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Was John Lennon a hero?
20 July 2013
7.31am
DBTC
In the Middle of a Roundabout
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My girlfriend and I just got done arguing about John Lennon. I think he was a hero, and my girlfriend thinks he was just another celebrity. I say he was a hero because he stepped out of the box to speak against the system, as well as to speak boldly about many other topics that weren't necessarily socially-acceptable things to sing about in mainstream music. Not to mention, of course, that he died one of the most influential musicians in history. (By the way, his personal life isn't relevant here… he obviously wasn't very nice to women among other things.)

She said that if he was truly a hero, he would be in the history books. She said more people would know about him, and it would be a bigger deal. She thinks Lennon was simply a music man, and nothing more.

I don't know what the Flood knows about the man, but does anyone have an opinion? I gave up trying to prove my girlfriend wrong, so now I'm just curious if anyone else has a constructive opinion about it. 

So what do you think, was he a hero, or just a famous musician?

20 July 2013
5.52pm
mccartneyalarm
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John Lennon would say (or did say) "we're just a rock band that made it very, very big" but that is precisely the reason that John Lennon is one of the most infamous people in our generation. He was far more than a musician. (Justin Bieber is a musician…I think… I am not sure that's what I'd called him personally). John was a social activist, a humanitarian, a brilliant composer, a talented musician, and a true example for all people because his message, the only thing he cared about, was so simple…All You Need Is Love. He is already in the history books as history is the recorded record of all of the events and personalities that make up our past and present (music, politics, ideas, disasters, crimes, etc.) John has left a huge legacy and it contiues to grow. I think more people know about and react to John than your girlfriend gives credit to. Young and older alike relate to him, know his music, recognize him and what he stood and stands for. Did you see the closing ceremonies of the Olympics? They did the video of John singing "Imagine." They didn't do Snoop Dog (whoever or whatever he is) because he and Bieber are flashes in the pan. John Lennon is forever immortal for who he was and what he gave to us. Not sure I'd use the word hero…maybe icon or something along those lines…but he will never be forgotten no matter what you call him.

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

20 July 2013
6.54pm
fabfouremily
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^ Yeah, I agree with that. ''Hero'' isn't quite the word I'd use as it's a term I associate more with comic books or something like that but I definitely think he was someone special, and not just musically.

''We're just knocked out. We heard about the sell out. You gotta get an album out, you owe it to the people. We're so happy we can hardly count.''

20 July 2013
11.08pm
meanmistermustard
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I would say icon was a better more accurate word than hero for John. He is still inspiring people today as he was very passionate about what he believed in (if sometimes misguided) and in others as well as being very charismatic, warm and exuded a persona that people are still drawn to thru the archive footage. He is certainly in the history books and will remain there. Lets not forget that John came 8th in a nationwide poll for the greatest ever Briton back in 2000, some achievement.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
21 July 2013
1.11am
SatanHimself
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I'm a fire fighter and people have called me a "hero".  I've never done anything that I would personally call heroic.  I've put out a few fires that may have injured people if not controlled, but that's my job.  A hero sacrifices all of him-or her-self for to save others.   

Since 2001 people are too quick to label anyone who dies before their time a "hero".  The word is meaningless now.  We call people who make bad professional decisions "heroes" when they die on the job, when we should really be questioning their training, common sense and the accountability and culpability of their superiors.

John Lennon was one of the most important musicians and social figures of the 20th century.  But he wasn't a hero.  He was a man.

The following people thank SatanHimself for this post:

Oudis, UnidentifiedFiendishThingy
E is for 'Ergent'.
21 July 2013
5.43am
unknown
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You said that so well, SatanHimself, the word hero is way overused, and I couldn't have said that better. John Lennon was not a hero. 

All living things must abide by the laws of the shape they inhabit
21 July 2013
8.40pm
Von Bontee
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Just to play devil's advocate, I suppose you could say he IS a hero to anyone who personally considers him one, or was inspired by him. But that's just semantics, really.

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
21 July 2013
9.06pm
SatanHimself
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I would personally prefer people use the term "inspiration".  But You know…  People are gonna use the word "hero".  Can't stop 'em.

E is for 'Ergent'.
21 July 2013
9.38pm
Von Bontee
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Well, know, "hero" has two fewer syllables! The English language – all languages, probably – gets devalued over time, whattayagonnado?

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
24 July 2013
4.45pm
mccartneyalarm
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So, DBTG…what happened with your girlfriend…did we help you win her over to your side?

