Lennon legacy tainted by bickering
Lennon legacy tainted by bickering and big bucks By Mike Collett-White and Jonathan Stempel
Tue Dec 6, 6:41 AM ET
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Beatle John Lennon was the master of the peacenik anthem, exhorting listeners to live in harmony and give peace a chance. He also asked us to imagine a world without possessions.
Yet the bickering among family and fans over his legacy is as loud as ever, as record releases, autobiographies and commentaries jostle for attention ahead of the 25th anniversary of his murder on Thursday.
In recent months the musical "Lennon," endorsed by his widow Yoko Ono, flopped on Broadway and an autobiography by his first wife Cynthia described how he once hit her out of jealousy and how his use of the LSD drug destroyed their marriage.
Ono made a barbed comment about Lennon's former songwriting partner Paul McCartney at a British awards ceremony in October, suggesting that their infamous feud rumbles on, although she did later apologize.
"It's a pity that the people who loved John can't love each other," said Richard Porter of the British Beatles Fan Club, adding that he believed Lennon would have been uncomfortable with the way his image had been manipulated since his death.
Add to that unease over commercial opportunism surrounding Lennon's legacy, including a re-release of at least four albums this year, a raft of new books and even a John Lennon training shoe, and for many the rock saint's halo has slipped.
Lennon was shot dead outside his New York apartment building on December 8, 1980 at age 40.
Some of the more recent accounts of Lennon, his life and his hugely influential music had also misrepresented the truth, people who knew him and the Beatles complained.
"There a lot of people who don't know what the hell they are writing about," said Billy Kinsley, a member of the Merseybeats band who knew the Beatles in Liverpool where they first emerged.
ONO LOVED AND LOATHED
Japanese-born Ono, 72, has often been cast as the woman who broke up the Beatles, dragging Lennon away, forcing him into experimental music, encouraging his drug habit and ending one of pop's great partnerships that he shared with McCartney.
Lennon was deeply sensitive to the accusations long before his premature death, telling an interviewer in 1970 "we were in real pain" over how the other band members treated him and Ono.
She was certainly a source of tension between band members, prompting Lennon to say of McCartney that the Beatles got "fed up" with him after band manager Brian Epstein died.
"Paul took over and supposedly led us. What's leading us when you wander round in circles?" Lennon said.
Beatles fans are divided over Ono's role in Lennon's legacy.
While many mourn the day she and Lennon met, and accuse her of re-writing history by tinkering with his music, others argue that were it not for her fiercely guarding, and sometimes promoting it, there would be no legacy at all.
Commentators agree that Lennon was a flawed genius.
"He was never a black-and-white embodiment of someone searching for ideals, but was human and fallible," said Michael Musto, entertainment writer for the Village Voice in New York.
Abandoned by his father at a young age and losing his mother as a teenager, Lennon was himself accused of ditching his first wife Cynthia and their son Julian as soon as Ono appeared.
Cynthia, who released her own biography of Lennon in September, told Reuters in an interview that she and Julian were "airbrushed" from the Beatles' story, and that Ono had made it clear she did not want her in New York after Lennon's death.
Julian, a musician, clearly has still not got over the sense of rejection he felt.
Declining interview requests, he issued a statement instead.
"I have always had very mixed feelings about Dad," he said on his Web site. "He was the father I loved who let me down in so many ways ... it's painful to think that his early death robbed me of the chance for us to know each other better."
Ono's spokesman Elliot Mintz said he had received more than 500 requests for interviews.
"It's just too painful for her to discuss," he said.