John Lennon once composed a song that describes the opposite of the world we’ve made since his death in 1980.
Imagine a global community that nurtures all kids, where a kid with a gift for lyrics can grow up to become one of the Beatles.
John Lennon was born to the British working class during the bombings of
Liverpool on October 9, 1940,
He was the son of a Merchant Seaman who went AWOL in 1944.
When his Father returned six months later, John’s Mother, Julia, rejected
a reconciliation because she was pregnant with another man’s child.
Liverpool’s Social Services forced Julia to give John to her Sister.
Lennon’s Father gradually vanished from his life.
Lennon described his reaction:
…I was the one who all the other boys’ parents—including Paul’s father—would say, ‘Keep away from him’… The parents instinctively recognized I was a troublemaker, meaning I did not conform and I would influence their children, which I did. I did my best to disrupt every friend’s home… … Partly out of envy that I didn’t have this so-called home…
In today’s classist lingo, John Lennon was a chav.
Lennon’s parents belonged to a horrified and war-weary generation that regulated the economy and expanded access to education as a way to prevent fascism.
In post war Britain:
Prosperity returned in the 1950s, reaching the middle class and, to a large extent, the working class across Britain. London remained a world centre of finance and culture, but the nation was no longer a superpower. In foreign policy Britain promoted the Commonwealth (in the economic sphere) and the Atlantic Alliance (in the military sphere). In domestic policy a Post-war consensus saw the leadership of the Labour and Conservative parties largely agreed on Keynesian policies, with support for trades unions, regulation of business, and nationalisation of many older industries.
Higher education expanded rapidly and attracted an international clientele, while debates raged on the elitist effect of grammar schools. The status of women slowly improved.
And in the United States:
The United States emerged from World War II in a position to become an economic superpower. From 1945 to 1973, American workers enjoyed higher wages, greater job security, and a steadily improving standard of living. Workers in unions made even greater gains, including not only substantially higher wages but also health insurance and pensions. Even Americans on the margins of the workforce benefited from the expansion of unemployment compensation, welfare, and job training and placement programs. Unions played a major role in improving the standard of living of their members as their gains created a “ripple effect” that raised the wages and standard of living for non-union workers.
Lennon meets Stuart Sutcliff at Liverpool College of Art and forms a band called ‘The Silver Beetles’; they begin performing in Hamburg.
The Silver Beetles in Hamburg
Love Me Tender by Stuart Sutcliff
In 1960 the group becomes The Beatles and hires drummer Pete Best.
They return to Hamburg.
Money, The Beatles with Pete Best
Sturt Sutcliff left the group in 1961 to pursue painting.
“Please, Please Me’ is the group’s first hit in the UK.
By December 1963 ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ is the number-one hit in the US.
When the Beatles arrived at JFK Airport on February 7, 1964 ‘Meet the Beatles’ is number one on Billboard 200.
34 per cent of those people in the United States who owned televisions watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1964 Rock and Roll was party music, it was dance music, it was music for kids; kids and people called ‘trash’.
Lennon said he and McCartney were “just writing songs à la Everly Brothers, à la Buddy Holly, pop songs with no more thought of them than that – to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant. David Sheff (1981) The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono
In September 1964 United Artists released ‘A Hard Day’s Night’
“When it opened in September, 1964, “A Hard Day’s Night” was a problematic entry in a disreputable form, the rock ‘n’ roll musical. The Beatles were already a publicity phenomenon (70 million viewers watched them on “The Ed Sullivan Show”), but they were not yet cultural icons. Many critics attended the movie and prepared to condescend, but the movie could not be dismissed: It was so joyous and original that even the early reviews acknowledged it as something special. After more than three decades, it has not aged and is not dated; it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock.
It is one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies.”
At the age of 25 John Lennon is one of the richest men in the World, but he still thinks like a working class chav.
Run for your Life
The Princess Meets the Chav
Yoko Ono was born on Saturday, February 18th, 1933, in her ancestral estate in Tokyo, Japan. Her father, named Eisuke Ono, was the descendant of a 9th Century Emperor of Japan. Her mother, named Isoko Yasuda Ono, was the granddaughter of Zenijiro Yasuda, the founder of Yasuda Bank. Yoko was 2 years old when she was brought to California, and joined her father for the first time. She returned to Japan before WWII and survived the bombings of Tokyo in 1945. Yoko went to school with Emperor Hirohito’s two sons. –Biography IMdB
On November 9, 1966, Yoko Ono meets John Lennon and introduces him to the world of conceptual art:
In 1967, the Beatles release the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Album‘ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, rock became art, although Lennon doesn’t see it that way:
Rolling Stone: A critic has written about “A Day in the Life Of”
as a kind of miniature “Waste Land.”
Lennon: Miniature what?
Rolling Stone: (Ts) Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”
Lennon: I don’t know that. Not very hip on me culture you know.
John Lennon Married Yoko Ono on March 20, 1969, and in 1970 he released ‘Working Class Hero’, which describes the fear being raised among people who scorn the intellect and fear the feminine.
I was never really a street kid or a tough guy. I used to dress like a Teddy boy and identify with Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley, but I never really was in real street fights or real down-home gangs. I was just a suburban kid, imitating the rockers. But it was a big part of one’s life to look tough. I spent the whole of my childhood with shoulders up around the top of me head and me glasses off because glasses were sissy, and walking in complete fear, but with the toughest-looking face you’ve ever seen. I’d get into trouble just because of the way I looked. I wanted to be this tough James Dean all the time. It took a lot of wrestling to stop doing that, even though I still fall into it when I get insecure and nervous. I still drop into that I’m-a-street-kid stance, but I have to keep remembering that I never really was one.
How many of us know that we’re more than the roles we’re given?
Lennon released ‘God’ and ‘Working Class Hero’ on the 1970, Album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
The man who sang ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ in 1964 opens by telling us that ‘God’ is a concept by which we measure our pain.’
He goes on to affirm his heroes by rejecting them; a catharses that frees him to become himself.
I’m not claiming divinity. I’ve never claimed purity of soul. I’ve never claimed to have the answers to life. I only put out songs and answer questions as honestly as I can, but only as honestly as I can – no more, no less. I cannot live up to other people’s expectations of me because they’re illusion.
Rolling Stone Interview , November 25 1980.
This post is my contribution to Your Song Community Collaboration.
You can check out the group poster over at her site, Living a Beautiful Life for a list of all of the bloggers involved.