"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

14 November 2013
11.35am
vectisfabber
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No, he wasn't a hero.  Heroism requires knowingly doing something which puts you at risk, and he never really did that.

But he was influential and often inspirational.

14 November 2013
12.21pm
robert
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vectisfabber said
No, he wasn't a hero.  Heroism requires knowingly doing something which puts you at risk, and he never really did that.

But he was influential and often inspirational.

I would only expand the above by saying it this way (my additions are in bold) : "Heroism requires knowingly and willingly doing something for someone else which puts you at risk, without the expectation of reward and he never really did that."

John never really put himself at risk – although he did use his influence for others – and while he didn't expect any reward (I'm talking about his political and social activism) once it began to impact his immigration efforts he stopped. He wasn't a hero – he was and remains a highly influential figure in 20th century history.

 

"She looks more like him than I do."
14 November 2013
1.45pm
Oyster Black Pearl
Liverpool, UK
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DBTC said
My girlfriend and I just got done arguing about John Lennon….. I gave up trying to prove my girlfriend wrong.

A wise move! Agreed as above, it's the definition of hero you've been arguing about, not John?

a-hard-days-night-ringo-14

 

" They should do Marmite flavour."

14 November 2013
1.48pm
Oyster Black Pearl
Liverpool, UK
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DBTC said
My girlfriend and I just got done arguing about John Lennon……I gave up trying to prove my girlfriend wrong..

A wise move! As above, I'd say it's the definition of "hero" you've been arguing about, not John's status as one?

" They should do Marmite flavour."

15 November 2013
8.22am
trcanberra
Canberra, ACT
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SatanHimself said
I'm a fire fighter and people have called me a "hero".  I've never done anything that I would personally call heroic.  I've put out a few fires that may have injured people if not controlled, but that's my job.  A hero sacrifices all of him-or her-self for to save others.   

Since 2001 people are too quick to label anyone who dies before their time a "hero".  The word is meaningless now.  We call people who make bad professional decisions "heroes" when they die on the job, when we should really be questioning their training, common sense and the accountability and culpability of their superiors.

John Lennon was one of the most important musicians and social figures of the 20th century.  But he wasn't a hero.  He was a man.

I agree with this analysis.

I think John backed off from his radical political stance and activities for a couple of reasons:

  • It didn't sell records (see discussion on Sometime In New York City); and
  • He wanted to get his US citizenship

Both eminently understandable, but not particularly heroic.  He did have the guts to do it all in the first place though, which is pretty admirable.

 

16 November 2013
11.03pm
Lennonista
Los Angeles
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robert said

John never really put himself at risk – although he did use his influence for others – and while he didn't expect any reward (I'm talking about his political and social activism) once it began to impact his immigration efforts he stopped. 
 

John stopped being a highly visible activist because he feared for his (and Yoko's!) life. He had no interest in being a martyr to a cause, especially if it also endangered his wife.

John Lennon is my hero… so I guess that means he is a hero (whether he wanted to be one or not).

 

10 February 2014
2.53am
tulane
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I think we have to get away from this idea that heroes are famous individuals in history books.

Martin Luther King is a hero to many and I greatly admire him myself but Martin was always very clear that the civil rights movement would have gotten nowhere if it hadn't been for the hundreds of thousands of so called ordinary people who no one has ever heard about who campaigned and marched and got arrested and imprisoned and made sacrifices etc.  They are the real heroes.

Heroism is not a trait exclusive to superstars.  You see it in the everyday.  A single mother working two jobs to feed her kids eventhough it leaves her exhausted.  That's heroic.  Someone who stands up to a bully who is picking on a shy person.  That's heroic.

John had his faults, as we all do, but I do think he had a lot of good in him and was well intentioned for the most part.

 

10 February 2014
5.05am
4or5Magicians
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I'd argue that part of the near-mythological status of John Lennon stems from the fact that his life contains at least a spin on most if not all of the traits of the classical "tragic hero".

