John Lennon’s death, 29 years on

by Steve

Steven’s post reminded me that today/yesterday is/was the 29th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.

I was but a baby when Lennon was killed, and so I can’t offer any memories on that day. However, that does mean I was born during a period where the Beatles permeated everything. Parents and teachers were fans, and so the music was there at home (via the records) and at school (where Beatles songs were a handy resource for trendier music teachers). There was no escape, not that I was looking for one.

And as I grew older, the Beatles were a constant reference point, as most bands I cared about would mention them. Without the Beatles, popular music wouldn’t have progressed as it did. That’s not hyperbole, that’s fact. Even if I had doubts over some of their work, I had to respect their influence, and certainly loved many of their songs.

This year, through the remastered versions, I’ve continued my Beatles odyssey and especially loved all the non-hits. Maybe the one problem with the Beatles is their ubiquity. Nothing sounds new if you’ve grown up with the songs. So, to hear the lesser-known album tracks has been wonderful, and the closest I’ll come to experiencing the thrill there must have been in the 60s listening to a new Beatles track for the first time.

Lennon’s death was obviously tragic. One strange side-effect for me is that the complexity of his character has, by many, been glossed over, in favour of some sort of martyrdom, as has happened for many rock/pop stars who died before their time. I think this does the man a disservice.

Someone so caustic and witty shouldn’t be beyond criticism and proper analysis, as some sort of ‘Saint John’. Hopefully I’m not just setting up a straw man argument here, and certainly don’t intend to be inflammatory on this anniversary. But, while he played a part in some of the greatest music of the twentieth century, there is more to him than that. Acknowledging lesser examples of his work and other aspects of his character are just as important to understanding the genius he had.

But, first and foremost, boy, could he write a tune. And listening to ‘Twist and Shout’ he couldn’t half belt out someone else’s tune too.