John Lennon would have turned 70 this month. Over the next couple of months there are several noteworthy, commemorative releases and events, including: all of John Lennon’s solo recordings, re-mastered and released this month; a new documentary called LennonNYC, an independent film called “Nowwhere Boy” that focuses on Lennons teen years, and the annual Imagine Peace Tower lighting in Iceland that Yoko Ono will preside at and present Peace awards.
A couple of years ago, after watching the documentary, “The U.S. vs. John Lennon“, my interest in John Lennon was renewed. Not only was this man a musical genius, but he remains an icon of the peace movement. He used his fame to influence public opinion about the Vietnam war, and in response, the US government tried to deport him, spied on him, and used intimidation to silence him. In the end, Lennon was murdered by an obsessed fan. But his legacy remains. Three songs stand out as anthems to the peace movement:
- Give Peace a Chance
- Happy Xmas (War is Over!)
These songs, and others, have been sung by hundreds of artists. In 2008, Amnesty International produced a double-disc tribute to Lennon, as a fundraiser for the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Some of the remakes are stirring. Check out the additional material at the iTunes store; you will find numerous artists with remakes of, for instance,Imagine, including Jack Johnson, Avril Lavigne, Willy Nelson, and Josh Groban. Also, .
Beyond the power of Lennon’s music, his message of peace is inspiring, and the context of his story is legendary. Richard Nixon is the perfect villain in Lennon’s hero story. The Nixon administration sought to deport Lennon because he was seen as a threat in winning the coming 1972 election—with a new voting demographic, between ages 18-21—a threat to public support for the Vietnam war, and to the establishment in general.
Isn’t it nice that we have moved beyond illegal government spying in today’s world?
(Unless you count what the Bush administration was doing for 8 years)
Lennon’s story resonates with today’s political situation in profound ways. What can we learn from Lennon and his willingness to confront the powers of his day?
First, he did not just speak out. He was also a man of action. He made donations, attended rallies, performed countless benefits concerts, and traveled to–and influenced–areas where there was injustice, such as South Africa. Also, he and Yoko purchased billboard space all over the world with a message: “War is Over! (If you want it) – Merry Christmas, John and Yoko Lennon.”
Second, he was positive about the possibility for change. He did not give up to the hopelessness that power pushes on to the masses. He empowered himself and others. His message “War is Over - If you want it” really says to us that it is not an impossible dream. He was optimistic in this regard.
Third, he made a meaningful personal life for himself. He spent time improving his marriage with Yoko, and delighted in the birth of his son, Sean. He also spent time educating himself about issues in the world. John was a true patriot of the United States. Becoming a citizen was an honor for him. One could say John had “family values” and was, nevertheless, involved in what his FBI records calls, “revolutionary activities.”
We want to highlight some other exemplary traits of John Lennon (from Larry Kane book on Lennon:Lennon Revealed).
|The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.
Some of the peace folks want violence…I want peace in the world…You gotta remember: the establishment is just another word for evil.