‘Part of me is a monk and part performing flea’- these words perhaps best express the essentially John Lennon. Lennon’s name is inextricably linked to The Beatles legend which was born 50 years ago. The mopheads who changed the course of music and expressed their thoughts, feelings and aspirations of a generation were four different men whose musical fusion never made for a personality blend. And, of the four Lennon was probably the most individualistic.
The Beatles had their first official recording in 1962 with Love Me do. Lennon had met McCartney in 1958 and after experimenting with other musicians for a couple of years, George Harrison and then Ringo Starr joined them and the band was born.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote most of the group’s hit songs. From I want To Hold Your Hand to (their first hit in the US) he went on to write songs that ran the gamut of the decade’s main moods and expressions. Twist and Shout, A Hard Day’s Night, Norwegian Wood, Strawberry Fields Forever -the list can go on. The psychedelic vision of an era was captured in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, his enigma increased with the declaration I Am a Walrus, a definite statement for his generation came in Revolution and the images coalesced in Come Together.
In 1970, The Beatles broke up bringing to an end one of the ‘60’s most enduring legends. For fans it was as if a part of each one died with this youthful exuberance, camaraderie and togetherness all took a beating. The break-up had many interpretations, but George Harrison voiced the most common one: Around 1968, everyone’s egos started going crazy.
Maybe it was just lack of tact or discretion but a lot of feeling got hurt and probably the biggest problem of all was that there was no way Yoko Ono or Linda McCartney was going to be in The Beatles. Then Paul McCartney had also sued to break up The Beatles.
By the late ‘60s all four of them were living like minor emperors, isolated, surrounded by courtiers with no life of their own. Lennon’s image as a crusader was firmly established in this post-Beatles phase with Imagine and Give Peace a Chance.
John Lennon made news constantly. In 1966 he said, “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ “.This statement earned the group the wrath, if not of God, then most of his fans. Lennon later returned the MBE awarded to all four of them in protest against the British support of the US in Vietnam.
With the death of Lennon at a measly age of 40 died the hope cherished by every Beatles fan of the Beatles reuniting. But Lennon himself had said, “The Beatles gave everything and more. But going back would be like going back to school…I was never one for reunion…It’s all over.”
Sixty years since the music started, the Beatles legend lives on with the same verve and force.
(The author Bhaskar Parichha is a Bhubaneswar based senior journalist and columnist. Views are personal)
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