I won’t deny the Beatle’s creativity or impact, or sheer breath of music. Come on! I also know it would be silly to say that John Lennon could exist, as we knew him, without the Beatles. I am raising the question to bring your eyes to what Lennon did do, and what went beyond the Beatles in many ways, songs that the Beatles could never have done. This isn’t to say there aren’t lots of ways the Beatles reaches heights Lennon couldn’t replicate on his own, how could anyone, but that there are new things he did on his own.
I've been wanting to write this for awhile but have been busy with school, so I'm kind of rushing this out, and maybe I'll come back to it someday. Enjoy.
Here are 5 songs, I would call them great songs, that represent Lennon blowing the Beatles out of the water.
Okay, I'll start with the obvious one we all know. And maybe the Beatles would have done this song. They did have a bunch of songs about love and peace, but this song asks to to Imagine if all these things were true, just to stop for a minute, stop lamenting it and despairing it's not true, but to just stop and Imagine we were right here in the present, without ideologies that tear us apart. Forget the cheesy part, think about that we take for granted things like countries and religions and possessions, just think about a little bit. There are elements of Imagine in each of the next 4 songs on the list. This song must have influenced Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror which continues the imagining to action on oneself.
This is one of the most devastatingly personal songs I've ever heard, and this video of photographs fits it's tempo perfectly. Lennon seems not just to be remembering the loss of his mother at a young age, but to simultaneously the boy and the young man. As Arcade Fire says in Wake Up, "children don't grow up our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up." And that wailing at the end? You'll never hear that kind of intensity from Paul.
Anyone still wondering if John Lennon has some extremely leftist viewpoints? This song, sounds like a an add for communism, as many folk songs have since Woody Guthrie. Yet something about the song makes me feel that this is done ironically.
Wait! Don't click on this video if you are sensitive! There are many images from around the world that are depressing to say the least. But click if you can. This song goes beyond simply imaging to actually having a chorus of children singing "War is Over." This song hurts so much, because it isn't true, but that's the point. What if it was? Somehow the imagining of it become more real because it doesn't say "imagine war is over" but simply "war is over." It's like someone with Alzheimer's thinking they are young and healthy again, and you are watching their joy and knowing that sooner or later they will realize it's not true. That's what this song feels like. The images in the video remind us of the cost of it being a fantasy.
Regardless of your beliefs, Lennon's exploration of his own is fascinating. From "God is a concept by which we measure our pain" to hearing Lennon's list of all the things he doesn't believe in go from universal to extremely specific and personal, this song is really about the religion of the Beatles and his refusal to be, or see anyone as, it's Christ.