Today’s Free Ride post honors the late great John Lennon, who would have turned 70 today if Mark David Chapman hadn’t gone crazy reading Catcher in the Rye and killed him. I remember that Monday night in early December, 1980, when our jazz band was getting ready to rehearse and Eliot Wadopian, our bass player, came into the practice room visibly distraught and gave us the tragic news.
John Lennon made the most of his 40 years on earth, shaping the nature of popular music and imagining a better and freer world. While we could muse on any number of his songs as a solo artist, I want to go back and take a look at one of the Beatles’ #1s. While credited to Lennon and McCartney, Come Together was essentially a John Lennon composition.
When you look through the catalog of Lennon’s songs, and his life, this was the one thing that he told us over and over again, in songs like Imagine and Give Peace a Chance and Happy Christmas and on and on. Mark David Chapman could have greatly benefited from listening to Whatever Gets You Through the Night – don’t need a gun to blow your mind, oh no, oh no.
It’s interesting to know that the music of John Lennon and the rest of the Beatles was banned in Cuba during the early years of the revolution. Fidel labeled their music as decadent imperialist propaganda and a diversion to the work of the revolution. But twenty years after Lennon’s death, Fidel commissioned one of Cuba’s greatest artists, José Ramón Villa Soberón, to create a sculpture of the singer as the centerpiece of the John Lennon Park in the Vedado section of Havana. We always make a pilgrimage to that park whenever we take groups to Cuba, and everyone always wants to get their picture made sitting on the park bench there next to John, as if in mid-conversation. In front of the bench is a marble tile with a Spanish translation of the lines from Imagine, Dirás que soy un soñador pero no soy el único. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Come Together was one of the songs our church performed at our production of Jesus Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (The Easter Story Told Through the Music of the Beatles). Like the Cubans during the early days of the revolution, some of our church folk remembered the Beatles being “banned” from their households in the 60s, for similar reasons. It was labeled decadent, a diversion from the work of the gospel. But somehow, a half-century later, here was a Baptist church singing the lyrics as a reflection on Jesus’ great unity prayer the week before he died. Protect them, so that they may be one. You may say that Jesus was a dreamer. . .
And one thing he could tell you is you got to be free. Come together, right now.
As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.