In the early 1970s, John Lennon and Yoko Ono published a full-page ad in the New York Times that said simply: War Is Over! If You Want It! Happy Christmas, John & Yoko, an annual tradition that Ono continues today.
And whether you grew up hearing John's music as he made it or you're too young to remember the '70s (many who were there can't remember the '70s either), these messages are still a comfort during this time of year, like a tap on the shoulder reminding us that John's wish for peace is alive and very relevant, as if he too is somewhere still watching the wheels, "baking bread, feeding the cats, and sometimes ordering pizza" - as he described his life in an interview with the BBC in December, 1980 shortly before he was killed outside his apartment in New York.
More than anyone before or since, John Lennon made Rock and Roll into art - the people's art. And today, Rock and Roll continues to transcend politics, language or anything else that gets in the way, inspiring change, inciting protest, resiliance and peace, too and that's largely due to John Lennon.
This year, The Beatles were once again in the news as fans thanks to Ron Howard's film Eight Days A Week which explored life in the Beatles bubble as the quartet toured the world as the first modern pop music heroes. "It became very complicated," said Paul McCartney at start of the film, "but it started off very simple." Eight Days A Week makes the case that The Beatles were a band in concert and were thoughtful--even cautious--about every step they took as artists. All of these happenings were predicted by Lennon and boyhood pal Paul McCartney, who dreamed of taking over the world with Rock and Roll. But McCartney would be the first to say that Lennon's belief in The Beatles helped to make the lads the "toppermost of the poppermost."
Without John Lennon, would there be guitar stores in every city, all over the world? Today, you can hang an Epiphone Casino in the window of any music store and even people who don't play an instrument will recognize the Casino as the guitar John Lennon played when he sang "Revolution."
Sure - Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly were at the center of their own revolutions. ("If you had to give rock and roll another name," said Lennon on the Mike Douglas Show, "you could call it Chuck Berry.) But the idea that you could change the world with an electric guitar and a message of peace belongs to John Lennon. And all over the world, kids can look at that guitar and think: "I can make a difference."
The Epiphone Casino became part of The Beatles story in 1965 and once John Lennon purchased one in 1965 it remained part of his music throughout his life. In late 1964, Paul McCartney purchased a Casino in London shortly after spending an evening at John Mayall's house, listening to blues artists like Otis Rush (Epi Riviera), Magic Sam (Epi Casino) and B. B. King (ES-355--notice a pattern?). All of these artists were exploring the curious phenomenon known as feedback. Inspired (and perhaps with a tad of brotherly envy), both George Harrison and Lennon bought matching Casinos in London in 1965. It was neither the most expensive nor the most unique guitar of its day. But it was - as it is now - a great and versatile instrument. After all, what else do you need?
Soon after, the whole world became aware of the Casino during The Beatles' world tour in 1966, which was fraught with controversy in the U.S., the Philippines, and elsewhere. Throughout the rest of the '60s, the Epiphone Casino was Lennon's main guitar in the studio and can be heard on virtually all of his records through the sessions for Double Fantasy.
Even the most dedicated guitar fan and John Lennon fan (which makes most of us) might be surprised that John was an enthusiastic tinkerer of his own guitars. Lennon's Casino (along with all his other guitars) went through subtle changes in hardware, tremolo systems and color finishes. Each change seemed to reflect the tone of his music. His Casino was a stock sunburst in the mid-'60s, spray painted white (on the back) for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, stripped natural for the "White Album" and Plastic Ono Band era, and probably was slated to be refinished again.
And today at the end of 2016, John Lennon remains both a rock and roll hero and a man of peace. And the Casino is still considered his iconic instrument. Photographs of Lennon are still just as striking as ever, whether you're looking at photos by Astrid Kirchherr or Jurgen Vollmer from the early '60s or Lennon hanging out with Cheap Trick, making sketches for Double Fantasy in 1980. During this time of year, it's also moving to revisit John's spirited and candid interviews. They are all over the place, if you care to look, and his last interviews are full of warm and generous quotes about his old mates, The Beatles, as well as his peers.
If you can find it, check out John's long interview with Brian Peebles of the BBC, made in December 1980, where Lennon comments on a wide range of topics from his appreciation for "brother" Paul McCartney ("I admire him. He's one of the most innovative bass players ever"), Beatle bootlegs ("we were great at the BBC"), David Bowie ("he's such a talent. And you never know which one you're talking to"), his fondness for new wave acts like B-52s ("they're copying Yoko to a 'T'") and his love for heroes Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Elvis. Here, you'll also find lots of funny moments, too, especially his comments about stereo sound - "I was never sold on stereo. Why didn't we just put the drums in the middle? I'll have to ask George Martin."
From friends, we hear little-known facts and they all seem priceless. Lennon was Peter Boyle's best man, a fan of Fawlty Towers, a disciple of jazz pioneer Charlie Christian (John added Charlie's trademark pickup to his Les Paul Special), and sailed a small boat to safety during a storm in the Bermuda triangle. And then there are the very funny Beatles Christmas fan club records and old clips with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook.
War is still not over and peace seems once again a high concept. But if you ever doubt that one person can make a big difference, think of John Lennon. Thanks to his belief that rock and roll could change the world, it did. And somewhere in the world, right now, there is a kid looking in the window of a guitar store at a Casino and thinking: "that's the Revolution guitar... cool."