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Friday, March 22, 2013

The John Lennon Letters

John Lennon wrote letters and postcards in a time before email and its spawn. He included his unique line drawings in many of these missives. They are beautifully presented by Hunter Davies in The John Lennon Letters.

In 2004 Ringo put together Postcards from the Boys, which provides good insight into the humor of John and his quirky drawings.

In Lennon’s early teens what strikes me, as real telling are his self-made newspapers, “The Daily Howl.”  They are funny, jocular, witty, and illustrated. He had aspirations to be a journalist, not a musician. Later there are hints of his amorous ways in his early letters to Cynthia and a Lindy Ness, a Norwegian fan. Unfortunately not much seems to have survived from these early pre-Beatles days since Cynthia destroyed many of his letters and others just faded away. His letters to Cyn are pure love whereas to Lindy more poetic, “BUT for you sad Lindy, I scrape this metal tipped plastic finger (Pen) because of you.” Lindy seems to be a muse, perhaps his first. Cyn is his Liverpool squeeze and Lindy is his road squeeze. There is a slight flirting in John’s letters to the fans until he finally announces he is married and has a son. This was a well-kept secret for a while.

Once Brian Epstein takes over as the Beatles Manager, the letters to fans are more formal and probably dictated. We do see the Lennon cheekiness emerging occasionally when he writes to George Martin, Victor Spinetti, or a national music newspaper, New Musical Express. He has fun with inscriptions to those who buy his poetry, In His Own Write requesting that they make him rich. Being rich is a common theme seen in John’s writing.

Once the Beatles stop touring John is looking for more privacy. As he writes to old schoolmates or fans, he is oftentimes reminding them to remember this is between them and the press need not hear too. What little remains of letters to Cynthia are heart wrenching, filled with self-loathing, and pitiful at times. Then he gets reacquainted with his dad, Freddie. He takes him at 52 in to his home with his 19-year-old girlfriend. John supports the two, helps them with their marriage I Scotland and sets them up in Brighton. John is very generous with his money to help friends and family. I find it astonishing that so many of the letters we are reading were auctioned off by their recipients.

We learn his time in India was very productive for him and Paul. They wrote songs for The White Album and Abbey Road.  His letter writing was also productive. His letters long and filled with gentle substance and explanation of what he was doing, discovering, and becoming. I’m suspecting some of these letters he wrote were in response to criticism of what he was doing and perhaps in response to Christians questioning him especially after the Jesus fiasco in USA. “Christ it ain’t easy…”

Enter Yoko.

I’ll continue my reflections in another post. I want it to resonate, steep, and marinate a wee bit. Ta ta.

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