign antiwar publicity politics. “War is over, if you want it,” Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, proclaimed in full-page Christmas ads in 1971. Their messages were occasional, diffuse and eccentric, but Lennon opened up rock-and-roll to politics, and in an innocent, impulsive way, he worked for peace. Young people loved him for that and the music. Not so young now, they are behaving as though a President had been killed. An unacknowledged President who stood for peace, Lennon is inextricable from their memories of Vietnam and the moratoriums.
Lennon believed that there were many potential recruits for the peace reserves–they only needed calling up. “You may say I’m a dreamer,” he wrote, “but I’m not the only one.” Lennon had all the most alluring qualities of the 1960s: innocence, spontaneity, seditious humor, belief. In an interview on the day of his murder, he expressed the hope that the 1980s, like the 1960s, would be a decade of positive action. Now, with Moscow and the West activating their military reserves, it would be a far better remembrance of John Lennon to work for the peace movement he believed in than to long nostalgically for the decade he symbolized.
This article gives a personal glimpse into how John the activist saw the role of his music in social change and the quest for peace.
On the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder (Dec. 8, 1980), I’ve been thinking about his famous argument with Gloria Emerson in December, 1969 – filmed by the BBC, and included in the recent documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon.
Emerson was a celebrated war correspondent for the New York Times who had just returned from the bloody battlefields of Vietnam; Lennon had just written “Give Peace a Chance” after he and Yoko declared their honeymoon a “bed-in for peace”–they had stayed in bed for a week, “in protest against all the violence in the world.”
Emerson told him in her haughty upper class voice, “You’ve made yourself ridiculous!”
“I don’t care,” Lennon replied, “if it saves lives.”
“My dear boy,” she said, “you’re living in a nether-nether land. . . . You don’t think you’ve saved a single life!”
“You tell me what they were singing at the Moratorium,” Lennon shot back – he was referring to the biggest anti-war demonstration in American history, which had been held in Washington DC a month earlier.
Emerson wasn’t sure what he was talking about: “Which one?”
“The recent big one,” Lennon explained. “They were singing “Give peace a chance.”
“A song of yours, probably.”
“Well, yes, and it was written specifically for them.”
“So they sang one of your songs,” she said with some irritation. “Is that all you can say?”
Now he was angry. “They were singing a happy-go-lucky song, which happens to be one I wrote. I’m glad they sang it. And when I get there, I’ll sing it with them.” …
Lennon did come to the US, and eagerly embraced the steady work of anti-war persuasion and organizing. “Our job now is to tell them there still is hope,” Lennon said at an anti-war rally in Michigan in 1971. “We must get them excited about what we can do again.” It was hard to see it in 1969, but eventually the US did end its war in Vietnam. And today the people who were singing “Give Peace a Chance” in 1969 can be glad they sang it.
I strongly recommend this 2006 film in order to gain a great deal of insight into John’s persecution by the Nixon regime during the early 1970s.
By isolating Lennon’s political life and eventually his role as doting father, Leaf and John Scheinfeld make it appear a singular focus for the man in his post-Beatles years. He was an idealist calling for world peace who realized “flower power” was a failure, and an artist whose use of direct language made him an ideal proselyte among the anti-war leadership populated by dogmatic rabble-rousers. “All we are saying/Is give peace a chance” was so clear and simple that it threatened the Nixon administration, which led to wire-tapping, surveillance and a deportation order. “He was a high-profile figure, so his activities were monitored,” G. Gordon Liddy says matter-of-factly, a chilling reminder of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. …
For the viewers who were there, “U.S. vs. John Lennon” will be a reminder of Lennon’s valor and no-retreat mindset; for the under-35 set attracted to the cogency of songs such as “Imagine,” “Instant Karma,” “Love” and “Revolution,” this could be a vital documenting of the government’s subversive behavior.
It starts a couple of weeks before Christmas 1971 as Lennon appears at a benefit for John Sinclair, an anti-war radical and manager of the MC5, who is doing hard time for selling two joints to an undercover cop. The FBI is aware of Lennon’s ability to sway crowds, and he has surrounded himself with radical friends, specifically leaders of the Yippies and Black Panthers.
