Today marks the 70th birthday of John Lennon, one of my most revered and respected musical heroes. Although he was tragically murdered the same year I was born, I have always felt a strong, personal connection to his music and his story. As far back as I can remember, I have specific memories of my mom and dad listening to Beatles' records. My mom favored the earlier ones and my dad favored the later ones. I can remember cleaning the house with my mom and her acting crazy to John's frenzied vocal from "Twist and Shout." My dad liked it best when John got wistful, like on "In My Life" and "Watching The Wheels." Between the two of them, my parents taught me to appreciate all the sides John Lennon had to offer. He was unafraid to tap deeply into whatever emotion he was feeling and was able to express his ideas in a passionate, uninhibited, unfiltered way. While this led to certain songs and decisions of his being a little farther out in left field than I could follow, the majority of what he gave to the world was wholly beautiful, authentic, original and pure. Like every other human being, he was not without flaw. But for every one he might've had, he put forth many more characteristics and ideas worth embracing and championing. Love, equality, peace, forgiveness, creativity, simple pleasures, ideals, passions, and revolutions were all things that he felt were worth having a conversation about and worth fighting for.
While many musicians have been mislabeled as "the next John Lennon," I can't think of a single one who completely embodies everything that John did. Sure there are many talented rock singers, but few can get as heartfelt and as primal as "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" and "Rock and Roll Music." John's unparalleled sense of melody and rhythm are on full display in "Jealous Guy," "In My Life," "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," and "Whatever Gets You Through The Night." I can't think of anyone who has so eloquently captured the emotional vulnerability and insecurity found in "Help!," "Nowhere Man" and "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away." Where most songwriters would be happy with at least one song that could inspire change and action, John gave us "Give Peace A Chance," "Revolution," "Power To The People," and "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)." Who else has matched the painfully open writing and sang with such raw passion as captured on "Mother." Who else has chiseled away all the pretenses and fluff to just say "All You Need Is Love." But seriously, the beautiful weight and simplicity of "Imagine" makes all those questions irrelevant anyway. Untouched, unmatched and unbelievably missed, John Lennon took every chance he could to remind us in song and in deed that we need each other, we need love and we need good music. Thankfully his message is still being told long after he stopped being able to tell it himself. Happy birthday to a dreamer, a songwriter, an idealist, and an inspiration to everyone, most especially me.
"Nobody Told Me" is a perfect example of John's intelligence, wit and attitude combining with his rock sensibilities. The opening line, "Everbody's talking but no one says a word," is one of my favorites of his and it becomes more and more true and relevant as the years go by. "Nobody Told Me" is from Milk and Honey, John's first posthumous album which was released in 1984. This was the last single of John's to reach the Top 10 and I think it's a fantastic song with which to end his 20+ years dominance on the charts.