John Lennon is my favorite Beatle. That in no way is meant to belittle Paul McCartney or the other Beatles, but I find myself connecting with Lennon's work more often and on deeper levels. McCartney is certainly one of the 20th century’s finest craftsmen of pop songs, but Lennon earns style points because he took more gambles as an artist, lyrically and musically.
An example of this is best illustrated in a comparison between two very fine songs created around the same time, Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” and McCartney's “Penny Lane.” Released together as a double A-side single, both songs are about their childhoods in Liverpool and both are alleged to be influenced by LSD, yet they tell different stories. Lennon ’s lyrics focus more on his internal thoughts and the music conveys a sense of that inner world while McCartney mostly presents external things from his youth and the accessibility of the music mirrors his associations with them.
But it goes beyond music. Lennon’s great sense of humor revealed a sharp mind and a wit as quick as Groucho Marx’s, not just in film but in appearances also, which always amused me. He jousted with others in press conferences and on talk show appearances. He also made political statements through actions like the Bed-Ins for Peace and the guests he brought on The Mike Douglas Show, such as Black Panther Party president Bobby Seale and Yippie Jerry Rubin. These activities got the attention of the U.S. government, which is detailed in The U.S. vs. John Lennon.
December 8th is when the most outpouring of emotion happens for John Lennon. It’s certainly understandable as people naturally bemoan and reflect on what they lost. However, the day is filled with such tragedy, sickness, and finality, things I don’t associate with Lennon, that I wish people would stop. Instead, I suggest it would be much better to commemorate his life on his birthday, October 9th, and celebrate the positives he embodied of hope, joy, and creativity. I know I will.