Lennon: Always Up Front

The following article appeared in the December 10, 1980 issue of Washington Post. This article was written by Tony Kornheiser and Tom Zito.

Lennon was the key to the cultural phenomenon that was The Beatles, and the key to Lennon was his rebellious desire always to go beyond the norm, always to push the limits outward. To create a new style, a new ethic. It went far beyond the hair, into the psychedelic era of hallucinogenic drugs, into the contemplative era of transcendental meditation, into the passive and ultimately active resistance of the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era.
And always at the point, there was Lennon. Lennon with the smoked glasses. Lennon with the sage's beard. Lennon with the puns and pornographic drawings. Lennon with the curious Japanese woman. Lennon in the bed and in the bathtub, singing for peace and wondering why everyone else wasn't naked and singing, too. And finally, in the late '70s, Lennon, the reclusive househusband who withdrew from the music scene completely.
Undoubtedly, psychologists could have a field day with Lennon. His father abandoned the family early. Too poor to raise her son on her own, his mother had entrusted him to an aunt and uncle. Later, he would sing about his loneliness and ultimate reconciliation with his family-a theme that colored much of his work.
Perhaps in that history is a clue to his later appeal to a generation of loners, who could sympathize with his keen sense of futility and despair and his eternal message that only reason and humor could tide one through the ubiquitous tough times on life's way.
His wit could be subtle in a raise of the eyebrow and a twinkle in the eye. It could be quick: "One the next number, those in the cheap seats please clap. The rest of can rattle your jewelry." And it could be snide: "When I feel my head start to swell, I just look at Ringo and know we're not supermen." Like Groucho, he knew the value of never taking one's self too seriously.

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