John Lennon is my favorite musician, and I listen to a lot of music. He grew up in a broken home, as his father deserted the family when Lennon was just a boy to go be a merchant seamen, and his mother, Julia was tragically killed by a car while walking across the street to get to the bus stop. Lennon lived the rest of his boyhood with his aunt Mimi and uncle George. The heartbreak what Lennon felt through these times led him to wear his emotions on his sleeve in his music and he learned to stand up for what he believed was right.
While all his popular songs with The Beatles were penned as Lennon/McCartney, the songs that he's famous for mostly writing and singing include "Twist and Shout," "Ticket to Ride," "Help!," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Revolution 9," "Happiness is a Warm Gun," "All You Need is Love," "Come Together" and "Across the Universe."
There are many more cult classics that he primarily penned and sang, but those are some of the more popular ones - songs about love, peace, change, society, and personal growth. He was the voice of two generations. He went from this friendly, lovable Beatle belting out "Twist and Shout" to crying out for "Help!" and saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.
The rawness in his voice in "Twist and Shout" is still one of the most unique vocals in history, and was attributed to John losing his voice before it was recorded. It shows his intensity and emotion in his performances. When he called out for help, he said he was going through a fat Elvis period, and was struggling to find his identity. When he said that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, he meant that society made them that way, not that they were.
He told it like it was. He didn't hold back. In his solo songs, he attacks Paul McCartney in the song "How Do You Sleep?": "So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise
You better see right through that mother's eyes
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead
The one mistake you made was in your head"
He used scream therapy to fight his pain though the song "Mother" when he continued screaming, "Mama don't go/Daddy come home."
He called for change and peace through songs like "Imagine," "How?," and "Gimme Some Truth." He called on us to picture a world without violence and coined the phrase, "War is over (If you want it). His two-week long bed-in for peace drew the attention of the world as he and Yoko grew their hair out and played songs of peace to encourage the end of the Vietnam War and other struggles throughout the world.
But a lot of his songs were about love - either defining what love is like in the song "Love," showing love to his wife Yoko, like in the song "Woman," or to his son Sean, like in the song "Beautiful Boy."
When Lennon was shot by crazed fan Mark David Chapman outside of Lennon's residence in Manhattan in December 1980, the world mourned. People took to the streets and lit candles and carried posters. That was almost forty years ago now, and while there have been a great many artists that have sung a great many songs that hit on these topics - the rest of the Beatles included, there was something special about John's influence to another generation (like ours today) that saw such hatred, turmoil and war. He was a voice people could turn to in the hardest of times.
One of my favorite Lennon tunes is "Nobody Told Me," because of the lyrics "Nobody told me there'd be days like these," because no one told us there'd be a pandemic followed by a racial divide that leads to riots and protests all over the world. We need peace and we need love in these times because no one knows what the future will hold.