“If you feel strongly about something, you have an obligation to try and change my mind.” ― Aaron Sorkin
I see a difference between civil rights and the raging sense of entitlement that barges into our lives and demands respect
for doing nothing.
A man has a right to vote but he doesn’t have the right to respect as an artist because the three hundred people on his ‘fave’ exchange have done their duty.
We earn respect through hard work, intellectual disscipline and practice.
When I think of an artist who worked his ass off to earn our respect I think of John Lennon.
I am the son of a fireman, a working class kid who wanted to be a writer.
I spent hours reading Ginsberg, and Kerouac.
I found hope and inspiration in the success of Genet, Artaud, and Gregory Corso.
“Added to the moral solitude of the murderer comes the solitude of the artist, which can acknowledge no authority, save that of another artist.” ― Jean Genet, Querelle
I read the plays of Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee.
I studied film, art history and theater.
I didn’t believe that I had a shot at being an artist until I found John Lennon.
His use of language was familiar and strange.
Lennon was an artist who sounded like one of the guys in my housing project.
He took street slang and turned it into surrealist poetry.
No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you can’t, you know, tune in
But it’s all right
That is I think it’s not too bad
Strawberry Fields Forever
The lyric is more advanced but still reminiscent of the sensibility of A Spaniard in the Works:
Mary Atkins pruned herselves in the mirage, running her hand wantanly through her large blond hair. Her tight dress was cut low revealingly three or four blackheads, carefully scrubbed on her chess. She addled the final touches to her makeup and fixed her teeth firmly in her head. ‘He’s going to want me tonight’ she thought and pictured his hamsome black curly face and jaundice.
John Lennon: A Spaniard in the Works
I first read A Spaniard in the Works at 16.
Even then I knew that I was reading something that was not meant for publication.
It’s the writing of an experimental artist. An artist whose only goal is making art. A Spaniard in the Works is flawed and innovative.
It was this sense of innovation that drew him to Yoko Ono.
He had this to say when asked about Yoko and the making of the Two Virgins album:
She (Yoko) forced me to become avant-garde and take my clothes off, when all I wanted was to be Tom Jones. –John Lennon
As I understand it, Yoko Ono introduced him to his mind and it begins to show itself in force on the Imagine album.
John Lennon’s first solo album, Imagine, demonstrates his evolving emotional and intellectual range.
It opens with the Utopian Imagine and closes with a playful love song to Yoko.
Between Imagine and Oh Yoko Lennon declares himself an emotional cripple, gently regrets his jealous violence, affirms his commitment to the peace movement, demands that the political establishment take responsibility for itself, describes an intellectual and emotional awakening, and questions the confusion of having everything except himself.
The song that I have always found the most interesting is How Do You Sleep?
John Lennon was streetwise and what he does in this song is toss serious shade at Paul McCartney.
I don’t think anyone can know how it felt to be John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1971.
My sense is that Lennon felt that McCartney had betrayed an artistic vision.
And he says as much in this song.
“The sound you make is Muzac to my ears, you must have learned something in all those years”
Popularity doesn’t make you an artist, but neither does unpopularity.
Lennon’s first love was writing and he brings a writer’s sensibility to his music.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway
And Lennon bleeds; especially in the Plastic Ono Album.
This is what I got and still get from the music of John Lennon:
An art that never questions, does not risk failure, is technically perfect and dictated by the need to be seen but not felt is self-indulgent and meaningless.
A pretty picture is not always art. But neither is an ugly one.
John Lennon was part of the greatest show on Earth; he was a working class kid who became one of the great artists of his generation.
Rob Goldstein 2015