I wanted to write something here about John Lennon yesterday, on the 25th anniversary of his death, but marking the death of those we seek to celebrate seems like an odd practice. We’re only interested in celebrating people’s birth when they’re alive.
It’s kind of backward really, but considering how we elevate influential people to mythical status after their deaths, and conveniently gloss over anything unpleasant they might have done, I suppose it’s understandable.
I can’t help but compare John Lennon to another populist musical icon, Bob Marley. Though their messages were different in some ways – Marley, like most of the Reggae musicians of the 70’s, was more about justice than peace – they both had a tremendous positive impact on huge numbers of people around the world.
Unfortunately, I don’t get the feeling that Lennon is gaining in popularity and legend the longer he’s gone. Younger people don’t seem to embrace his music the way many of them do Marley’s, but that may just be the result of the Marley family’s relentless PR and marketing machine.
As much as some people derided and disliked Yoko Ono during Lennon’s life, she has been very careful about protecting his legacy and sparing us hundreds of LENNON®™ T-shirts and lunchboxes. I, for one, thank her for that. Musical fashion is fickle anyway, and I fully expect to see a resurgence of appreciation for Lennon’s music at some point.
One thing I find very interesting is that like Marley, Lennon was not raised, for the most part, by his parents. You have to wonder if that had anything to do with their peace and justice world views.
The fact that as a child your parents are your world, and that your personality is pretty much fully formed by the time you’re seven years old is undeniable. Removing someone from their parents has a profound effect on them, and both Marley and Lennon were angry troublemakers early in life, and eventually rejected traditional society, religion and politics, denouncing them as tools of oppression.
Both men also died long before they had to, which is what makes their memories so bittersweet. But very few people can lay claim to such a far reaching positive influence, and for that, neither should ever be forgotten.