October 9, 2017 would have been John Lennon's 77th 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 always a comfort during this time of year, like a tap on the shoulder, reminding us that John's wish for peace is evergreen, even if it seems as difficult to achieve today as it was in his lifetime.
John Lennon's birthday is also cause for celebration since his life and work is a powerful reminder that more than anyone before or since, John Lennon showed that rock and roll was the people's art. Rock and Roll transcends politics, language or anything else that gets in the way, and that's largely due to John Lennon's influence on popular culture.
There were no rock and roll bands to speak of in the U.S. until 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 kids. And no pop group from England had ever 'made it' in America.
"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." It would soon seem like a great job to thousands of other kids around the globe, too. 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, and listen to 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 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as the PBS television debut of 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. Now that their groundbreaking promotional videos have been released on the 1+ collection and both John's solo albums and the Beatles catalog have been remastered by Abbey Road studios, the occasion of John's birthday is a great opportunity to start from the top and play the whole catalog once more with feeling. "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."