Tuesday, 8 December 2020

John Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) - Revolutionary Artist


It's been 40 years since the murder of John Lennon in his adopted home of New York City on 8 December 1980 by psychotic fan, Mark David Chapman.
Born on October 9, 1940,in  war-time Liverpool , John Lennon's parents, Julia and Alfred Lennon, soon seperated. His father, a merchant seaman, returned with the intention of taking the young John with him to New Zealand, and he was forced to choose between his two parents, eventually going with his mother. 
Julia prove too have a profound influence on his life. introducing him to the seminal  music of Fats Domino, and teaching him to play the banjo.
However it was a strained relationship, and Lennon  grew up largely with his aunt, Mimi Smith. He largely lost contact with his father, and his mother tragically died after being hit by a car in 1958.
Lennon started his first band, The Quarrymen, in 1956, at the age of 15.This was the genesis of The Beatles, where Lennon formed a celebrated songwriting  partnership with Paul McCartney that became one of the most successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music.They remain the best selling bands in history, having sold up to one billion albums worldwide. 
Lennon's  life went far beyond Strawberry Fields and wanting to hold hands. He was an incredibly complex person that led a life of highs and lows just like any other person. His rebellious nature  also gave his writings, interviews and work a notably acerbic and sardonic wit. A dreamer, a believer, a songwriter, a poet, an avant garde artist, a rebel, a thinker; John Lennon was all of these things, but above all he was a man full of love, though some of his action reveal that he was not without faults, and far from perfect. Through his revolutionary songwriting and ability to express his visionary ideals of peace, tolerance, multiculturalism, and independent thought, John Lennon made an impression on popular music and activism that resounds just as clearly today as it did during the era marked by the creative heights of Beatlemania.
 A man who began his career as as ordinary pop star who made  extraordinary music. During the last few years of the Beatles, Lennon was very much influenced by the ideas  lf the hippy movement. His song "Revolution " was a cynical response to  the events of 1968, Lennon sung "You say you want a revolution" but ended the verse  with " count me out"
 
The Beatles - Revolution
 
 
 But as time went on he slowly began to evolve as his fame grew, becoming radicalized through meetings and associations with sixties activists. during this time , John started  referring himself as a "Revolutionary artist."
 Lennon especially used his social status to raise awareness for war and discrimination rather than hiding his thoughts. John Lennon was a humble working class Liverpool boy and despite being at the center of attention with the achievements of the Beatles,  he never turned his back to social problems and the problems of the individuals he was raised among.
Back in 1965,  the Beatles were awarded the MBE (Members of the British Empire) by the Queen. Four years later, as John’s political awareness developed, he returned his medal in protest against British policy in the Nigerian civil war and against the Vietnam war – and also, he said in jest, to protest against his record, ‘Cold Turkey’, slipping in the charts.
 Lennon was able to present a vision of beauty and a world united from one of the most chaotic periods in recent memory, marred by governmental corruption and the Vietnam war. Songs like “Give Peace a Chance” served as a rallying cry to the anti-war movement, while songs like “Imagine” made a world at peace seem more attainable than it had ever been before. In addition to the songs he wrote, Lennon used his incredible fame as a vehicle through which to voice his opinions on both the political and basic human issues he believed in. The infamous “Bed-in For Peace” alongside his partner, Japanese artist Yoko Ono was more than a publicity stunt – behind the outlandish media spectacle was a rationality and optimism that filled the void of war and intolerance with a universal love and hope.
 After John and Yoko returned to the UK from Japan in January 1971, they gave an interview to political activists Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn of the Trotskyist  newspaper Red Mole. Almost immediately John began writing a song inspired by the interview and the day afterwards began work on the song at Ascot Sound Studios. Released on 12 March 1971, ‘Power To The People’ came from a phrase that was used as a form of rebellion against what US citizens perceived as the oppression by The Establishment. The Black Panthers used the slogan ‘All Power to the People’ to protest the rich, ruling class domination of society, while pro-democracy students used it to protest America’s military campaign in Vietnam. ‘Power to the people’, laid bare what democracy is really about. Or should be. .. According to John, “I wrote ‘Power to the People’ the same way I wrote ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ as something for the people to sing. I make singles like broadsheets. It was another quickie, done at Ascot.”

