October 8, 2018 would have been John Lennon's 78th birthday and whether you grew up hearing John's music as he made it or are too young to remember the '60s and '70s (many who were there can't remember either), his birthday is a powerful reminder that his wish for peace remains both elusive and evergreen, with each generation renewing his mantra of "Give Peace A Chance" often at great risk. More than anyone before or since, Lennon demonstrated that rock and roll was the people's art and could transcend politics, borders, and language.
Rock and Roll had all but faded into oblivion when The Beatles arrived in New York in February 1964 to play the Ed Sullivan Variety Show. Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley, and Little Richard were a distant memory to most American kids. Perhaps that's what made their debut so impactful.
"When I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show,
" recalled the late Tom Petty, "it was like a lightning bolt to the brain. Oh, I get it. You get some friends together, you learn an instrument, and there you go. They were a self- contained unit. It was a brilliant. It seemed like a great job to me."
For The Beatles, who endured death, disease, and destitution on their way to the top, playing in a band wasn't a matter of choice, it was a matter of survival. But the lads most certainly would not have made it to the toppermost of the poppermost without John as their inspiration. "John had a lot of power,
" George Harrison recalled in the documentary, Living In the Material World
. "Sometimes they pick somebody to march behind on the way to war and John was certainly out front."
And indeed, if one is going to make it to the top in pop music, that's just the kind of fellow you want out front.
Today, you can hang an Epiphone Casino
in the window of any music store and even people who don't play an instrument would still recognize the Casino as the guitar John Lennon played when he sang "Revolution." So today, listen to the music, watch the many great clips of John and his wit in action, check out the new re-mastered box set of Imagine,
and listen to the rest of his fantastic body of work that still enriches our imagination. This year, The Beatles are once again in the news with the release of the new stereo remix of The Beatles White Album
. Also, be sure to check out the Ron Howard documentary Eight Days A Week
which makes the case--as if it needed to be made at all-- that not only were the fellows very close friends, they were also a terrific live
band. "The things the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibilities we all had," said Lennon. "It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility."