[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 08:08 GMT
You the critic: John Lennon
The BBC News website asked for your critical assessments of John Lennon's life and career, to mark the 25th anniversary of his death.

This continues an occasional series on the Entertainment section, where we invite knowledgeable fans to contribute to our coverage of big news stories.

Of the more than 200 entries we received, we felt Simon Fisher of London, Katie Campbell of Southampton, AT Frew of Solihull and Jon Klaff of London managed to sum Lennon up in very eloquent terms - so here are their thoughts.

Thank you to everyone who took part - there'll be another opportunity to be our entertainment industry critic soon! Click on the links below to take you directly to each piece.

Paul's influence

Man of extremes

Self-fashioned hero


John Lennon was at his best when working with, and sometimes against, Paul McCartney.

Paul connected John with a long tradition of pop music - jazz, standards, showtunes, and more - which became a kind of shoreline; as long as John could see the shore, his experiments had a context and focus.

You see this most perfectly expressed in the double-A side Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields.

Paul's side is an elegant, stately, classic full of heart; John's is a cryptic, beguiling journey into an estranged world.

But it's a measure of their influence on one another that you swap those labels around.

Paul's lyrics have a niggling strangeness while John's tune has a persistent melodic charm that places the song in our heads.

John absorbed immediate traditions and produced work in the direct shadow of that influence.

This was often extraordinary - the Dylan influence that he allowed to show more and more in his voice and lyrics, the LSD imagery throughout his work in 1966 and 1967, the more direct engagement with politics and the counter-culture between 1968 and 1973.

He became someone who reported on what he heard, with a deliberate avoidance of reflection, just a trust to his immense talents.

Paul always mediates, works contemporary influences into his innate sense of the whole tradition.

Sometimes this can make Paul seem rather studied, pastiche-y (Honey Pie, Rocky Racoon) but sometimes John's experiments misfire by seeming to show contempt for his artform in the rush to commentary (Power To The People, most of Sometime In New York City).

While the causes he often espoused were righteous ones and he supported several groups and figures at considerable risk to himself, he had a dilettante political commitment.

It's hard to detect any real underlying consistency to his politics in the 1970s.

Once John severed the connection with Paul his work was initially exhilarating, ultimately wayward and unfocused. He drifted from the shore.

Ironically but inevitably, Paul and John's solo work is at its best when each resembles to other most closely.

Paul's work is finest when it's most connected to a rock 'n' roll tradition, or when he allows surrealism into his songs, or a roughness creeps into the production.

John's work is often at its most compelling when warm and melodic, and when he his sometimes vacuous political stances take a step back.

His legacy is in his person as much as his songs - in that his songs are so plainly personal.

They are the record of an unflinching journey from pure pop to rock 'n' roll commitment.

This was an uncharted route and if he was not always sure-footed, we all owe a debt to the courage of his journey..

Simon Fisher, London, UK

A man of contradictions and extremes, John Lennon would have hated the term "career" to describe his life in the public eye.

A 50s troublemaker with a mother fixation, he channelled his contempt for polite society into his music, yearning all the time for the chugging heart of R&B throbbing its way across the Atlantic.

A determined leader of his band, Lennon still encouraged his junior partner to greater things and, between them, from 1962-1965 they re-invented popular music with their unique mix of sweet and sour melodies that became the soundtrack to a generation.

Always craving new highs, his two-year LSD period produced his truly iconic works, from Tomorrow Never Knows to I Am The Walrus.

But the loss of Brian Epstein numbed and de-Beatled him, while unconditional love for Yoko unlocked his romantic spirit, soothed his anger and exorcised his mother's ghost for all the world to see in the song Julia.

John confronted his demons head-on through therapy and created a searing, painful first solo album of absolute genius in 1970.

But in this cathartic process, Lennon jettisoned the fuel that had propelled his genius and he mortalised his talent.

Beyond Imagine, the quality of the output thinned rapidly.

