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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, January 1, 2006

Books Pay Tribute to Slain Music Icon John Lennon

December 8, 2005 marked the 25th anniversary of musician John Lennon's death and predictably resulted in a spate of new books. In line with the New Year tradition of Auld Lang Syne, let's commemorate this individual. (Diehard Lennon fans – please excuse any factual errors).

Lennon by Cynthia Lennon (Crown Publishers, 2005).

Before Yoko, there was Cynthia. Young John fell madly in love with a classy, pretty, and sweet blonde at the Liverpool College of Art. The model student with the prissy clothes and perfect hairdo didn't seem an ideal match for the rebellious John, but Cynthia was in turn intrigued by his teddy-boy ways.

Already a member of the popular group The Quarry Men, John was soon to quit college and head off on various gigs with the fledgling Beatles. When Cynthia became pregnant, John did the right thing and married her. But the Beatles were on a swift ride to the top -- a ride filled with "wine, women and song" -- and Cynthia became the little woman left at home. Their 10-year relationship ended when John met performance artist Yoko Ono.

Cynthia feels that John did both her and their son wrong. In the foreword, Julian writes that his father was "a great talent, a remarkable man who stood for peace and love in the world. But at the same time he found it very hard to show any peace and love to his first family – my mother and me." Tragically, John and his 17-year-old son were re-establishing contact at the time of John's death.

John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking, 2005) is a visually delightful photographic biography written for young adults. An award-winning veteran writer, Partridge spends about half the book on John's early years. We see the young Beatles on school trips, in their living rooms, and playing their first guitars.

The extensively researched text is fun, yet informative and balanced.

Memories of John Lennon edited and introduced by Yoko Ono (HarperEntertainment, 2005).

In honor of the silver anniversary of John's death, Yoko Ono asked friends, family, and fans from all walks of life to reminisce. Reading these 75 essays reminds me of how much I miss John and makes me wonder about what might have been.

Anthropologist Desmond Morris, who once declared John to be the most important man of the 1960s, writes that his murder "made those of us who had known him feel a sharp pain of impotent anger. The only comfort was that his rich musical legacy was safe." Actor Paul Reiser laments, "We'll carry on, and forward we'll march. But boy, do I wish he was here. This sweet beautiful friend I never met." And author Norman Mailer simply states, "We have lost a genius of the spirit."

Lennon Revealed by Larry Kane (Running Press, 2005).

In his early 20s, Kane had the great good fortune to be the only American journalist to travel in the official Beatles entourage during their legendary 1964 and 1965 tours of North America. He's gone on to a successful career as a Philadelphia news anchorman and Beatles expert.

Here he promises never-before-revealed secrets, but fails to deliver. He recycles old stories about alcohol and drug abuse, John's supposed infatuation with band member Stuart Sutcliff and manager Brian Epstein, and sexual indiscretions – all of which are part of John's story but not, in the opinion of many, his essence.

John Lennon: the New York Years with text and images by Bob Gruen (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2005).

Gruen is one of the world's most respected rock and roll photographers. A Manhattan neighbor of John and Yoko, he became their "official" photographer during the 1970s as well as a close personal friend. In and out of their home on a regular basis, he ate, drank, watched television, listened to music, and simply hung out with them.

Interspersed with his amazing photos of the famous duo are remembrances and observations. He defends the widely despised Yoko on personal and musical grounds, saying that John had found in her the true love and intellectual equal of his life. His ready answer to those who ask, "What kind of a woman is Yoko?" is "She's the kind of girl that John Lennon would marry."

Pam Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.