John Lennon vs. the Handicapped
Anyone who has read as much about the Beatles as I have probably knows that John Lennon, as a young adult, was not an outwardly sensitive creature. He maintained a gruff and tough exterior, and was known for adding just a pinch of cynicism to some of Paul’s more happy-go-lucky tunes.
Before being politically-correct was even thought of, Lennon had a ghoulish sense of humor, and was fond of drawing crude sketches of, and doing exaggerated impressions of the physically and mentally handicapped. He once insisted on shaking the hand of a veteran who had lost both arms in WWII. You may not find anything funny about this, and I certainly don’t either. Ironic maybe, but not funny.
However, I take it for what it was: a defense mechanism. I make no excuses for my musical hero. That’s just what it was. Lennon once said that the Beatles became so famous that mothers of disabled children were coming up to them and asking them to just touch their child’s hand in the hopes that it would cure the child’s ailment. The front row at their concerts was always full of kids in wheelchairs almost as though they were waiting to be annointed by the Beatles sweat. Soon this became a horrifying experience for Lennon.
There is a reason that I feel that it was not in John Lennon’s true nature, nor was it his true intention to be cruel toward people less physically or mentally “fortunate” than him. In 1972, Lennon put on a concert to benefit mentally disabled children. It was his way of making right on his past immaturity. And not only did he put on the show, he wanted to release an album of the show for charity as well, but that didn’t happen until 1986. This was 1972, remember, when a charity concert was not a popular thing to do, and if it was done, it was like the Monterrey Pop Festival with a dozen bands on the bill. The 1972 Lennon show was just Lennon and his band.
I have a tattoo which reads “Imagine” because I know that mocking the mentally disabled may have been one of Lennon’s quirks, but open-mindedness and imagination were his message.