Political radicalism and fighting for US citizenship took precedence and the work got shoddy until he was reduced to maxing-up the echo on the vocal for an album of questionable rock'n'roll covers.

After a five-year hiatus, he returned asking us to part with money for a collection of navel-gazing songs about vapid domestic life.

On 9 December 1980, Mark Chapman killed John Lennon, the man.

So what about Lennon, the artistic genius? That John Lennon willingly expired 10 years before.

It's Beatle John I'll mourn on this 25th anniversary.

Katie Campbell, Southampton, UK

John Winston Lennon was, and always will be, a dichotomy.

A man who preached the message of peace and love for the world, but in private could be entirely the opposite - unfaithful and a man who would viciously and mercilessly put people down for his own gratification.

He grew up in a middle-class home, with middle-class relatives, in a middle-class area, but he was the self-fashioned "working-class hero".

It was this conflict within himself that made him what he was. He was a man with numerous faults, and negative attributes, but at the same time a man who craved affection and love.

He was a man who could sing and write with sincere conviction about how the world needed peace without being hypocritical.

He was not just asking for others to look for and find peace, but for himself to find it also. It was this self-challenging, lyrical honesty that made Lennon the man he was. There were no-half measures with him.

He openly sung, talked and wrote about his own feelings. He didn't hide himself from the world. His music was himself, warts and all.

On The Beatles (aka The White Album), he could write about the world needing Revolution, then would open his deepest emotional wounds to tell the world how he felt about his mother, Julia.

He was and could be a tough, no-nonsense man, but a man openly in search of love and caring comfort from others.

By the end of his life he had begun to reconcile with a son he had hardly seen or knew, a band member he had attacked by asking "How do you sleep at night?" on the same album he said he wanted the world to "live as one".

He had started to find the peace he had been searching for his whole life.

Lennon's life was a journey of soul searching and self discovery, of always wanting to progress, to gather no moss.

He pushed himself emotionally and mentally, and in doing so has inspired people ever since to push themselves - to not settle for the easy things to write about, to not take the easy choices.

He was no modern-day martyr, but a man who showed people the darker side of life, but with those faults he showed us that life could be better than it is, to not accept or tolerate what is wrong and unjust.

His own struggle against his own demons showed people how that dream wasn't just something that existed in the mind, it could become a reality.

In doing so he gave people hope - something which he continues to do till this day and will do beyond it.

AT Frew, Solihull, UK

It is more than appropriate that, 25 years after his death, John Lennon will finally be seen for what he is, the most overrated musician of the last century.

For this we have No Direction Home and Jann Wenner's Rolling Stone Interview to thank.

Lennon is summed up nicely in the story told by Ginsberg in Scorsese's Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home.

Upon entering a room containing Dylan and the Beatles sat on opposite sides, Ginsberg sits on the floor by Dylan, the only available seat.

Lennon makes a comment of "Oh so that's how it is", immediately demonstrating his insecurities about being part of something he doesn't understand.

Ballad Of A Thin Man could easily be applied to the bewildered school boy playing at being a grown-up.

What is the beauty of Imagine? That it expresses an idea so fundamental to our core in a simplistic fashion?

Well I say that is what makes it a detrimental song, over simplifying the world in which we live.

It sounds like a child crying that he can't have a transformer.

Compare this to the imagery of Neil Young's Needle and the Damage Done, a simplistic song complex in its message and vision.

So we look at his arrogance, his belief that he was a genius and that he didn't work with Paul after 1962.

Yes John, that's demonstrated by, in fairness, one of the best songs you wrote, A Day In The Life.

This wasn't a total collaboration of parts written by you and Paul? Take away your parts and Paul's song is dire, as is yours without the jolly little bit in the middle.

Let's take Lennon off his pedestal. Could we engrave the statue of him at Liverpool Airport with: "John Lennon - Great pop singer, No artist!"

Jon Klaff, London, UK


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific