Something called Listverse posted an article yesterday by Edward Benjamin titled, Top Ten Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon.
The list of John’s sins is dark, and includes, “wife beater,” “pathological liar,” “hypocrite” and other equally nasty attributes. Benjamin’s disdain for the late Beatle drips out of his prose like acid from a wounded Alien.
This type of article, the “So-and-so-was-not-the-great-person-you-think-he-was,” is truly the product of an unpleasant, unfulfilled writer. Whether the author is trashing Gandhi or Elvis or Martin Luther King, it’s a petty and childish form of gotcha that says much more about the author than the person about whom he is writing.
After all the categorizing and contempt, this hit piece boils down to the simplest of points: John Lennon was a flawed human being. Okay. Is it time for cocktails yet? The startling revelation that Lennon had many faults — was in fact like every other human being on our planet — is not news, and no one should get paid money to make such a mundane and pointless announcement.
Benjamin offers numerous examples of Lennon’s bad behavior throughout his life, and I don’t doubt that many of them are true. However, let’s take a moment to think about what your life would be like if you were instantaneously thrust into the public eye and regarded with almost god-like reverence by millions of people around the world. Everywhere you turn there are drugs to be had, beautiful women to sleep with, and sycophants granting your every wish. If you are honest, you know that your personal and private flaws would be magnified a million times and you might not look like the stellar individual you wish to think of yourself as in the eyes of your inevitable critics. And who would Benjamin put on the list of “healthy, well-adjusted superstars?” Michael Jackson? Elvis? Whitney Houston? Judy Garland? Kurt Cobain? Lennon is only one among many for whom stardom was a curse rather than a blessing.
I don’t even know to what audience Benjamin’s piece is directed. Lennon was a “Rock Star,” a phrase synonymous with drugs, sex and generally bad behavior. As far as I remember, Lennon never ran for Pope. Is there some subset of Lennon fans out there who think he was a flawless deity sent from Mt. Olympus? His fans don’t care that he used drugs or lied about his past. They care about the legacy of his music.
Then there is number five on Benjamin’s list: Talentless. “He wrote a handful of inspired songs,” the author concedes, but basically he was a hack as a musician. Average guitar player, poor lyricist, and in another section, Benjamin excoriates Lennon for being influenced by other musicians like Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. Can you imagine that?
The absurdity of this assertion is mindboggling and I’m not even a huge Lennon fan. The man’s cannon of work speaks for itself. He was among the most influential musician/songwriters of the past 50 years, and to dispute that is to take a flat-earth position about modern music. Again, I would like a list of R&R stars past and present who were not influenced by others. I have no idea who would be on that list.
So to sum up, John Lennon was a flawed individual whose music was only sometimes brilliant. Careful Benjamin, with insights like that you could someday hit the big time, win a Pulitzer, and then, after you’re dead, some hack will write about what a horrible human being you were.