John Lennon Would Be 80 Today

A surreal anniversary.

A tweet from Sir Paul McCartney brings the shouldn’t-be-surprising-but-is revelation that today is the 8oth anniversary of the birth of his longtime friend and collaborator John Lennon:

I wasn’t born when the Beatles played the Sullivan show and the band had broken up by the time I discovered them in junior high. I distinctly remember the day Lennon was murdered. He had just turned 40 and I had just turned 15.

I’m set to turn 55 next month, so am now considerably older than he was then. And he’s now been gone almost as long as he was here.

On a happier note, it’s also coincidentally(?) McCartney’s wedding anniversary:

He’s a comparative youngster at 78, so one hopes for many happy returns.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    80. Wow. I’m old.

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  2. Kylopod says:

    I always found Lennon to be the most interesting of the Beatles (as a person, I mean), and I always wondered how his views might have evolved had he lived longer, and what he would have thought of the world. Even at 40 he still seemed to carry some of that 60s hippie idealism from his youth. He apparently fell in love with America, which makes the fact that he was murdered there sadly ironic. The other Beatles didn’t share that love, and I don’t blame them.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Lennon was born three years before my parents and McCartney the year before. My dad’s been gone a decade now and my mom passed almost two years ago.

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  4. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner: I was born in 1977, but my parents were (and are) avid Beatles fans, so I was kind of raised on their music to some degree (they tell me that “Come Together” was my favorite song when I was 3), and I still consider them among my favorite bands.

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  5. Kathy says:

    I had a Beatles phase long ago. Now, most of their lyrics seem hopelessly adolescent.

    Oh, they grew up, especially Sir Paul. Songs like When I’m 64, She’s Leaving Home, Eleanor Rigby, are much more than the saccharine love ballads that defined the band.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: Yeah, the Beatles aren’t in my top three bands from that era anymore in terms of my listening habits. The Stones, Zeppelin, and The Who all are more in tune with my current tastes. Still, their music changed radically from the days of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.” The songs on the White Album and Sergeant Pepper were much, much more complex. It’s actually remarkable how much they evolved musically in such a short time.

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  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    Now, most of their lyrics seem hopelessly adolescent.

    The bane of most popular performers is that the taste of fans become frozen in adolescence and when they see these legends in Las Vegas or some casino auditorium the 60-ish audience calls out for the 70-ish performer to perform songs that were popular when both were 15 and 25.

    Thus the popularity of medley’s by long standing acts that are in middle age, but still producing art.

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  8. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Lennon’s solo work from shortly before his death (such as the song “Watching the Wheels”) show some maturation. Still, I’m just not a person who ever cared that much about song lyrics. As @James Joyner notes, the Beatles’ later works show a fair level of musical sophistication (there’s a case to be made that they were one of the founders of prog rock, and they were certainly versatile, exploring different genres).

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  9. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Funny coincidence, I saw Olivia Newton John in Vegas in 2014. My only complain is she didn’t sing Tied Up.

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  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    Quite likely that the music of the early albums was forced on them by their producers and record companies. Don’t be weird, play what sells. By the time of the White Album and Sgt Pepper, the Beatles were established with a fan base that was maturing along with them and the more sophisticated music attracted listeners from other genres who would dismiss pop.

    A couple of weeks ago I came across this compilation of video’s of Joni Mitchell, from a mid 60’s TV show. Over a couple of years these segments show a maturing musician who begins experimenting with open tunings and more sophisticated chord progressions (watch the look on Jimmy Driftwood’s face). Then think about where her music was by the early to mid 70’s with Court and Spark, For the Roses and Hejira.

    https://youtu.be/abtBjHVAe08

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  11. wr says:

    @Sleeping Dog: “Quite likely that the music of the early albums was forced on them by their producers and record companies. Don’t be weird, play what sells.”

    I don’t think that’s true at all. Lennon and McCartney were writing those songs — and despite Kathy’s odd remembrance of them as “saccharine love ballads — they were superbly crafted rock and pop numbers. As they grew in success, they began to mature as songwriters and experiment with new forms — they were growing as artists at a time when rock was also maturing, and there was almost a feedback loop between the Beatles, The Beach Boys and Dylan as each new album inspired the next.

    To think that they were writing “Ticket To Ride” because the record company wouldn’t let them do “Revolution Number Nine” ignores the brilliant arc of their career.

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  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    @wr:

    Yes they were writing the songs, but in the studio, particularly with young performers on their first albums, the pressure to conform to what the producer and record company wants is huge, since the record company is paying the bills. Later the Beatles started their own label, Apple and their own publishing company, they may have also self funded the production costs. Success and failure (to sell) leads to artistic freedom.

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  13. Kathy says:

    @wr:

    and despite Kathy’s odd remembrance of them as “saccharine love ballads

    Not remembrance. It’s what they sound like when I hear them now.

    Love Me Do, She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love, If I Fell, You’re Gonna Lose That Girl, and more in their earlier Brian Epstein era.

    1
  14. wr says:

    @Kathy: If you listen to Love Me Do, She Loves You and Can’t Buy Me Love and hear ballads, we have wildly different meanings for the word “ballad.”