  • Usually of noble birth. He certainly wasn't born into nobility, but by the time the Beatles hit it big, they were essentially royalty of a sort. I would argue that the rags-to-riches story simply makes his story all the more powerful and easy to relate to for common folk like myself.
  • Has a tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall. You could make a laundry list of John's flaws and all but the most hardcore cult of Lennon adherents would have to agree with most of the items on the list. Lennon's brash outspoken nature and tendency for outright blasphemy ultimately inspired That A-Hole to do what he did.
  • Experiences a reversal of fortune brought about by the hero's tragic flaw. This is one open to interpretation, of course. If you consider John's unwillingness to deal with the legal aspects of The Beatles empire near the end a result of his hard headedness or his single minded devotion to Yoko and all the drama that resulted from that to be a flaw, his period of seclusion from the spotlight in the post-Beatles era could be interpreted as a reversal of fortune.
  • His actions result in an increase of self-awareness and self-knowledge. He spent a lot of time looking inward in the last decade of his life. Several of his better solo-era songs were reflections of his own inner thoughts and the demons that plagued him, whether he had control over them at that point or not.
  • The audience must feel pity and fear for this character. This one is entirely subjective, but at least in retrospect many people see John as a tragic sort of lonely soul lashing out against whatever he saw as unjust in the world, whether it be war, poverty, or even things that he was admittedly guilty of himself. Even in his years with the Beatles I've read about how he was seen as a sad, moody, angst-ridden type. That selection of traits would at least inspire sympathy from an audience, if not pity. Fear… maybe not. His tragic end inspires something similar in an after-the-fact reactionary sort of way.

So in a purely textbook example, I would argue that John Lennon fits the criteria for a fatally flawed hero. Other traits of other types of heroes apply as well. He was considered good looking, better than most at the things that he did, fatally flawed, and met a tragic end. Even if some people disagree with this assessment, he's at least inspired thousands if not millions of people before and after he died, including myself. So yeah. I'd say he fits the bill as a hero.

10 February 2014
5.07pm
Expert Textpert
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4or5Magicians said
I'd argue that part of the near-mythological status of John Lennon stems from the fact that his life contains at least a spin on most if not all of the traits of the classical "tragic hero".

  • Usually of noble birth. He certainly wasn't born into nobility, but by the time the Beatles hit it big, they were essentially royalty of a sort. I would argue that the rags-to-riches story simply makes his story all the more powerful and easy to relate to for common folk like myself.
  • Has a tragic flaw that eventually leads to his downfall. You could make a laundry list of John's flaws and all but the most hardcore cult of Lennon adherents would have to agree with most of the items on the list. Lennon's brash outspoken nature and tendency for outright blasphemy ultimately inspired That A-Hole to do what he did.
  • Experiences a reversal of fortune brought about by the hero's tragic flaw. This is one open to interpretation, of course. If you consider John's unwillingness to deal with the legal aspects of The Beatles empire near the end a result of his hard headedness or his single minded devotion to Yoko and all the drama that resulted from that to be a flaw, his period of seclusion from the spotlight in the post-Beatles era could be interpreted as a reversal of fortune.
  • His actions result in an increase of self-awareness and self-knowledge. He spent a lot of time looking inward in the last decade of his life. Several of his better solo-era songs were reflections of his own inner thoughts and the demons that plagued him, whether he had control over them at that point or not.
  • The audience must feel pity and fear for this character. This one is entirely subjective, but at least in retrospect many people see John as a tragic sort of lonely soul lashing out against whatever he saw as unjust in the world, whether it be war, poverty, or even things that he was admittedly guilty of himself. Even in his years with the Beatles I've read about how he was seen as a sad, moody, angst-ridden type. That selection of traits would at least inspire sympathy from an audience, if not pity. Fear… maybe not. His tragic end inspires something similar in an after-the-fact reactionary sort of way.

So in a purely textbook example, I would argue that John Lennon fits the criteria for a fatally flawed hero. Other traits of other types of heroes apply as well. He was considered good looking, better than most at the things that he did, fatally flawed, and met a tragic end. Even if some people disagree with this assessment, he's at least inspired thousands if not millions of people before and after he died, including myself. So yeah. I'd say he fits the bill as a hero.

Good analysis.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death." --John Lennon

6 August 2014
8.32am
Oudis
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Oh, he was a hero alright. Anybody who can compose so many terrific songs, heartfelt songs, is my hero. He made me feel less lonely when I was really low, he showed me that not everything in life was ugly, or was suffering, or hopeless. He saved my life in a way, I didn’t go nuts because of him –all Beatles did that. And that’s more than enough. The rest? His Bed-In and political commitment? A messiah complex –and I say that about a man I love. But yes, you want to look for heroes? Look for doctors who heal people, for teachers who do their job well, for artists that make our world a better place by expressing his feelings to others. John was a hero –in that respect.

Oudis.

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