The Beatles had a lasting impact on the music industry and society as well. The iconic band never took rock music only for what it was, but also searched for new ways to expand and evolve the genre as they consistently incorporated new ideas to their songs. They also made waves in the record player industry, leading to a booming business of record player inventors and manufacturers. They were the band that paved the way for music videos, which later led to the creation of the music video channel MTV that was highly popular in the ‘80s to ‘90s.
John Lennon is often remembered as the enigmatic member of the Beatles, the witty front man who can charm crowds. Lennon will always be remembered as a Beatle, but as an individual, he also helped change the world. He was also remembered for how he impacted today’s culture with his personality and beliefs. Here are the ways John Lennon made a lasting impact on pop culture:
He was the first to acknowledge the power of pop culture
In a March 1966 interview in London, Lennon speculated about the popularity of Beatles and the future of Christianity. He said in his remark, “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” This statement was the first major acknowledgement of the power of pop culture. He argued that the public were more infatuated with the band than with Jesus, and that the Christian faith was declining to the extent that it may be outlived by rock music.
This opinion went practically unnoticed when it was originally published in the London newspaper, The Evening Standard. But when it was republished in the United States in July, it drew angry reactions from Christian communities.
These comments incited threats and protests, particularly throughout the Bible Belt in the Southern US. Churches held burnings of their records, some radio stations stopped playing Beatles songs, and press conferences were cancelled. This controversy coincided with the band’s 1966 US tour, and overshadowed the press coverage of their newest album at the time. He had to apologize on and on, and explain that he wasn’t comparing himself to Christ.
Other countries such as Spain, Mexico and South Africa issued a ban on all Beatles records, and the Vatican denounced Lennon in their newspaper. John and the rest of the Beatles received lots of hate mail, exacerbating the band’s unhappiness with touring, which they never did again.
Until Lennon’s remark, pop culture was always seen as an unimportant, insignificant, “kid thing.” But since then, it made pop culture be regarded as a social force to be reckoned with.
He was one of the first performing artists to become an open book to the public’s eye
When the Beatles broke into the pop music scene in the early ‘60s, actors, singers and musicians were under the control of television, movie, record companies and their publicists. Entertainers had to adopt personas that would be pleasing to the public. Some even agreed to phony marriages to hide being gay.
At first, the Beatles also conformed to the norm, taking the advice of their manager Brian Epstein. They were portrayed as four well-dressed men from Liverpool. But ever since, Lennon couldn’t hide his opinions, his wit, and his complaints. He was convinced though, to keep his first marriage a secret to prevent fans from being disappointed.
But when Epstein died in 1967, Lennon went full-throttle as himself and willingly took the criticism of the public. He kept on expressing who he really was, and even kept singing and writing about sides of himself that were shameful, like his drug use, excessive drinking, and violence against women. He showed that artists can be vulnerable to show people that he’s also a human trying to find his way, not a celebrity with a perfect life.
Since Lennon, entertainers like singers, actors, and musicians tend to show their fans who they really are, whether the people wanted to know or not.
He made it acceptable for artists to be vocal in their political views
Lennon was always wary about politicians whose influences steeped to the lives of everyday citizens. In 1968 interview, he stated that the society is run by “insane people for insane objectives,” and that he realized it when he was young. He also said that “If anybody can put on paper what our government, and the American government and the Russian, Chinese, what they are actually trying to do and what they think they’re doing… I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing, I think they’re all insane!”
These sentiments can be heard through his song from his eponymous album, “Gimme Some Truth.” In this record, Lennon sung about how he is tired of hearing things spread by psychotic, neurotic, and pig-headed politicians. As Lennon’s voice demanded to be heard, so did his music became the tool to spread it to the whole world.
His political voice was also spread through the influence and support of Yoko Ono, who was a peace activist herself. She helped Lennon find ways to voice out his own thoughts about the world around him, from corruption of the government to the Vietnam war and everything in between.
He was an activist who became key to having stoking popular opinion against the war
Some people go so far as to say John Lennon and his activism put a stop to the war in Vietnam. Well, of course that’s not true, as it ignores the huge anti-war demonstrations of the day.
Instead, Lennon’s move was in the opposite direction, which is towards a peaceful protest – a move that angered, ridiculed, and bewildered the supporters of the war.
Realizing that any major event involving him became news, Lennon and Ono decided to use their marriage on March 20, 1969 to promote the cause of peace. After getting married, the pair traveled to Amsterdam to spend their honeymoon for a week-long Bed-In for Peace. Naturally, the press would want access to their wedding, but the pair took it a step further – they invited the press to their bedroom.
At the Amsterdam Hilton, visitors and reporters were welcomed in their honeymoon suite from March 25-31, where they found the couple propped up on the pillows and wearing white pajamas. The couple stayed in bed and answered questions about their protests against the Vietnam war and their advocacy for peace.
While it may seem foolish to reject active protests to lie in bed for a week and just talk about it in front of reporters, it was an alternative method of protest that cannot be practically solved by one person. The couple repeated a Bed-In protest in Montreal in May that year, where Lennon invited everyone to sing along to “Give Peace a Chance.” After the recording for the song was released in July, “Give Peace a Chance” became an anthem for the counterculture and anti-Vietnam war movements.
The protest may have been ineffectual, but their sentiments became prominent, perhaps even more so with the absence of action about it. It certainly got the attention of the press and the world, letting their opinions and the war and advocacy for peace be heard. Lennon helped sway the American opinion on war itself.
His biggest solo hit, “Imagine,” became an international peace anthem
In the recent years, music has included advocacies for human rights and gender equality. Entertainers today have taken notes from Lennon, a man who wished to change the world through his craft. His best-selling single as a solo artist, “Imagine,” was one of the top 100 most-performed songs in the 20th century. Rolling Stone magazine described it as “an enduring hymn of solace and promise.”
The song has been covered by artists in every genre, from Stevie Wonder to Liza Minnelli, to Neil Young and Lady Gaga. It has been performed at some of the biggest concerts around the world, especially at concerts for peace and concerts for hunger, as well as in New Year’s Eve concerts and at the Olympics.
The concept of the song is to imagine a world where there is peace and equality, without comparisons to create strife and division among people. He believed that world peace is within reach, but only if the restraints of social control are rejected.
The impact of “Imagine” was unquestionable. Disguised within the message of peace and love and a flowing piano melody are edgy, “dangerous” ideals that can challenge the society we know. It was actually full of controversial and radical ideas. His peaceful teachings went international, inspiring people around the world like no artists has ever done before.
He had a major role in the movement for the legalizing marijuana in America
The song “Give Peace a Chance” was used by Lennon as an anti-Nixon campaign, saying that the best way to give peace a chance is to vote against Nixon. The White House responded by ordering him to be deported.
Why? It was because he had plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possessing cannabis in London in 1968, and at that time, US immigration laws banned the admission of anyone convicted of any drug offense.
He fought this publicly, and leading artists and writers joined a letter-writing campaign to immigration to let Lennon stay. Personalities like Joseph Heller, Bob Dylan, Leonard Bernstein, John Cage, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, and Joan Baez protested to the INS that John Lennon was a cultural asset in the United States.
One way Lennon fought this deportation order was by going on TV on the late-night “Tom Snyder Show,” telling his side. He said that the government’s response to the dangers of marijuana is preposterous, and the laws concerning illegal drugs are unrealistic and too far-reaching. Lennon’s public fight led to create the movement for the legalization of marijuana in America. With retail marijuana being sold in some states today, it’s worth noting the high-profile case of Lennon.