  15. wr says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I agree that success led to their freedom. I just don’t believe that they had any idea in 1963 what they’d find themselves doing in 1967. I think it’s much more like what you say about Joni Mitchell — as they got more proficient they started to experiment, and their success allowed them to get away with it.

    Joni Mitchell started out writing fairly standard folk songs. As she grew, her songs became more personal and her melodies more sophisticated. Then, having gone about as far in that direction as possible (with Blue, of course), she reached out to find other ways of expressing new ideas, first with more elaborate production, then with jazz and later rock. But that doesn’t mean that when she was writing or performing The Circle Game, she was pissed because what she really wanted was to be doing The Jungle Line… it meant that she grew from one type of artist into another.

    Pretty sure it was the same way with the Beatles.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @wr:

    Oh, I use ballad as synonymous with song.

    But I see you don’t object to saccharine and love.

  17. @Kathy:
    I think that there’s a certain dignity to the simple love song. “Another Silly Love Song” is Sir Paul’s statement that he thinks so, too. Perhaps I’m a bit maudlin these days. I blame covid.

    I highly, highly recommend to you and to everyone here the film “Across The Universe”. It is a fictional narrative musical period piece, with the songs being Beatles songs.

    I quite like, for instance “I Just Saw Her Face”. Or “It Won’t Be Long”. There’s even a really, really great take on “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that will leave you gaping, I think. And yes, they have the more complex, later stuff to. There’s a magnificent rendition of of “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, and “I Want You(She’s So Heavy)” has a brilliant realization.

    As someone who was born 16 years after John Lennon, and grew up in the times depicted, I don’t know that there’s a better way to understand people of my generation than this film.

    I’m not knocking the Stones, or The Who, or anything else. I just feel that the songwriting here goes to my heart and my life in a way the others don’t.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr: I see the word “saccharine” as the key word rather than “ballad,” but everyone needs a gig and a place to row it.

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  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    Individually Lennon and McCartney were very good. Together they were genius. If I were sent to a desert island – a more and more attractive prospect lately – I’d grab Stones before Beatles, but the Glimmer Twins are not Lennon-McCartney’s equals for songwriting, musical sophistication or originality.

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  20. Kylopod says:

    @Jay L Gischer: I liked Across the Universe, though I had the sense that (somewhat like the recent movie Yesterday, which I also enjoyed), it was aimed at hardcore Beatles fans, and if you aren’t in that group, you might not appreciate it as much. I think my favorite of the renditions in the film was Joe Cocker’s version of “Come Together.” Nobody covers Beatles songs like Joe Cocker. And up to then I’d never liked any of the other covers of that song I’d heard–I hated the Aerosmith version, Michael Jackson also did one which I felt was sort of meh. Cocker’s version is just amazing.

    1
  21. @Kylopod: I tend to agree on Cocker’s “Come Together”. It’s so good.

    And yet, Carol Woods’ rendition (with Timothy Mitchum) is also so, so good. Here’s a video of her auditioning for it, with a little bit of intro by the film’s director (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1YnD2msRXA)

    Carol is amazing. And, the song stands up to it. Like Bob Dylan did all the time, it uses simple language to convey very powerful ideas with complex feelings attached. Pop music needs to keep things simple, and the Beatles were masters of this.

  22. Mister Bluster says:

    Some are dead, and some are living
    In my life, I’ve loved them all

    RIP…Joe, Olivia, John, Pete, Steve…Mom, Dad…I know there are more.
    Not so sure I want to go down this road right now…

    2
  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    If one wants to know how good a band is, look to how many musicians do covers of their songs. A whole lot of really good musicians did Beatles covers.

    @Kylopod: Nobody covers Beatles songs like Joe Cocker.

    Oh God, mention Beatles songs, and the first one to come into my mind is Joe Cocker’s rendition of She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. I get chills hearing it.

    1
  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: No edit function. I prefer his Woodstock performance but can’t find it just now. My google fu is lacking.

    1
  25. wr says:

    @Kathy: I don’t necessarily find them saccharine, but that’s a matter of taste. And it’s hard to argue against them being about love!

  26. Mister Bluster says:
  27. Kurtz says:

    @Kathy:

    When I’m 64

    He wrote this as a teenager. :-p

    She’s Leaving Home has the chemical aftertaste as saccharin for me, just about regret rather than love.

    Rigby is one of the finest songs ever recorded.

    They have way more songs like Rigby than they have bad songs.

    They have way more songs like Rigby than any other artist.

    I was born in the early 80s. When I meet someone who doesn’t like The Beatles, it often turns out that person is choosing what they like based on perceived general popularity. Nobody likes a try-hard in that realm.

    1
  28. The Q says:

    For all your pedantic critiques of Beatle music, what is not being appreciated is the transcendent, profound overarching impact they had on post war Western civilization which can’t be trivialized. Yes NATO, Kennen, Truman doctrine brought down the wall but I will attest that rock n roll played as big a role and the Beatles were the avatars. Peace, love, long hair, no socks and the creative paths they opened for more avant garde artists pushed society to accelerate their acceptance of the fringe. John was a,personal hero and I am sure he would react to Trump with customary disgust.What he said about John Mitchell on the day he got his green card is what he would today say to Trump “God wounds all heels”.

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