John Lennon at 70: His pop culture legacy
Posted by Sarah Anne Hughes
John Lennon, the revolutionary musician and member of arguably the greatest band of all time, the Beatles, would have been 70 years old this Saturday had he not been shot to death in 1980 by a deranged fan outside of his New York apartment building. Lennon was 40 years old.
Since Lennon's death, his legacy has become bigger than the man himself was. For better or worse, Lennon's music, creative vision and his message of peace have been kept alive through songs, film, TV and products. When I was about 10, my mother, a Beatles superfan and memorabilia collector, took me to exotic New Jersey to experience Beatlemania firsthand. In a hotel convention room I saw table after table of Beatles products, Beatles impersonators, Beatles karaoke. You name it, they Beatle'd it. Today, that interest in Lennon and his fellow Liverpudlians is still going strong in the pop culture world.
While Lennon's music catalogue is vast and varied, his best-known song is probably “Imagine,” an iconic piece about peace. In very recent pop culture memory, the song got the "Glee" treatment. Two years ago, it was covered on "American Idol" by David Archuleta. (With a little help from Kurt's cover of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" those talented [see: obnoxious] "Glee" kids beat the Beatles' Billboard Hot 100 record.) The current queen of pop music, Lady Gaga, sang "Imagine" at a 2009 Human Rights Campaign dinner in D.C. and recently performed with Yoko Ono at a tribute concert. Gaga also hangs out with now 34-year-old Sean Lennon and made "real" Lennon fans lose their minds when she was photographed playing Lennon's white piano. Today, the song is being used in a Google doodle.
In addition to documentaries about the late musician, there have been several biopics, including most recently “Nowhere Boy," a film about Lennon's childhood in Liverpool, England:
Lennon's song have been used in many soundtracks including "Across the Universe," "I Am Sam" and "Rushmore."
As far as products go, there are scads of options for the Lennon-loving consumer. In my college days, I saw a fair share of "Give Peace a Chance" posters. These and other products, including "bed-in for peace" T-shirts, can be purchased at the official Lennon store or a number of other places. Some Lennon memorabilia is for sale through the Gotta Have It! Rock & Pop Culture Auction, which made headlines when the FBI pulled Lennon's application for U.S. residency. It would be remiss not to mention "The Beatles: Rock Band," an interactive game that has introduced a new generation to Lennon and the Beatles, albeit their digitized versions.
At the end of the day, nothing beats Lennon's music. So tomorrow (and really every day), listen to and celebrate the late John Lennon. I'll get you started with my favorite Lennon tribute, Sir Paul McCartney's "Here Today."
Sarah Anne Hughes
| October 8, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
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