The film steps back to the Beatles’ first significant controversy, Lennon’s statement about the Fab Four having a greater impact in young people’s lives than Jesus, a statement that gets blown out of proportion and leads to many anti-Beatles rallies. There’s footage from Vietnam, peace marches and protests in London. It’s fascinating to watch the Beatles at a press conference when a political question is asked; Lennon goes full force in delivering an answer as the others grow viscerally uncomfortable. …
Sen. Strom Thurmond proposes pulling Lennon’s visa, claiming a pot bust in England made him an undesirable. Lennon is given until March 15, 1972, to leave the country, but he chooses to fight it with immigration attorney Leon Wildes, who sues John Mitchell and his cronies, charging conspiracy. In one of life’s happier examples of kismet, Lennon is given his green card on his birthday, hours after his son Sean is born.
Forty of Lennon’s tunes — 37 from his solo career — are used pointedly, out of chronological order and tied to the visuals thematically. Equally effective are the instrumental versions of his songs — the actual backing tracks minus vocals — that serve as a score throughout.
While the songs help paint a portrait of a man who relied on honesty and immediacy in his writing, the more one knows Lennon minutiae, the more jarring the out-of-sequence music will seem. But “U.S.” is not aiming to display the evolution of Lennon as a songwriter, but as an artist who turned personal experience into words with universal appeal.
This review also provides more insight into John’s activism and struggles with the right-wing US government.
The movie is aided by Jon Wiener, a University of California history professor who has written extensively about Lennon’s run-ins with the F.B.I. and the Nixon administration. Several operatives assigned to investigate Lennon — some repentant, some, like the eventual Watergate jailbird G. Gordon Liddy, decidedly not — recount their versions of the case, which culminated in the government’s attempt to rescind Lennon’s visa and send him back to Britain.
When it concentrates on the particulars of Lennon’s activism and on Nixon’s apparent obsession with him, the film offers its clearest window on the past. The view also takes in some of the era’s characteristic excesses and oddities, as well as its pieties and unexamined assumptions. John Sinclair, who became a cause célèbre and the subject of a Lennon protest song after he was imprisoned for giving marijuana to an undercover officer, shows up to offer some wry hindsight.
“We were proselytizing in favor of the legalization of marijuana, and also smoking large quantities of it,” he says. The wisdom that comes with age has now convinced him that “you probably shouldn’t be doing both things at once if you want to do either one well.” Good advice.
What distinguished Lennon and Yoko Ono from many of their contemporaries was their ability to capture and make use of the absurdities of their fame. They come across as canny self-satirists in earnest devotion to a cause, and their combination of humor and guilelessness still has the power to disarm.
The “bed-ins” they conducted in Amsterdam and Montreal were impish plays for attention that seemed at once sweetly naïve and cunning, and they raised an interesting question of tactics in an age of mass media. Can famous people, just by doing odd things or singing beautiful songs, compel attention to important issues?
More background on the way the US government tried to get rid of John Lennon.
John Lennon was a product of the swinging 60s. To millions of dissatisfied youth of the time, the Beatles-and John in particular-was a figurehead of the pacifist movement. It wasn’t just his music that sparked a following, but his unabashedly ideological tirades on the political spectrum of his time. He wielded such influence over the youth that he was almost certainly a marked man-a hotbed of social activism that was an attractive target for any of the institutions he went up against. The documentary The U.S. Vs. John Lennon is one such work that tackles Lennon’s entanglements with politics and social reform, and you can read a review of it called The U.S. Vs. John Lennon Tells A Compelling, Cautionary Tale. In this article, I will point out why suspicions surrounding his murder still abound and why some believe his murder was the work of the American Institutions. …
The FBI kept meticulous files on John Lennon, revealing that he was under “constant surveillance”, to the point that he once remarked, “Listen, if anything happens to Yoko and me, it was not an accident.” His fears were not unfounded. Indeed, Lennon was a very polarizing figure, a bold, undeterred spokesman against the ongoing Vietnam War in the late 60’s and 70’s, at whose behest thousands upon thousands of adoring youth would furnish roses to bolster his message of a pacifist revolution. …
Lennon returned to the public eye after a five-year hiatus with the release of his final Grammy-winning album in the fall of 1980. At the time, Reagan was newly inaugurated into office and with the Cold War in full swing, government agenda held quite a few issues that would surely elicit opposition from Lennon. With his unfettered influence on the general public and a comeback album high on the charts, Lennon was a sizeable force to be reckoned with. Surely, his activist involvements showed no inclinations for premature retirement. Perhaps getting rid of him was the easiest way to permanently solve the problem. …
But what they could not silence was the resounding voice of one man who dared us to “give peace a chance”. Still, a grieving generation asks “why?” Why did Mark David Chapman linger outside the Dakota that fateful day, poised with a plan to kill the star propagandist of the pacifist revolution? To this day, he insists that he was never brainwashed to execute the gruesome task. What he heard was a small voice inside his own, telling him to “Do it, do it, do it.” And so he did.
