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We All Shine On: A Tribute to John Lennon

PopMatters presents our eight-day tribute to the revolutionary, the pop smart avant-garde idealist who let his art and his actions do all of the talking (even when he had lots to say personally).

Edited by Bill Gibron and Produced by Sarah Zupko

Had he lived, he would have celebrated his 70th birthday in 2010. In another bout of numerological happenstance, he was murdered 30 years ago, when he was only 40. It’s enough to make those who believe in the ‘Power of 10’ do a double-take. In some strange cosmic design, it makes sense that the one ex-cultural phenomenon whose life was a serious of trials, triumphs, and traumas,  would leave this planet in an equally sudden and shocking manner. For many John Lennon was the iconic Beatle, the revolutionary, the pop smart avant-garde idealist who let his art and his actions do all of the talking (even when he had lots to say personally).

After a decade of UK limelight, Lennon moved to America to seek the freedom the nation promised. Unfortunately, the unmannered yanks provided another kind of exile for the cloistered object of adoration to deal with. He was soon an English ex-patriot targeted by the FBI upon moving to New York, such a threat to the sitting Nixon administration that an old drug charge became the basis for a long and drawn-out deportation struggle. Apparently, the US presidency was scared witless over the influence a former mop top with a strong political leaning could have over an already lit social powderkeg.

But in the decades since his death, in the formative part of his now oversized mega-myth, a lot about who and what John Lennon really was has been lost. Few remember his initial “solo” offering—bizarro world sonic experiments with soon to be wife Yoko Ono pushing the boundaries of his muse (and the patience of his flummoxed fans). Others forget that he disappeared from the public eye for the latter half of the ‘70s, playing house husband and doting father while former bandmates ruled the airwaves with silly love songs and tales of their times in Crackerbox Palace. Unlike Paul McCartney, George Harrison—heck, even Ringo Starr—Lennon was never one to let Billboard and the bemoaning of his public dictate what he did. Even when his inspiration turned inward and angry, the vitriol was almost universally met with a kind of religious adoration that he himself would find repugnant. Still, he carried his legend like a champion, never really letting his fame foil his need to be his own man.

In the end, such openness would cost him his very life—and it is, perhaps, the reason why he remains so adored by millions… even those who weren’t born when Mark David Chapman decided to play a very fatal version of Holden Caufield on the world’s working class hero. Hoping to put Lennon in a bit of perspective, trying to make sense of the constant schizophrenic dichotomy that was his fractured and flawed post-Fab Four world, PopMatters offers this tribute. We will take a look at his solo albums, his media presence outside music, his friendships and foibles, impact and misplaced import. The perspective will be both personal and slightly generalized, hoping to avoid the fawning facets of your typical accolade. He was more than a monument. He was less than an all wise and all knowing universal guru. While the famous line from his classic track “Instant Karma”—“we all shine on”—may not truly apply to everyone, it definitely fits who and what Lennon is today. Even as the years continue to pass, there is a fire and passion for this man that stays eternal. All these later, he still burns brightly.

—Bill Gibron

Tuesday, November 23 2010

There’s No Heaven: The Death of John Lennon

The murder of John Lennon was more than just the end of the Beatles. It was the end of a specific segment of pop culture.

You Are Here: The 10 Best John Lennon Solo Songs

Ten Snippets from the Solo Sonic Psychology of John Winston Ono Lennon.

Monday, November 22 2010

Revolutionary Man: John Lennon As Political Artist

John Lennon helped to transform the art and image of the pop star. His very public political activism and socially and politically aware lyrics have earned him a prominent place in the creative and political history of rock.

John Lennon 101 - Day 7: Odds and Sods (1984 - 1986)

In the end, Lennon's cultural import deserved better than his mid-'80s offers, a pair of collections that feel more like leftovers than legitimate parts of his legacy.

Sunday, November 21 2010

The Cult of Memory in the Music of John Lennon and the Beatles

In some ways, John Lennon's solo career was a response to his time as a Beatle. In others, it was something much more personal.

‘Double’ Disappointment

While it might seem sacrilegious to say it, John Lennon's last album wasn't the watershed it was supposed to be. In fact, it's really not very good.

John Lennon 101 - Day 6: Then… and Now (1975 - 1980)

Lennon's decade ends with a cobbled together collection of tracks. His new decade opens with the promise of 'starting over'...and an untimely end to said pledge.

Thursday, November 18 2010

Renaissance Rebel: Lennon Outside Music

While his greatest legacy remains sonic, John Lennon also dabbled in other artforms that only enhanced his personal and professional legacy.

John Lennon 101 - Day 5: Let’s Play House (1974 - 1975)

Settling his affairs with Yoko and suddenly finding himself a new father, Lennon learns to let go... and almost doesn't return.

Wednesday, November 17 2010

“Bring on the Lucie”: Lennon’s Last Overtly Political Stand

To this day, "Bring on the Lucie (Freda People)" is Lennon's sound of change, a change one writer will always believe in.

Lennon and Location: Someone’s Time in New York City

Lennon's new adopted country and hometown became the inspiration for one of his most sprawling, savage albums.

John Lennon 101 - Day 4: The Lost Weekend (1972 - 1973)

As his relationship with Yoko hits the skids, Lennon embarks on a series of LPs that explore his favorite elements -- politics and personal growth.

Tuesday, November 16 2010

The Sentimental Journey of “Imagine”

Once it was a simple song of hope and quiet revolution. Thanks to the media, "Imagine" now has a wholly misunderstood message.

John Lennon 101 - Day 3: New Classicism (1970 - 1971)

With the wild flights of experimental fancy over, Lennon reinvents himself as a post-Beatle poet with two amazing LPs.

Monday, November 15 2010

John Lennon and Paul McCartney: The Friendship Heard ‘Round the World

Two unbelievably talented friends changed the world with their music, but the strain of normal life changes and out-of-control fame would test their bond. Meanwhile, most of their fans separated into two hotly debated sides that often miss the whole point.

John Lennon 101 - Day 2: The Dream Is Over (1969)

The Beatles finish the process of breaking up while their flummoxed 'frontman' continues his experimental explorations.

Sunday, November 14 2010

“I Don’t Believe in Beatles”: John Lennon’s Minimalist Journey to Independence

How an audacious, daring record from a disgruntled ex-Beatle became a major musical landmark.

John Lennon 101 - Day 1: Let’s Experiment! (1968 - 1969)

Lost, in love, and unburdened by the demands of his oppressive fame, Lennon joins his newfound soul mate on two unusual releases.

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