Friday, October 08, 2010

Beautiful and True

David Hajdu is unfair to Paul McCartney here, but much of what he says is absolutely right:

We know how old John Lennon would have been this Saturday—70—but who he would have been, we can only imagine....Lennon, in his savviness and cynicism, understood how the celebrity culture carries risks of early death—literal death, creative death, or death of the spirit—at the same time it glamorizes that death. "The biggest prize is when you die--a really big one for dying in public," he said in the Playboy interview he did a few months before he died. "Okay--those are the things we are not interested in doing."

He never wanted a death cult, nor a cult in life; Lennon wanted to live, like the rest of us--very much like the rest of us or, more precisely, how he imagined non-celebrities to be living. The life he sought in his last years was essentially a model of middle-age domestic tranquility, a dream vision of ordinariness enacted by an extraordinary man. He rambled around the rambling apartment he shared with Yoko Ono and their young child, Sean; he baked bread; he strolled his son around Central Park and took him to the YMCA for swimming lessons; he watched television and listened to Bing Crosby records. Apart from his having an avant-garde artist wife to handle the business affairs and his having gotten out of the house sometimes to make hit records, Lennon was essentially living the same life as my Aunt Rose.

He seemed to find contentment in an almost parodically conventional grown-up life, a proto-Reagan-era paradigm of domesticity, though his case is radicalized, arguably, by the fact that he was a male rock superstar rather than an Italian-American seamstress like my aunt. That was the last Lennon, apparently the Lennon whom John most wanted to be.

The Beatles changed just about everything. But is comforting, if also sad, to remember that in the end, they couldn't change truly everything. As he grew older, John needed a home. He found one. The most memorable work he and his collaborators created was mostly that of their youth, and that's fine; I did some pretty cool things when I was in my twenties too. But I've got older, lost most of my ambitions, settled down, attached myself to a home. John did too. Nice to know there are good models to follow out there, however happy or said they turn out to be in the end.

1 comment:

Ricketson said...

Thanks for sharing this. Your music selections are always interesting (as is your other writing). This little essay is particularly comforting.