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If I were to ask you: “Which musician/band is the best-selling musical artist of all time?” I’d probably hear answers like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Madonna. I might also hear The Beatles, which is the correct answer to that question. According to CBS News, The Beatles have sold a total of 1.6 billion singles, a record to this day. They hold numerous records that have stood for decades. I’m here today to talk about the man responsible for the creation and the success of The Beatles, in addition to being himself one of the most influential figures of the 1960s.
I have been a fan of this man since I was 12, and I have dug deep into his personal life as well as his artisanship and music. I’m very familiar with his art and ideas as well as his achievements. I’ll start by briefly covering his personal life, and then I’ll talk at length about his art and his lasting influence on both music and society.
Born in Liverpool to Alfred and Julia Lennon, his parents divorced and he stayed with his aunt Mimi. He had musical talent at a young age. He formed a band when he met Paul McCartney when they were 16. It was called “The Quarrymen”. After performing multiple times at school and undergoing several name and lineup changes, the band frequently traveled to Hamburg, Germany to perform in clubs and restaurants. That’s where the band members found their musical identity and settled on the name “The Beatles”. The band’s final lineup consisted of John, Paul, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
John met Cynthia Powell, his first wife, while he was still at high school. They fell in love and eventually got married in 1962 when Cynthia became pregnant. They had their only son, Julian Lennon, in 1963. John Lennon had an affair with Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. This led to a divorce between Cynthia and Lennon. John and Yoko got married in 1969 as soon as the divorce was settled. They had a son named Sean Lennon. The death of John Lennon: John and Yoko moved to Manhattan in 1971. It was in that city where John Lennon was shot and killed in 1980 by Mark Chapman, a crazed fan.
He was the main vocalist in The Beatles, while he shared the creative duties of composing lyrics with Paul McCartney. The music was usually composed by one of John, Paul or George. He was also the lead guitarist of the band. He composed many of the band’s most successful songs, such as “Strawberry Fields Forever”, which speaks about his childhood, and “Help!”.
John Lennon formed a band with his wife and started to record music as the “John Lennon/Plastic Ono” band, where he recorded many popular songs such as “Beautiful Boy” and “Jealous Guy”. As he was no longer part of The Beatles, he indulged in his artistic tendencies and experiments, but more importantly he used his music to spread messages of peace and love to the masses. He used his music as a political tool to get his opinion across in an unprecedented way.
When The Beatles’ first started, his style of writing lyrics and composing music was in keeping with the “pop rock” genre that was very popular at the time, although it was definitely original and unique. The themes of his songs were usually love and childhood experiences. In 1968, The Beatles’ took a trip to India to enhance their spirituality. This, in addition to the fact that they started to take psychedelics and hallucinogenic drugs, led to them creating music in the psychedelic genre. John Lennon started writing classic psychedelic songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and acoustic spiritual songs such as “Across The Universe”, which we will listen to now. When he formed the John Lennon/Plastic Ono band, his songs mostly revolved around love for his wife Yoko and son Sean, confessions, messages of peace, attacks on social oppression and injustice, spirituality and psychedelia. He often used an acoustic musical style, barring his psychedelic songs.
Many people, including several newspapers and celebrities, herald John Lennon for using his superstar status to spread messages of peace and social justice both through his art and his protests. For example, he used his honeymoon with Yoko as a “bed-in” as a protest against the Vietnam War. Moreover, many people also credit Lennon with changing the prevailing social norms at that time. He was specially challenging norms regarding sexuality, religion, women’s role in society, individuality and free expression of thoughts and feelings.
He spawned a new lyrical and signing style through his writing technique. This style, usually referred to as the “confession school”, has shown itself in many music genres, from dark heavy metal to modern day pop. Also, he was one of the first artists to viciously attack authority and push towards the breaking of prevalent social norms. He was unique in the way he expressed rebellious thoughts in his music, inspiring other artists to do the same.
To summarize what I covered during this speech, John Lennon is one of the most prominent figures in music the world has ever seen. His influence on the lives of so many and his music that stands the test of time bear testament to that. His achievements as a Beatle and a solo artist also point out how popular he was as an artist. 1.6 billion singles sold is barely a believable statistic, and one that he is largely responsible for. It speaks volumes about how big he really was, and it shows that he will always be regarded as one of the most influential artists of all time.
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