Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lennon Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of John Lennon's death. My blog entry from last year talks about my memories of that day and is titled Lennon Assassinated.

Also, if you're interested, you can now find a long excerpt from my article analyzing his "Revolution 9," from the Beatles White Album, at my page on The complete article is available through Perspectives of New Music (46/2, 2008).

For a quick taste of Lennon's genius, I would recommend "Julia," another "White Album" Lennon song, written about his mother -- the mother who first left him while he was still a child, to be raised by an aunt; and the mother who, after returning, died in a car accident when he was still a teen. His son Julian is named after her.

The song contains the most poetic use of a single-note melody I've ever heard. I love how strained, intimate and dark those openings words feel: "Half of what I say is meaningless/but I say it just to reach you, Julia ...." He sustains that chant on a single note until the last syllables of her name, when, as if moved out of himself by the memory, the melody suddenly starts to flower. In the break, the flowering becomes a lyrical moment among the best in any Beatles song. The contrast is heartbreaking.

Yes, we could talk about the confusion of his love for Yoko and his longing for his mother, a tension evident in the lyrics to this song. But for me, that only adds to the poignancy.

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