John Lennon made his career as an artist more about spreading peace than music

Photo by Flickr, used with permission

Photo by Flickr, used with permission

John Lennon’s would-have-been 78th birthday brings his ideas about peace to the forefront.

Anytime a popular Beatles song is played on the radio or at a party, it is instantly recognizable. The classic British pop sound trademarked by The Beatles quickly spread into the hearts of Americans during the “British Invasion” in the mid-1960’s. However, the fame and cliche popularity soon overwhelmed John Lennon, as it was not what he had originally envisioned. He no longer wanted to write the sappy lovey-dovey song that was written and performed just to appease The Beatles’ mostly-female audience. Instead, Lennon hoped to pursue a career that would last longer than music, and would cement himself as a cultural icon.

Oct. 9 would have been Lennon’s 78th birthday had he not have been shot and killed on Dec. 8, 1980. However, his short life was long enough to leave a lasting legacy on our culture. After departing from The Beatles, Lennon’s career was personified by peace, love and hope, and perfectly embodied the hippie movement of the time. As an activist against the Vietnam war, Lennon wrote songs that would convey his own feelings instead of appeasing the crowd. No longer would these songs be ballads dedicated towards 16-year-old girls, but instead were written to inspire peace activists to take action.

This was why the song “Imagine” was written. “Imagine,” easily being Lennon’s most recognizable solo title, was an ode to unity and love among many anti-war activists. Where his former Beatles counterpart Paul McCartney was continuing to make radio friendly music, the purpose behind “Imagine” as well as other songs such as “Give Peace a Chance” were to promote peace and hope among people from a variety of different backgrounds. These songs prompted mass resistance among critics and the overall media, however the brilliance behind Lennon’s work did not let him slow down. Even when critics deemed Lennon’s music uncultured and unlistenable, he continued to make a name for himself in the music industry by pursuing what he wanted he wanted and by not being silenced by the media.

Lennon not only wrote songs to encourage others to take action, but also inspired others by taking action himself. Together with his wife, Yoko Ono, they hosted many Bed-ins, in which people sat and slept together to protest. Additionally, the couple donated all of the proceeds from some of their concerts to various hospitals and anti-war efforts. Lennon did not just speak through his music, but through his actions as well.

In today’s society, we live in a culture dominated by hate and hysteria. People quickly judge and jump to hateful conclusions based on inaccurate stereotypes. It’s so rare to watch a news segment on national television without seeing something mildly upsetting or wrong. In our society, many artists, content creators and media writers are solely concerned with profit, popularity, and public opinion. However, these things are what provoked Lennon to break away from the status quo and make a name for himself in the anti-war movement. Lennon wanted to stop the useless violence and destruction that was only growing the hatred in our country. He sacrificed his own career, popularity, and life in helping spread peace, unity, equality, and ending the hate regarding the war, women’s rights and racial tensions.

Had Lennon decided to stay quiet and continued to be a puppet of the music industry, The Beatles may never have broken apart. While they would have produced some stellar titles as a band, the world would have been left without one of the greatest peace activists of our time, as Lennon made his musical career and his life more about peace and unity rather than commercial profit.