Friday, August 20, 2010

Re: Do yourself a favor...

Let me expand on the brief praise I directed toward this radio program about John Lennon. What captured my interest so strongly was the way that John Harris intertwined a reverence for Lennon with forceful criticism of him. Harris didn't mince words when describing Lennon as a towering creative force, and he gushed about his role in weakening class barriers that pervaded England at the time. However, Harris also derided Lennon's political activism in no uncertain terms, was quite stingy in offering positive remarks about his solo career, and didn't shy away from noting his many personal shortcomings. This kind of carefully weighed, even-handed treatment I find very heartening because it's too often missing among diehard Beatles fans. It's easy to submit to the temptation of hero-worship and gloss over the faults of those we sorely admire. But that evinces a lack of seriousness and maturity on the part of the admirer. When considering John Lennon in full, you can't whitewash the myriad flaws: He habitually treated women with contempt; he was far from a model father to Julian; he gave in to indulgences too readily; he had tendency for spiteful, petty, and condescending behavior; etc. Returning to the radio program ... Harris, to his credit, didn't use these sins to crucify John; rather, he (and Barry Miles) gave them context by describing how John's traumatic childhood - no father, lost his mother twice - produced this defensive, insecure, and hyper self-conscious man. And then Harris' final point of praise for John actually makes all of his flaws the essence of the matter : "I think the great thing about John Lennon is he reminds us how insecure and how imperfect we are. And that's why I love him." Nicely put.

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