Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mr Dear John Letter by Shane Christensen

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John Lennon is without a doubt one of the most influential persons in my life, and quite possibly in the lives of an entire generation. I remember as a kid watching A Hard Days Night on TV and being utterly mesmerized by his humour and wit, as well as by his amazing musical talents and abilities as leader of the biggest musical phenomenon of the twentieth century.

Because the Beatles were Lennon’s show, especially in the pre Fab days when they played the raunchy stripper clubs in Hamburg; where they refined their musicianship to the level that would propel them to the type of fame, fortune, and influence that was previously unheard of, except maybe in the case of Elvis. The movie Backbeat is one of the finest biographies of any band or individual I’ve ever seen, and it shows a realistic and truthful account of just how driven John was to reach the heights he succeeded in reaching, in his too short existence.

As a lifelong fan of the Beatles, I was devastated when he was gunned down by a deranged individual at the young age of 40, although sadly at the time I thought he had lived a fairly long life. (I was 18 at the time). I couldn’t listen to his music for years, because it saddened me to think that he was gone, and taken in such a senseless way.

But as you get older and experience more of the up and down realities of this world, you come to realize that life can be tragically unfair to everybody, regardless of their stature or position of wealth and accomplishment. John Lennon did not deserve to die the way he did, but the sad reality is that the same can be said for a great number of public figures or regular Janes and Joes of the world.

So as time went by, I would occasionally listen to the old albums, and eventually the sense of enjoyment did return. When their catalogue was eventually released on CD, it didn’t take me long to buy everything they had produced, so I could hear it like new again, without the skipping and scratching that was on my overplayed and abused vinyl copies.

And while as a kid I loved his music simply for what it was (because it was so damn amazing) later, as a somewhat mature adult I discovered that the message found in many of those songs was equally extraordinary. It could be debated forever whether the Beatles led or followed the social and cultural movements of the time, but it can never be denied that they were more than just a profound musical influence.

And while in subsequent years, ‘tell-all’ books written by the likes of Albert Goldman would try to portray Lennon in the most unflattering or hypocritical ways, the true fans didn’t care either way. Anyone who’s lived long enough to observe human personality understands we are all capable of transgression and less than perfect behaviour. One of John’s rare traits was his willingness to publicly discuss his past indiscretions and errors, and freely admit that he could be a prick and a bastard at times.

And that’s what I loved the most about John Lennon, and I recognized it immediately as a young child watching a magical movie about the day in the life of the world’s biggest rock band. He could be the consummate joker and great entertainer, but he was also painfully honest and self-depreciating, sometimes to a fault. Although outwardly he could appear tough and brash, especially in the early days, just beneath the surface lay an intelligence, compassion, and vulnerability that defined who he was: one of most special human beings who ever walked the planet.

Thank you John for everything you gave us all during your too brief existence. You are still sorely missed by millions - for your music… and your message.

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