Four decades after his murder, John Lennon's music and message remains relevant
In this April 18, 1972 file photo, John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, leave a U.S. Immigration hearing in New York City. (AP Photo, FIle)
MONTREAL -- 40 years ago, almost to the day, illustrious singer-songwriter John Lennon was shot dead in New York City, leaving behind a generation that had followed him since his days with the Beatles.
Lennon passed away on December 8, 1980, but his music and influence on society are still very much alive today and transcend all generations.
"There are always covers you see in advertisements, like Nike who used the song 'Revolution'. It is clear that it is something in the music and some of the messages, that has important resonances today." said UQAM history professor Greg Robinson. "There are classic references and he's someone who joined the immortals in that sense."
According to music columnist Philippe Rezzonico, several artists these days have been inspired by The Beatles and Lennon.
"Oasis, it's clear that they are the direct heirs of the Beatles... Their musical influence is still felt, sometimes very obviously, sometimes more in the background. They clearly marked several generations," he said.
The singer Maude Carrier along with her father Gilles Carrier, has put on John Lennon tribute concert shows in Quebec libraries for 10 years.
They will put on a show virtually on Dec. 8 at la bibliotheque de Quebec (BANQ) in Montreal.
She said the longevity of Lennon's work is first of all its "human and tormented" side.
"We will all go through big questions in life, and I have the impression that he had the art of putting his finger on it, of not censoring himself in his way of writing," said Maude Carrier.
At the time of his assassination, Lennon had just restarted his solo career. A few hours before his death, he signed his new album "Double Fantasy" for his murderer, Mark David Chapman.
In the early 1970s, after the Beatles broke up, Lennon released other albums, including the seminal "Imagine" in 1971.
Could Lennon have surpassed his influence in the Beatles during his solo career?
According to Robinson, both works are important.
Lennon rose to fame with The Beatles, but it was really as a solo artist that he managed to be himself and express his ideas, he argued.
Towards the end of The Beatles, the artist had started to explore other themes and different musical styles that he would deepen as a solo artist, with the help of his muse and partner, Yoko Ono.
For Rezzonico, Lennon's richest work lies first and foremost in The Beatles.
"The common heritage will always be superior to the individual heritage," he said.
However, he acknowledges that Lennon's song "Imagine" is particularly striking, not least because it is a hymn to peace.
The musical columnist also wonders what the artist could have accomplished later in his life if he had pursued his career.
"Just think of the quality of (David) Bowie's last two albums, the quality of just about everything (Bob) Dylan has done in the last 20 years, the quality of (Bruce) Springsteen's recent album. .. In light of what other greats have done, it is clear that we missed something particularly interesting," he said.
INFLUENCE ON SOCIETY
If Lennon distinguished himself in the history of music, he also left his mark on society.
For example, his famous round glasses, and Sergeant Pepper's costumes have become fashion icons, said Robinson.
And of course, we are still talking about his message of peace, exemplified in the song "Give Peace a Chance," which Lennon and Ono sang on the bed of Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1969.
"He said he was on his honeymoon with Yoko Ono and he knew very well that he was going to be covered a lot by the press, so they had decided to use the publicity for the cause of peace," said Robinson.
Lennon's message also survives through his widow, Yoko Ono, who regularly speaks in defence of world peace.
"I really think that now, 99% of the world is really for world peace. There's an incredible awareness about wanting peace in the world. And only the 1% is being disruptive. So that 1% has a lot of power to disrupt. But I think that in the end, we're going to survive," Ono wrote on Twitter Nov. 24.
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2020.