Cutting Through the Political Rhetoric and Jargon that Keeps People in the Dark
As early as 1964, John Lennon opined that he wished “people would see through all the sham about war”. When he and his fellow bandmates received their MBE’s (Members of the British Empire), he quipped: “They usually only give this reward for killing people. We got it for entertaining them. I’d say we deserved it more”
It wasn’t until his last years with the Beatles and the beginning of his solo career, however, that he was able to be more vocal about his attitude towards the Vietnam War and the other conflicts happening in the world at that time. The cute and harmless image that had been built up around the Beatles was too confining, and had to be shed before he could begin to use his fame – his status as a working-class hero – as a platform for activism. In the beginning of the new millennia, as tens of thousands of people voice their opposition to American imperialism abroad, his message is as timely and relevant as ever.
Perhaps Lennon’s most memorable moment as a peace activist occurred in 1970 when he and Yoko Ono used their honeymoon to stage a “bed-in” for peace. He recorded the anthem “Give Peace a Chance” to commemorate the occasion. The couple’s reasoning was simple: they knew that the media would be hounding them regardless of what they were doing, so they took the opportunity to talk with reporters about peace and non-violent opposition, knowing that this is what would make it to the papers. The move drew a lot of criticism from various quarters. Did they really think they were saving any lives by staying in bed and eating three square meals a day? John and Yoko understood, however, that what they were really doing was airing an advertisement for peace. It was perhaps the most constructive use that could have been made of their celebrity status.
John Lennon understood that a more “intellectual” approach to confronting the problem would have been fruitless. Much of the ideology of the peace movement at that time was outlined in articles and manifestos that the average person either never read or didn’t understand. This problem persists today, as the dense and obscure political rhetoric and jargon that permeates so much of the literature about world events turns large numbers of people off from really learning about it. …
Hence the wide disparity between the proponents of war – who outline their justifications for invading foreign countries with dense booklets’ worth of rhetoric that would prove confusing even to lawyers – and the proponents of love and understanding who simply say “Give Peace a Chance”.
This list includes the full range of John’s solo songs. However, I would add “Instant Karma” (Lyrics at end of this BLOG post.) There are also many important Beatles songs that John wrote with Paul McCartney.
10. How Do You Sleep: Lennon throwing a punch at McCartney. One of a few angry Lennon songs I can think of.
9. (Just Like) Starting Over. This song was a single when Lennon died and it went to number one in the UK after his death. Symbolic and it deserved the number one spot. Unfortunately it took his life to get it there.
8. Gimme Some Truth: A political song from the «Imagine» album, protesting the Vietnam war. Nixon is referred to as “Tricky Dicky,” a nickname that ended up sticking after the Watergate scandal.
7. God: This song is different from most of what I’ve heard and it’s probably a weird pick for a top 10 list of Lennon’s best songs. I still like how it builds up and how he dares to challenge religion.
6. Mother: This song is about Lennon’s parents who abandoned him during his childhood. One of several songs Lennon wrote referring to his mother.
5. Watching The Wheels: A very personal song that is aimed at the people who told him what to do. And a very good one.
4. Working Class Hero: A definitive Lennon song although he may have not been a working class hero. The lyrics are great and the song fits the time it was written in.
3. Woman: A song Lennon wrote to Yoko Ono and one of several good ones that resulted from that relationship.
2. Jealous Guy: This song is incredible. It was written during the Beatles days, but turned out on John Lennon’s Imagine album. Beautiful melodies.
1. Imagine: Imagine is among my favorite songs throughout the history of music and is the best song John Lennon ever wrote. It’s naive, but that’s some of the beauty of it.
QUOTES BY JOHN LENNON
The Internet includes many quotes by John Lennon that are in addition to his song lyrics. He did give many interviews and was the most out-spoken and articulate member of the Beatles.
You’re just left with yourself all the time, whatever you do anyway. You’ve got to get down to your own God in your own temple. It’s all down to you, mate.
Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.
A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
All you need is love.
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 and roll or Christianity.
I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?
I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.
I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. So I’ve been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.
If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.
It doesn’t matter how long my hair is or what colour my skin is or whether I’m a woman or a man.
Love is the answer, and you know that for sure; Love is a flower, you’ve got to let it grow.
Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.
Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.
My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.
Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.
Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.
Possession isn’t nine-tenths of the law. It’s nine-tenths of the problem.
Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.
Surrealism had a great effect on me because then I realised that the imagery in my mind wasn’t insanity. Surrealism to me is reality.
The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that’s making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?
The more I see the less I know for sure.
There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known.
Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.
The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.
We were all on this ship in the sixties, our generation, a ship going to discover the New World. And the Beatles were in the crow’s nest of that ship.
You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are!
It matters not
Who you love
Where you love
Why you love
When you love
Or how you love
It matters only that you love.
We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant.
You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard
or just think it’s going to get on by itself.
You’ve got to keep watering it.
You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.
My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role,
is to try and express what we all feel.
Not to tell people how to feel.
Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.
I believe in God, but not as one thing,
not as an old man in the sky.
I believe that what people call God
is something in all of us.
I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed
and Buddha and all the rest said was right.
It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.
The older generation are leading this country to galloping ruin.
When I cannot sing my heart,
I can only speak my mind.
If world peace is not a reality when we die,
then we’ll be back. . . until it is!
When real music comes to me – the music of the spheres, the music that surpasses understanding – that has nothing to do with me, cause I’m just the channel. The only joy for me is for it to be given to me, and to transcribe it like a medium…those moments are what I live for.
The following John Lennon quotes come from a lengthy 1971 interview with Lennon done by CounterPunchers Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn. Tariq and Robin allowed Lennon to talk and spurred him on when he showed signs of flagging. The interview ran in The Red Mole, a Trotskyist sheet put out by the British arm of the Fourth International. Note that the questions and a majority of the answers are not included here. This set of comments clearly shows John had a deep and progressive understanding of society that reflects basic Marxist ideology and theory (SEE my BLOG.)
I’ve always been politically minded, you know, and against the status quo. It’s pretty basic when you’re brought up, like I was, to hate and fear the police as a natural enemy and to despise the army as something that takes everybody away and leaves them dead somewhere. I mean, it’s just a basic working class thing, though it begins to wear off when you get older, get a family and get swallowed up in the system. …
I was very conscious of class, they would say with a chip on my shoulder, because I knew what happened to me and I knew about the class repression coming down on us–it was a fucking fact but in the hurricane Beatle world it got left out, I got farther away from reality for a time. …
Even during the Beatle heyday I tried to go against it, so did George. We went to America a few times and Epstein always tried to waffle on at us about saying nothing about Vietnam. So there came a time when George and I said ‘Listen, when they ask next time, we’re going to say we don’t like that war and we think they should get right out.’ That’s what we did. At that time this was a pretty radical thing to do, especially for the ‘Fab Four’. It was the first opportunity I personally took to wave the flag a bit. …
The continual awareness of what was going on made me feel ashamed I wasn’t saying anything. I burst out because I could no longer play that game any more, it was just too much for me. Of course, going to America increased the build up on me, especially as the war was going on there. In a way we’d turned out to be a Trojan horse. The ‘Fab Four’ moved right to the top and then sang about drugs and sex and then I got into more and more heavy stuff and that’s when they started dropping us. …
I was pleased when the movement in America took up ‘Give peace a chance’ because I had written it with that in mind really. I hoped that instead of singing ‘We shall overcome’ from 1800 or something, they would have something contemporary. I felt an obligation even then to write a song that people would sing in the pub or on a demonstration. That is why I would like to compose songs for the revolution now. …
When I started, rock and roll itself was the basic revolution to people of my age and situation. We needed something loud and clear to break through all the unfeeling and repression that had been coming down on us kids. We were a bit conscious to begin with of being imitation Americans. But we delved into the music and found that it was half white country and western and half black rhythm and blues. Most of the songs came from Europe and Africa and now they were coming back to us. Many of Dylan’s best songs came from Scotland, Ireland or England. It was a sort of cultural exchange.
Though I must say the more interesting songs to me were the black ones because they were more simple. They sort of said shake your arse, or your prick, which was an innovation really. And then there were the field songs mainly expressing the pain they were in. They couldn’t express themselves intellectually so they had to say in a very few words what was happening to them. And then there was the city blues and a lot of that was about sex and fighting. …
All the revolutions have happened when a Fidel or Marx or Lenin or whatever, who were intellectuals, were able to get through to the workers. They got a good pocket of people together and the workers seemed to understand that they were in a repressed state. They haven’t woken up yet here, they still believe that cars and TVs are the answer. You should get these left-wing students out to talk with the workers, you should get the school-kids involved with The Red Mole. …
After the revolution you have the problem of keeping things going, of sorting out all the different views. It’s quite natural that revolutionaries should have different solutions – that they should split into different groups and then reform, that’s the dialectic, isn’t it–but at the same time they need to be united against the enemy, to solidify a new order. I don’t know what the answer is; obviously Mao is aware of this problem and keeps the ball moving.
