I was sitting in a Starbucks recently and a track from John Lennon’s Double Fantasy came over the restaurant’s sound system. I was 15 years old when that album came out, and had already been a Beatles/Lennon fan for a decade. I remember how that album, from the first three bell tones of its first hit single Just Like Starting Over seemed to herald a new age for this brilliant songwriter. Clean and sober, ready to literally start over, ready to share his remarkable talents with the world once again.
Lennon seemed to possess a triple threat as a songwriter: brilliant wordplay combined with enormous tenderness, as well as the ability to create memorable hooks or riffs that guaranteed permanent implant into a listener’s ears and heart.
His death happened long before the age of social media or even cellphones. In an era when newspapers and television reigned, expressions of regret over his death came from all corners of the globe, even from the dark interiors of the Soviet Union, an unheard-of connection with the West which presaged the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the Soviet system itself. It showed just how pervasive beautiful music actually was; to penetrate the darkest, most oppressive areas of the world, to flourish among its people.
Obviously the songwriting team of Lennon & McCartney produced a dizzying collection of monster hits, any one of which most bands would trade their souls to claim as their own. And Sir Paul has continued to thrive, creating beautiful pop tunes, and entertaining well into his seventh decarde.
But Lennon had a deeper, more introspective style. He seemed able to touch people with his poetry, cynicism, and his message of peace in a way that went beyond music itself. Dare I say that his approach was on par with the peaceful “non-action” actions of people such as Gandhi and Mandela. Yes, these men suffered much more, but all three changed the world through non-violence and sheer charisma.
Others have come along to attempt to fill the Lennon shoes: Bono comes to mind. Yet for all of Bono’s star power, there seems to be something essentially corporate about him. He has the power to flirt with world leaders, he speaks at Davos, and can look the Pope in the eye, but he seems, at least to this observer, to still be one of them. Lennon was never one of them. How would the various leaders of the world’s countries and multinationals have responded to his political fearlessness?
How different would the world be if Lennon had not been taken from us?
Take 9/11, for example. For such a tragedy to unfold right in the middle of Lennon’s beloved adopted hometown. What tune could he have written? What call for global peace could have been wrung from his soul to match and exceed the magnitude of this carnage? I believe the world would by now have a new and universal anthem for peace, had he had the chance to write it; a magnum opus from a man dedicated to non violence.
And what of any additional work with McCartney? There is no doubt they would have come back together. The world would have demanded it.
Of course I could be totally wrong. Maybe he would have turned into a parody of himself, botoxed, facelifted, and unwilling to let go of his youth, like Steven Tyler. Maybe he would have matured into a genteel older version of himself, like Sting or Peter Gabriel. Or maybe he would have died anyway, from something natural or unnatural. But had he been able to have stayed with us, his words and art would still have to come out. He would have been a force to be reckoned with, creatively, socially, politically and musically.
He left behind both towering achievements and an indefinable void, with the rest of us just wondering what might have been.
One response to “What if John Lennon had lived?”
The sixties saw a social, political and philosophical awakening and ‘wising up’ to the corruption and criminality of the establishment, not least the crimes of the war-mongering, freedom-crushing government.
It’s generally forgotten that this movement started out as an passionate ‘grown up’ affair with students and university lecturers alike debating, protesting and generally redefining their reality based on their own morality, critical thinking and philosophy (rather than propaganda).
Then, as some people who where there describe it, “out of nowhere” the whole movement was suddenly invaded by hippies. They quickly redefined the whole movement (at least in the eyes of the general public) in terms of smoking pot, wearing tie dye, being relaxed about personal hygiene and rolling about in the mud at folk/ rock/ pop festivals.
In short, they helped to neutralise this this whole movement by giving it a look and feel which would be offensive, or simply laughable, to mainstream society.
There is strong evidence to indicate the entire ‘hippie/ flower power’ movement was subverted – if not totally manufactured from the start – by the military industrial complex in order to shut down (or rather, dumb down) the whole anti war/ anti establishment awakening.
The number of ‘peace and love’ icons of the 60’s who came from military intelligence families is too high to be merely a coincidence. And the fact that they all congregated in LA (where there was no music scene) at precisely the same time and they proceeded to invent and define the 60’s counter culture in a matter of months also seems beyond coincidence. This is discussed by David McGowan HERE (see the video info for links to his amazing set of articles on Laurel Canyon)
Many researchers suggest the Beatles were also part of this agenda to dumb down the political/ social/ philosophical/ spiritual awakening of the youth and turn it into hedonism, nonsense, fashion and ultimately just another form of consumerism (which is what it soon became and still remains to this day).
This is not to say the Beatles (or John specifically) were necessarily aware of how they were being used. Some suggest John was murdered because he started to become aware of this agenda and was realising how he had been manipulated and used to turn deep (albeit simple) philosophy into shallow fashion.
I am no expert on the Beatles, but the evidence related to Laurel Canyon is beyond compelling.
Bono sold out to the ‘ruling elite’ a long time ago. The fact that he was always ‘political’ meant if he *hadn’t* sold out he would probably no longer be with us.
These days the music industry is so controlled it pretty much decides which acts make it and which do not. That is why there are no big name acts with ‘controversial’ messages like “war is bad”. The music industry (as a propaganda branch of the corporate world in general) has redefined ‘controversial’ in terms of wearing a dress of meat or exposing your breast on TV.
These days even girly pop music aimed at children and teenagers promotes war. This makes Nazi propaganda look tame by comparison. And, being propaganda, nobody can see it for what it is!
Interestingly Michael Jackson also started speaking out against the music industry and seems to have started to become aware of how he had always been controlled (and abused). His “They don’t care about us” video featured some telling symbolism and lyrics. He had also finally become a free agent and was free of all record contracts and a major shareholder in Sony if memory serves. Soon after ‘breaking free’ of the industry his career and life was ‘terminated’.
I often think John Lennon did more to promote (or at least ‘validate’) violence and war than any other popular icon, by depicting peace as a some kind of unobtainable utopian fantasy, rather than the natural condition of 99.9% of the population.
Thanks to the 60’s when most people think of ‘peace’ they think of hippies. And the next thought they have is “Yeah, and just look what happened to them”.