John Lennon was a complicated man. A leader from the outset, a rebel in search of a cause, a guy who saw Elvis Presley as a role model. Though Lennon would come to question every facet of fame, at the beginning that, and money, was what he wanted.
Lennon was an artist before he was a musician. His verbal wit and clever drawings drew the attention of family, friends and teachers. He would be the first Beatle to publish a book. But, he knew from the moment he heard Rock’n Roll that he loved it. That was what he wanted to do. He also had the conviction, the true belief that he and his band were going to be big. Brian Epstein couldn’t have known when he told “the boys” at their second meeting they were going to be bigger than Elvis, that Lennon was thinking “You’re fookin right.”
What I loved about John from the beginning - that directness. The way he stood, Rickenbacker in hand, screaming into the mic, eyes dead ahead. The voice with it’s ragged edge, ripped like fabric singing “Twist and Shout.”
As the years passed and the Beatles underwent their various transformations, John lyric’s reflected became more circumspect. It’s ironic that his first song to suggest there might be trouble in paradise “Help” would be the title for such a superficial film. The Beatles, and Lennon in particular, were growing up fast in order to cope with the fame they had so desired.
The balance that John struck with Paul as songwriters, borne of admiration and competition, pushed them in new directions. Their fierce work ethic, touring, recording, filming, not to mention their personal lives, reflected a ferocious desire to learn and grow. Lennon’s growth is reflected in his tendency toward using the first person in songs. Paul tending more to the third person, telling stories in his songs. John looked inward for inspiration and in their middle period used his innate verbal wit to paint colorful pictures that often obscured the real feelings he was experiencing. By the time the Beatles split up, John had found Yoko and his voice, one that was direct, unwavering and often uncompromising.
Lennon is a hero to me because of his extraordinary vulnerability. He is wildly contradictory, going from humble to ego maniac in 60 seconds. In his last published interview in the December issue of Playboy in 1980, he said “You know that they say - life begins at 40.” But, that was just like John, to take his own reality and shape it into something truly vital.