Now workers are more friendly to us, so perhaps it’s changing. It seems to me that the students are now half-awake enough to try and wake up their brother workers. If you don’t pass on your own awareness then it closes down again. That is why the basic need is for the students to get in with the workers and convince them that they are not talking gobbledygook.
I think it wouldn’t take much to get the youth here really going. You’d have to give them free rein to attack the local councils or to destroy the school authorities, like the students who break up the repression in the universities. It’s already happening, though people have got to get together more. And the women are very important too, we can’t have a revolution that doesn’t involve and liberate women. It’s so subtle the way you’re taught male superiority.
It took me quite a long time to realize that my maleness was cutting off certain areas for Yoko. She’s a red hot liberationist and was quick to show me where I was going wrong, even though it seemed to me that I was just acting naturally. That’s why I’m always interested to know how people who claim to be radical treat women.
I think only by making the workers aware of the really unhappy position they are in, breaking the dream they are surrounded by. They think they are in a wonderful, free-speaking country. They’ve got cars and TVs and they don’t want to think there’s anything more to life. They are prepared to let the bosses run them, to see their children fucked up in school. They’re dreaming someone else’s dream, it’s not even their own. They should realize that the blacks and the Irish are being harassed and repressed and that they will be next.
As soon as they start being aware of all that, we can really begin to do something. The workers can start to take over. Like Marx said: ‘To each according to his need’. I think that would work well here. But we’d also have to infiltrate the army too, because they are well trained to kill us all.
We’ve got to start all this from where we ourselves are oppressed. I think it’s false, shallow, to be giving to others when your own need is great. The idea is not to comfort people, not to make them feel better but to make them feel worse, to constantly put before them the degradations and humiliations they go through to get what they call a living wage.
QUOTES ABOUT JOHN LENNON
PAUL MCCARTNEY, PLAYBOY MAGAZINE (1984) I definitely did look up to John. We all looked up to John. He was older and he was very much the leader; he was the quickest wit and the smartest and all that kind of thing.
JANN WENNER, AUTHOR Of the many things that will be long remembered about John Lennon – his genius as a musician and singer, his wit and literary swiftness, his social intuition and leadership – among the most haunting was the stark, unembarrassed commitment of his life, his work and his undernourished frame to truth, to peace and to humanity.
DAN AYKROYD, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Well, apart from John Lennon`s immense contribution to music and poetry and lyrics and rock `n` roll, he was the first celebrity that took his notoriety, his celebrity, his family and translated it across the political lines and do some good in the world.
MARIAH CAREY, SINGER: It was interesting the other night. I was watching, I believe it was the making of “Imagine.” And it was very — it was so interesting just to see how, you know, so many different sides of this incredible man. And so, you know, he`s had an enormous impact on music that we can`t even express with words. So I`m happy that, you know, we`ll all be celebrating his life.
EDIE FALCO, ACTRESS, “THE SOPRANOS”: He was a great mind, a lovely soul, and, you know, we are in very unpeaceful times right now, so it seems very relevant to notice the people that made that a priority.
DONALD TRUMP, HOST, “THE APPRENTICE”: Well, John Lennon was a special guy, a special genius in the truest sense of the word. His music was amazing. And we all miss John Lennon. He was a part of a life. And I can say he was a — his music was a big part of my life. And we miss John Lennon.
Ben & Jerry’s (and John & Yoko) launch new flavor May 27, 2008
With thanks to the Lennon Estate, the introduction of the new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor “Imagine Whirled Peace” debuted with a NYC reenactment of the “Peace Bed-Ins” staged by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969. Who says eating ice cream in bed can’t bring about world peace? Dairy delight maker Ben & Jerry’s and The Lennon Estate were expected to introduce a new ice cream flavor Tuesday called “Imagine Whirled Peace” — while re-enacting the “Peace Bed-Ins” staged by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969. The couple organized the week-long bed-ins to preach about world peace, conducting interviews with reporters. The new flavor is a caramel and sweet cream whirl of chocolate-covered peace signs and toffee pieces.
Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin’ to do
It’s up to you, yeah you
Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin’
Join the human race
How in the world you gonna see
Laughin’ at fools like me
Who in the hell d’you think you are
A super star, Well, right you are
CHORUS: Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Ev’ryone come on
Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brothers
Ev’ryone you meet
Why in the world are we here
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there
When you’re ev’rywhere
Come and get your share