THEY SAY IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY,
WE'RE GONNA HAVE A GOOD TIME;
I'M GLAD IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU.
I’m SO happy to see the Google animation for John. What a great way to take his 20th century doodles into the 21st century.
The Paley Center for Media’s Tribute to John Lennon (in 2010), who would have turned seventy years old today, brought me into his early world and mind. I’ve had the genuine thrill of producing a gallery exhibit of early images from John’s life, “This Boy . . . John Lennon in Liverpool.” Working with Beatles historian Martin Lewis and curator Ron Simon, we brought together images of the child John—-from Yoko Ono’s archive; the teenage John—-from Rod Davis, one of his Quarrymen bandmates; and one image of John the man——from Bob Gruen’s classic, classic 1980 shoots, among other images.
The show really captures the beginnings of this great artist’s family/school life-—one of my favorite images is John with the neighbor’s dog, Squeaker. Then there is the most important date in rock ‘n’ roll history, July 6, 1957, when John is playing with the Quarrymen at the town fete and Paul is standing in the audience (the visitor’s own POV). The next image is the first time Paul played with the band, and the image after that is George, Paul, and John captured at a friend’s wedding.
Then there is a glimpse of the lads at an audition for Billy Fury. John is doing Elvis, and he’s asking for Billy Fury for his autograph!
Along with the exhibit, the Paley Center screened the Sam Taylor-Wood’s biopic of the same era, Nowhere Boy, with the Quarrymen, who played some of the old tunes after. And closed the week with American Masters LENNONYC, a superb documentary of John’s last ten years. It will be on tv in late November and I strongly recommend it. It’s a incredible time capsule of the 1970s with amazing footage of John you’ve never seen.
The Real Thing
There has been a veritable forest worth of trees and an ocean of ink and a googol of pixels dedicated to thoughts/scholarship about the Beatles, John, John and Yoko.
What has struck me in this special week is the wit and intelligence and struggle of a man trying to balance his extraordinary talent with the entire range of human situations and emotions: longing, jealousy, growing up in the spotlight, rage against the establishment, desires of every kind, loss, bliss, generosity, early middle age.
John’s relationship with Paul fascinates because of its depth and what it gave to the world: an insane number of musically exceptional songs that resonate deeply in the hearts of generations. John’s love for Yoko had such extreme consequences, from furthering tensions within the Beatles to fatefully bringing him to live in New York.
I’m not a big fan of John’s solo career, nor the underlying nihilism of “Imagine,” but I am a huge fan of his spirit of looking for peace: in the world, in his group, in his family, in his own heart.
John, I really hope you were wrong about the "no heaven" thing, and that the seraphim and cherubim are rockin’ with you to celebrate your birthday along with all of us down here.
"In My Life" from Anthology. The perfect Lennon/McCartney song perfectly set to images:
(Exhibit photos, Reuters. Quarrymen, Michael Priest)