 John Lennon - Power to the People

 
 It was also during the early '70s that Lennon began to express a deeper commitment to the concerns of oppressed people of color. Lennon backed both Native-American and African-American rights. He expressed sympathy for the African-American struggle and an understanding of the need for Black consciousness. In a 1972 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, Lennon stated support for the Black Panther's Ten-Point Program and their faith in self-defense. The Ten-Point Program encompassed calls for Black self-determination, a decent education, for Black children free of racist and historical bias, as well as "land, bread, housing… justice and peace." (Huey P. Newton, War Against the Panthers, 1966)
The Black Panthers were criminalized and pathologized by the White Establishment. Former President Herbert Hoover even called the group the greatest threat to America's national security and subjected it to FBI surveillance. The party's radical reputation was partly due to its commitment to armed self-defense. Its community programs also sought to provide free health care and clothing for the poor as well as hot breakfasts for children.
Lennon's music in this period sought to reawaken the moral conscience and political consciousness of the people. He wrote songs for Black Panther campaigner Angela Davis and the co-founder of the supportive White Panther Party, John Sinclair. The latter had been sentenced to ten years in prison for a drug possession charge in 1969. Lennon performed at a concert for Sullivan in Ann Arbor in December 1971. He also wrote about Ireland's "Troubles" ("Sunday, Bloody Sunday") explicitly condemns the murders of 13 unarmed Catholic  civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland by British forces  and calls for the British to get out, .and in early 1972 attended a demonstration in New York City against the killings. 
 
 John Lennon - Sunday Bloody Sunday

 

 He penned “Attica State”, a song about the insurrection and repression of prisoners in Attica prison https://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.com/2018/09/attica-prison-uprising1971-and-its.html and attended a concert benefit for the relatives of the slain inmates on December 17th, 1971 with Ono.

John Lennon - Attica State

 He also participated that year in a demonstration with the Native-American tribe the Onondaga Indians against the government's planned construction of a freeway through their land. His song Woman is the Nigger of the World was inspired by the writings of James Connolly and paraphrases his famous quote ‘The worker is the slave of capitalist society, the female worker is the slave of that slave.’
 
John Lennon - Woman is the Nigger of the World
 
 
All this made the American system very  afraid of him. Richard Nixon even involved the FBI to deport Lennon. A past drug’s offence would be used to threaten the singer with deportation. And he would struggle to gain permanent resident status in the U.S. period to come.
Under the plan to deport Lennon who criticized  the war of Vietnam that covered between 1971 – 1972, FBI created a 300-page long file. The case was published by the end of 2006. A sentence from the report said: “The doubt that Lennon has revolutionary views is supported with official meetings with the Marxist, his songs and other published content.
The conservative US was afraid of John Lennon’s radicalism and to use his position to spread anti-war and anti-capitalist views. Whether Lennon was seen as a pacifist or a revolutionary, he used his music and visual existence to spread certain ideas around the world. Without being afraid of the consequences of his views that he supported without taking a step back, he used his fame to change certain things without forgetting his social class.
 While some of his songs might come across as simple sloganeering, “Working Class Hero” from 1970 is an insightful social commentary on class splits and how society tries to exploit folks to become cogs in the machine. It also touches how religious indoctrination and media causes people to lose sight of the big picture. Despite being a millionaire, Lennon was still able to see the world through the eyes of ordinary people. Sadly the song is more poignant than ever.

John Lennon- Working Class Hero
 
 
 Although his creative genius was lost tragically short of its time, John Lennon attained more in his forty years than most could accomplish in a hundred full lifetimes. And although Lennon’s creative output in the last eight years of his life was uneven and decidedly less political, in 1975 he withdrew from the music business to raise his son, Sean, but returned in 1980 to release the album Double Fantasy, with Yoko Ono. Three weeks after its release he was shot and killed. His death triggered an outpouring of grief on an unprecedented scale throughout the world. 
Forty years on John Lennon lives on through his music and whenever people imagine a better future. His example as a leader in social activism paved the way for the prominent activists of today. I believe that together, as individuals or in groups we can still be forces for change like John Lennon, , whether it be for human rights,  economic and social justice , working for a culture of peace , equality and freedom, in the words of John Lennon ' some people call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.' Lines from his ultimate song, ‘Imagine’,  released in 1971. It has been described as ‘a humanist plea and socialist anthem’. Its sweet slow gentle delivery hides a message that is uncompromisingly radical, even revolutionary, in its call for a world without borders, without religion, and based on sharing rather than possession. Revolutionary, but sad that we've still not moved further forward.
 
John Lennon - Imagine 
 
 
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today... Aha-ah...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

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