Saturday, December 08, 2007

Remembering John Lennon

December 9th was such a strange day in a way. The previous night a prolific creator of new exciting, inventive and melodic music, who was blessed with a unique, interestingly engaging voice, was shot and killed. As a post-high school student at the time, the day after started normally. Oddly, throughout the whole day, no one mentioned it, no talk from instructors or fellow students. But upon seeing the Telegram's headline after the 5 o'clock class, shock, sadness and disbelief immediately set in. It was inconceivable, 40 year old Lennon dead by gunshot. Could this be a reporting mistake in the paper? Well, supper time news confirmed it, as the story was the story for days. It was way too early for old film clips of the Beatles concerts or press conferences to be replayed as part of an obituary for one of them, but yet, there it was.

He had just released a double album, the first release of new material in five years, and was planning to do a follow-up tour in 1981. Lennon by this time had also written enough material for another album. Since the Beatles broke up in 1970, the world wanted them to reunite. For years bitter court disputes, and some hard feelings between the lads after the breakup, had dashed any possibility of them reuniting. However, after the mid-70's John Lennon and Paul McCartney were becoming a little closer. It was possible that had he lived there may have been a Beatles reunion in some way, either new recorded music, or a concert, or tour. In a 1974 video-taped interview with a friend, Elliott Mintz, he said that it was possible that there was a good chance that the Beatles as a group would some day, make music together.

(Actually, that same year, there was a recording with John and Paul singing together. It was not a polished piece of serious music business, rather, the two along with Stevie Wonder and some other friends jammed and did a cover of Lucille, and a couple of other songs. It was rough, but interesting to hear Lennon & McCartney sing in the same room after the break-up.)

A few years ago, a British survey revealed that the majority of British people considered Lennon's voice to the the greatest of all time. That opinion differs from place to place and from time to time. But there is some quality about his voice that is clear, identifiable, and convincing. He could be a soft singer as in the perfect "Across the Universe", "In My Life" or "A Day in the Life". Or it could be powerful, partially raspy, with a controlled screechy kind of scream as in "Revolution" or their cover of "Twist and Shout". A song of his could have soft voice sections, and at different times seque into a passionate, throaty "screech", while still being a clearly enunciated expression, as in the refrain, "Don't Let Me Down", or "I'm So Tired". He sang with conviction.

Combined with catchy, upbeat but sometimes interestingly but strangely arranged music compositions as in "I Am the Walrus" or "Tomorrow Never Knows", Lennon's voice completed the high quality of each song. Together, Paul McCartney and John Lennon sang in perfect harmony. Their voices both incredibly strong, and unique, blended on so many high notes, as in "Ticket to Ride" to strike an emotional string in the listener. It was mesmerizing musical magic. All four Beatles had unique and distinct voices, but John and Paul's together complimented so perfectly to make beauty from sound.

He gave the world wonderful music, a fascinating voice, and peaceful words. Lennon was ahead of his time when it came to marketing peace - spending a honeymoon in a hotel room with the world's media around to get people talking and thinking about peace. He wrote the simple sounding but sweet "Imagine" with political change in mind, and later admitted to Rolling Stone magazine, "now I know how to make social and political statements in song, accepted - sweeten it with honey." John Lennon was a complex and very creative person, a clever writer and music maker. He left fantastic music, while reminding the world that peace and understanding is possible.

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