The Friday Morning Listen: John Lennon – Imagine (1971)

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by Mark Saleski

I remember exactly where I was when I found out. I was hanging out in a friend’s first floor dorm room in Aroostook Hall at the University of Maine. The only things I can remember about him are that his name was Fred and he was from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. I walked into the room and he said, “Hey, did you hear John Lennon died?”

End of story. There wasn’t a big reaction on my part because neither John Lennon nor the Beatles meant all that much to me at the time. I’d be willing to wager that the only Beatles albums I owned were Magical Mystery Tour and The White Album.

Even though I had spent the better part of the previous five-or-so years stuffing my head full of every fact, opinion, and blurt to be found on the pages of Creem, Crawdaddy, and Rolling Stone, not much of the John Lennon-related content fully resonated with me. I guess I still felt like a kid, so things like peace activism, love, religion, karma…that stuff was for “adults,” you know?

It was really only a couple of years later that a lot of these ideas began to come into focus. I began to miss the John Lennon that I never really knew. His sense of humor, sharp wit, and sense of purpose — these were things that I could see in myself. I do have to admit that part of the attraction was the sneering opposition to his ideas. Many thought the thesis of “Give Peace A Chance” was essentially a naive one. Others believed “Imagine” to be subversive for daring to suggest (among other things) a world with no religion.

He pissed people off. Even his wife annoyed them! (For the record, I love Yoko). I knew he must have been onto something.

After a few years of actual living in adult world, I became aware of many of the moral inconsistencies that must have made his detractors so uncomfortable. I met many “religious” people who twisted the very words of their faith to support things atrocities such as the death penalty, torture, and war. God bless America and all of that. I met others who railed about “government expansion” while receiving nice fat paychecks from their defense contractor employers. It was then that really began to miss John Lennon.

Tomorrow would have been his 70th birthday. There are going to be a lot of articles just like this one, wondering just what John would be up to if he was still around today. It’s really hard to say. It’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t be making music. Would he still be pissing people off with his statements? That’s very likely as well, partly because he seemed driven by the kind of inner direction that’s hard to snuff out…but also, it’s pretty easy to annoy people these days.

At least we can comfort ourselves with the wonderful music, and with the fact that many of his ideas probably still annoy those same people. Imagine that!

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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