Lennon at 75

John Lennon would have been 75 years old today. While it’s kind of common knowledge that he was a pretty horrible human being, the greatness of his catalog of music he left us cannot be denied. In celebration of his 75th birthday, here are a few of my faves.

Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)

The video creeps me out a tad due to Yoko inexplicably knitting blindfolded but this is probably my favorite Lennon song. Incredibly, this song was written and recorded in the same freaking day. Are you kidding me? Then it was released 10 days later. The lyrics are Lennon’s call for people to take responsibility for their actions.

“It just came to me. Everybody was going on about karma, especially in the Sixties. But it occurred to me that karma is instant as well as it influences your past life or your future life. There really is a reaction to what you do now. That’s what people ought to be concerned about. Also, I’m fascinated by commercials and promotion as an art form. I enjoy them. So the idea of instant karma was like the idea of instant coffee: presenting something in a new form. I just liked it.”

– Lennon, 1980

A Day in the Life

The climax, masterpiece track from the Beatles’ magnum opus is the band at the height of their powers and I would argue their best work. A Day In The Life was inspired by a series of disconnected events that entered John Lennon’s consciousness: the death of millionaire socialite Tara Browne, his own appearance in Richard Lester’s film How I Won The War, and a council survey that found 4,000 holes in the roads of Blackburn, Lancashire. The song is a detached, dispassionate glimpse through the looking glass at the everyday life he was content to let pass him by.

In My Life

Want to feel nostalgic? No song does it better than In My Life from the Rubber Soul album. Lennon regarded this tune as one of his first great works.

“For In My Life, I had a complete set of lyrics after struggling with a journalistic vision of a trip from home to downtown on a bus naming every sight. It became In My Life, which is a remembrance of friends and lovers of the past. Paul helped with the middle eight musically. But all lyrics written, signed, sealed, and delivered. And it was, I think, my first real major piece of work. Up till then it had all been sort of glib and throwaway. And that was the first time I consciously put my literary part of myself into the lyric. Inspired by Kenneth Alsopf [sic], the British journalist, and Bob Dylan.”
– Lennon, 1980

Strawberry Fields Forever

Another Beatles masterpiece, Strawberry Fields was just more proof that the Beatles were a few steps ahead of everyone else and Lennon was the creative genius behind it. He described it as “one of the few true songs I ever wrote… They were the ones I really wrote from experience and not projecting myself into a situation and writing a nice story about it.”

“The second line [sic] goes, ‘No one I think is in my tree.’ Well, what I was trying to say in that line is ‘Nobody seems to be as hip as me, therefore I must be crazy or a genius.’ It’s the same problem as I had when I was five: ‘There is something wrong with me because I seem to see things other people don’t see. Am I crazy, or am I a genius?’ … What I’m saying, in my insecure way, is ‘Nobody seems to understand where I’m coming from. I seem to see things in a different way from most people.”

– Lennon, 1980

Working Class Hero

My favorite in Lennon’s string of political songs from the late 60’s and early 70’s. Lennon was apparently disenchanted with the way he felt workers were used by the upper classes to build wealth, and were “doped with religion and sex and TV” to remain as an underclass.

“I think it’s a revolutionary song – it’s really just revolutionary. I just think its concept is revolutionary. I think it’s for the people like me who are working class, who are supposed to be processed into the middle classes, or into the machinery. It’s my experience, and I hope it’s just a warning to people, Working Class Hero.”

– Lennon, 1970

I promised myself I would keep it to five songs so here are some more goodies honorable mention style:

Help!, I’m Only Sleeping, Revolution, Norwegian Wood, Tomorrow Never Knows, Cold Turkey, All You Need is Love

Of course, there are dozens and dozens more. Explore and enjoy.

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A lucky man. Also a lawyer. Classic oxymoron.

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