Monday, September 14, 2009

John Lennon's Mysteriousness Stemmed from Family Relations

This is the eighth installment in a series about a book I'm reading called Stories Done, which is a great collection of tales of excess from counter-culture leaders.

Plenty has been speculated about why John Lennon was the way he was. And the author of this book, Mikal Gilmore (pictured below), who gained fame (or infamy) this past month with his cover story in Rolling Stone about the ugly breakup of The Beatles, adds to the mystery with this essay.

John's father was absent at sea most of the time, liked to drink, and never really had much of a relationship with his son. His mother, who died while walking down the street in 1958 from being hit by a car driven by a drunk off-duty policemen, was impulsive and rebellious.

Alfred Lennon told John, age 5, to choose between his mother and father when the two were divorcing. At first he chose Alfred but switched to Julia when he saw how much pain she was in because of his decision. "The truth is, Lennon had inherited more of his mother's spirit than he understood. He lived intensely in the moment ... but when those moments had passed, he liked to move on."

Gilmore's thesis is that Lennon wanted to move on through most of the last years of The Beatles. When he met Yoko Ono, it inspired "a new adventurism" for Lennon, who once admitted he used Yoko to gain the strength to realize "there is another side to life."

Lennon's bed-ins and lie-ins for peace were intended to try and "change his own heart as much as anybody else's." He added, "It's the most violent people who go for peace. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I'm a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence." I take this to mean that a lot of the global pop overthrow created by The Beatles was in fact violent mass manipulation and caused many negative side effects, in Lennon's mind, along with all the positive effects their music had on society.

After a series of personal battles to stay in his adopted New York City throughout the 1970s, including efforts by the Southern racist Senator Strom Thurmond to deport Lennon before he could publicly protest Nixon's reelection efforts, he had Sean Lennon and settled down to a whole different kind of life. John always attempted to be the father to Sean that he lacked growing up and that he wasn't to his first child Julian during The Beatles' heyday. The result was two great and very domestic and utopian albums at the close of his life, Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey.

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