Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflections on Lennon

1) In a penetrating piece, Newsweek analyzes the innovations John brought to the way that celebrities deal with their celebrity.

The hullabaloo is a reminder that Lennon, one of the most innovative musicians of the last century, was also a pioneer of fame—a man who courted, commented on, used, retreated from, and was finally consumed by his own gargantuan renown. In the process, he expanded our notion of what stardom could mean, and of what effect it could have. “Our life is our art,” Lennon and Yoko Ono told Rolling Stone three days before he died—a novel sentiment in the days before reality TV. As the Kardashian industrial complex tightens its grip on our culture, it’s worth reconsidering the lessons of Lennon’s celebrity, both the ones we’ve learned and the ones we’re at risk of forgetting.

. . .

In the midst of the maelstrom, irony became Lennon’s first line of defense. It was also the engine of his allure. From the start, he regarded his own fame with an air of amused detachment, analyzing and mocking the hysterical new mode of stardom he’d come to embody as though he were watching it from one step away.

2) John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute explores a similar theme.

By 1980, Lennon had dispensed with being Beatle John. He had thrown off the trappings of his celebrity image. As he said in a radio interview that year, "I'm not putting out an image of this person who knows all." And in his last Rolling Stone interview in 1980: "I cannot live up to other people's expectations of me because they are illusionary."

3) The Irish Independent examines how John's death affected the Lennon-McCartney rivalry.

Chapman's bullets had turned an icon into a near-mythical figure, and history began to rewrite itself accordingly. Every story needs a baddie, though. And while Chapman served as the short-term whipping boy, the real villain would turn out to be Lennon's own best friend; the man with whom he shared the most famous songwriting credit-line of the 20th Century.

Paul McCartney did himself no favours when asked for a reaction to Lennon's death the following day. Exiting a recording studio in London, he simply mumbled: "It's a drag."

Paul's role as The Baddie Beatle was set, his reaction interpreted as callous, indifferent and -- most ludicrously of all -- triumphant. It didn't matter that his minimalistic words were borne out of pressure or shock; the split that began during the band's heyday, when teenage girls would argue over which member they'd rather go out with, had come to its widest point at the saddest juncture.