Monday, October 13, 2008

The Words and Music of John Lennon

by Ben Urish and Ken Bielen

Despite John Lennon's immense popularity, little attention has been paid to the overall efforts of his work apart from the Beatles. Yet his solo artistry not only illuminates what he gave to the Beatles (and what the Beatles experience gave to him), but also constitutes a significant contribution to popular music in general. Lennon was able to fuse experiments in technology, instrumentation, lyrics, and musical form into recordings that were both artistically and commercially successful. Whether expressing emotions, explaining philosophies, protesting social situations, or ruminating on the joys and pains of personal entanglements, few singer-songwriters have been his equal. In this long overdue investigation, authors Ben Urish and Ken Bielen give Lennon's artistry the opportunity to speak for itself. After a brief biographical introduction, chronologically arranged chapters discuss his incredible body of work album-by-album and single-by-single. A discography and annotated bibliography conclude the book. Although he is often lauded as a spokesperson for his generation, this praise, however intended, is far too limiting. Lennon was able to transform the intensely personal into the deeply universal (as well as the reverse), often with humor and pointed insight. At their core, his songs are simultaneously humanistic and transcendent. And as such, they-and he-continue to be relevant, and will certainly remain a valuable part of our cultural heritage for a long time to come.

BEN URISH has taught courses in Popular Music at Temple University, and has made popular music a large component in classes on mass media and American cultural history at Michigan State University.

KEN BIELEN has taught courses in Popular Music at Bowling Green State University and has researched and written extensively on the subject. He is the author of The Lyrics of Civility, (1999).

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