When the world was overwhelmed with war mania and political revolutions, John Lennon was painting an image of a beautiful world with his songs of love and peace. It was the cultural revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s, galvanising the youth through the string of a guitar and thumping sound of rock music.
The Second World War had already started when Lennon was born. And the streets of his birthplace Liverpool were witnessing the ravages of German bombing. It was probably the reason for Lennon’s love for humanity and peace.
The story of John Lennon is full of twists and turns. His personality started shattering even before his birth when his biological dad deceived his mother and left them for good. At the age of 5, his mother introduced him to a guitar and piano. She then also left him after marrying another man. Shortly afterwards, Lennon found that his mother died in a car accident. The cold shoulder from his wider family, his attachment for his mother, and her sudden death left a profound impact on his artistic sense. This was a catalyst for creativity, and he produced the world-famous song “All you need is love.”
Being an orphan himself, he sang more songs for the children, just to ignite in them a spark to live a more fulfilling life. But the biggest reason for his rise to fame was his songs for youth and telling them how to live a life filled with love. In his “Bless You” album, his songs pushed the message of love further: “Whoever you are attached to, love them. With your warm hug, make them realise that your heart beats for them.”
He then left the streets of Liverpool and formed the world-renowned rock band, the Beatles.
The Beatles gave rock music a new identity. Their songs soon crossed the UK borders and swept across all the big cities like wildfire. Four young lads, with long hairs and t-shirts, started mesmerising the youth. Fans started dancing to their music. Millions of youngsters, captivated with their performance, were praising the Beatles in live concerts in all big cities across the globe. Young couples use to express their love with teary eyes and warm hugs after watching their performances. The Beatles were rising as an emerging culture, and John Lennon was a hero of this new trend. More conservative forces labelled their music as a threat to moral values, and they were called vagabonds.
The 1960s was a decade of revolutions – both from the right and left. The US war in Vietnam and the killing of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. created massive resentment in the US and the rest of the world. This was the time when Lennon’s songs pulled together rebellious characters around the world. His song “Give peace a chance” became an anthem against US aggression. Holding a guitar in his hands, John Lennon participated in all movements aimed at resistance against aggression. When the Berkeley University students were trying to occupy the university as a protest against the US war in Vietnam, they sang the Beatles’ songs. According to the veteran labour rights activist Karamat Ali, Beatles songs were played for the trade unions activists in Karachi to galvanise their emotions.
When their album “Revolution” was released, the ‘left’ world called it the music of the Communist Manifesto.
The songs of this album created ripples in the power corridors of Washington. President Nixon said that Lennon was misleading Americans and ordered for his expulsion from the US. Lennon’s life was made miserable by the FBI, and it is a part of history.
Lennon not only made the American establishment unhappy, but his song “Power to the people” also made ‘reds’ angry. Khrushchev termed the guitar the enemy of the Soviet Union, and Brezhnev even banned rock music in the country. Although the Beatles never got permission to perform in the Soviet Union, the Soviet youth listened to their songs in hiding. A close aide and the Chief of Staff of President Putin admitted that he learned English by writing Beatles’ songs in his notebook. Lennon acknowledged that being born in England, he had two options – either become a capitalist or follow his conscience and be a socialist. And he opted for the latter, as he felt more comfortable with socialism. It’s a fact that Lennon was a Trotskyist, and he also acknowledged that he sang the song “Power to people” on the advice of Pakistani-born scholar Tariq Ali, who at that time was leading a movement in Britain against US warmongering. Even though the left and right establishments were against John Lennon, the dancing on the Beatles’ songs never stopped and became a worldwide phenomenon.
Laden with money and fame, John Lennon became disappointed and ended up being an addict towards the end of the 1970s. Drug addiction ruined his creative capabilities. The Beatles’ band was dismantled. One of the band members committed suicide, and Lennon started using cocaine. Things became so desperate that the band travelled to India, hoping some sorcery may help them. They sought help and tips for getting back to life from Mahesh Yogi. Then Lennon went in seclusion along with his Japanese-born wife Yoko Ono for five years.
After five years of soul searching, Lennon admitted that “we were kids in the 60s. We shouted that we need peace, and when the wars didn’t end, we became quiet and went into hibernation. The world is cruel; it didn’t give us what we were demanding for. Now I realise that to achieve your objectives, shouting and crying is not enough.”
“I feel that my work will not end until I die. My mission will continue until I’m buried. The work will continue”.
This realisation led him to start working on the “Double Fantasy” album. In this album, he sang a song “Beautiful boy” for his son Sean. This was his last album. On the title of this album, there is a picture of him kissing his wife. There are many hit songs in this album. His last song was “Walking on thin ice I’m paying my price.”
His last day was hectic. In the morning in a photoshoot, there was one picture in which he hugs his wife with love and affection. And admittingly says, “maybe I never loved with full intensity.” John Lennon spent most of his last day in New York’s Dakota building, recording his songs. When he got close to his home near the recording studio, he sees the same young man who took his autograph a few hours earlier. In his last picture, the same young man can be seen with a smiling pose. As Lennon turns to the staircase, he falls on the floor after two gunshots. With him, cassettes of his new album “Double Fantasy” also get dropped on the blood flowing from his body. The same youngster holding a gun in one hand and the cassette with Lennon’s autograph tells the police out loud that he has killed John Lennon.
Although many decades passed since Lennon died at the young age of 40, his songs are still the epitome of resistance and human values today. In the US, a Syrian war victim girl sings along to his song “Drive my car” and congratulates Saudi women on the lifting of the driving ban in their country. UNICEF promotes his song “Imagine” as the title for song for the children affected by war across the world. In the city centre of Prague, Lennon wall is loved by the tourists and artists as much as his songs for love and peace. Lennon’s smiling face in the pictures of the Beatles poster hanging in a guest house in Kathmandu appeals to tourists.
Maybe Lennon’s song “Imagine” will remain the title song for a peaceful world, until his dream-like songs become a reality.