John Lennon

John Lennon, Rock Culture, and Eternity

It may have been “twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play,” as the Beatles sang about in their 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” but I in fact wish to go back one more decade. Old folks like me will well know what I am talking about here.

Exactly thirty years ago today, ex-Beatle John Lennon was shot to death outside of his New York apartment. It is always a great tragedy when anyone’s life is cut short prematurely. Undoubtedly his worldwide legion of fans will be especially saddened today.

He of course is not the only rock celebrity to die young. On occasion I give a talk on popular music. I point out just how many of these lives have been cut short. Indeed, it is incredible just how many rock stars and pop stars have died young. Here are just a few of the more well known cases:

Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), died July 1969, age 27, drug related
Jimi Hendrix, died September 1970, age 27, drug overdose
Jim Morrison (Doors), died July 1971, age 27, drug overdose
Janis Joplin, died October 1970, age 27, drug overdose
Duane Allman (Allman Brothers Band), died October 1971, age 25, motorcycle accident
Elvis Presley, died August 1977, age 42, drug related
Bon Scott (AC/DC), died February 1980, age 33, alcohol related
Stevie Ray Vaughan, died August 1990, age 35, helicopter crash, but drug and alcohol problems
Freddy Mercury (Queen), died November 1991, age 45, AIDS related
Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), died April 1994, age 27, suicide
Michael Hutchence (INXS), died November 1997, aged 37, drug and alcohol related suicide
Michael Jackson, died June 2009, age 50, drug related

There are in fact many hundreds of other such examples. One can ask just what it is about the rock scene that results in so many premature deaths. But let me get back to John Lennon. He was clearly a colourful figure, as well as part of one of the great pop song-writing teams of all time (Lennon and McCartney).

He certainly caused major waves back in 1966 when he said in an interview, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink … We’re more popular than Jesus now – I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.” Well, he did not quite get that right. Christianity is still here, while he and the Beatles are not.

It seems that he never did come to know the one true God who created him, and the Redeemer who died to save him. Indeed, he is also noted for his rather silly atheist anthem, “Imagine”.

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