The Celebration of a Troubled Genius: John Lennon (1940 –1980)
Maybe I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one... those were the worlds of John Lennon, one of the most talked about founding member of The Beatles who made a name for himself by writing timeless lyrics that touched everyone in the past, in our present time and will continue to influence many more in the future. The song-writing partnership formed by Lennon and Paul McCartney was one of the most successful partnerships of the 20th century.
On the 16th of October, 2010, in the Bluecoat, many people met to celebrate the lyrics and music of John Lennon. The event was part of the collaboration between the Philosophy in the City festival and the Bluecoat’s Chapter and Verse literature festival. This was a great opportunity to reconcile literature, philosophy, and music as disciplines that strive on each other to flourish.
John Lennon, according to the four contributors who were forming the panel to discuss his song writing and music with members of the public, was seen by many critics as a troubled soul. He lived a life surrounded by many yet felt alienated. His music presented a deep look into one’s consciousness, one’s relation to others, and one’s stand in society. Born and raised in Liverpool, his love for music started at a very early age. He formed his first band the Skiffle Craze as a teenager, later on the The Quarrymen, evolving into The Beatles in 1960. According to critics and biographers, Lennon had a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, his writing, his drawings, on film, and in interviews, that were very controversial. But where did John Lennon stand in society? He was famous, loved as a member of The Beatles who took UK by storm. A time of The Beatlemania, and yet he felt lonely, and in capable of living a happy life which led him to drugs. The panel mentioned that, according to biographer Ian MacDonald, Lennon's experience with LSD brought him "close to erasing his identity". The use of such a drug profoundly affected his songwriting, as a product of his self-examination, and in the "hallucinatory imagery" he captured in his lyrics. For example in his song, Strawberry Fields Forever", Lennon sang "'Strawberry fields...Nothing is real.' Those simple phrases had a powerful effect sharing a rhythm and a rhyme. Hence, the image and the ethos are fused in meaning for the duration of the song. Even as The Beatles disintegrated in 1970, Lennon launched a solo career including his albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine" which became title track anthems for anti-war movements, yet some of the lyrics offended religious groups. Lennon's explanation says the panel of contributors to the public, was, "If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion, but without this 'my God is bigger than your God' thing—then it can be true." Moreover, the contributors discussed how through Lennon’s work as a peace activist, his lyrics touched all generations as if he sang what everyone else, including himself, was feeling at the time in response of global events, such as his views on Vietnam War which were very criticised. Using his lyrics as a tool to address the world, he revealed his deepest fears of the future, anxieties and troubles. He addressed everyday man and woman, of all ages and said “maybe someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.” His lyrics had such an impact that other song writers started to realise that music is about the people, the events, the worries and the troubles that life brings.
Listening to the songs of Lennon in the Bluecoat again was a revival and a reminder of how words that touch our deepest sense of humanity are valued and should be treasured forever. What Lennon felt through the good times and hard times were beautifully conveyed in his songs and thankfully he caused such a revolution in song-writing and music genres to the extent that thankfully other musicians took notice which means today that he will no longer be the only one...Members of the public showed their appreciation of the event by taking part in the discussion noting that if Lennon was alive today, he will have so much more to say about the dramatic changes and divisions in our society, the ongoing invasion, where one feels alienated, unnoticed and merely attempting to survive on a daily basis a survival of the fittest scenario. Lennon says, “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”.