The anniversary of John Lennon’s terrible murder on in 1980 is marked by vigils, candles, flowers, singing and longing — especially for the idyllic world Lennon memorably imagined in his great signature song, “Imagine.” But Lennon was a complicated man, and fitting the whole Lennon package into a jar constructed only from his most reductive (and beautiful) lyrics requires ignoring many complexities. The great sage of love had a very difficult, sometimes destructive love life. The famous celebrant of peace often wreaked havoc in his personal life. And the great Beatle who just liked to watch the wheels go round and round did that from a very expensive apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park.
The egalitarian Lennon owned a Rolls-Royce and employed a chauffeur during parts of his remarkable life — and admitted in 1967 that he “always wanted to be an eccentric millionaire.” That he was. Paul McCartney once candidly offered some insight into how money inspired the Beatles and especially Lennon in song writing mode. McCartney: “John would be getting an extension on his house or something, and the joke used to be, ‘Okay! Today let’s write a swimming pool.’ It was great motivation.” A few hours after that the swimming pool inspiration, John and Paul dove in and emerged having written “Help!” For immensely gifted and hardworking Lennon, though obviously for very few others, it was easy if you try. RIP John Lennon.