On his 80th birthday, Liverpool launches search for ‘new’ John Lennon
He was its most famous and most profoundly influential son, but Liverpool will mark his 80th birthday today by launching a search for a new John Lennon.
The former Beatle, who was murdered in Manhattan in 1980, two months after he turned 40, will be the object of mourning around the world, and again in December, but Liverpool’s mayor said his home city was determined to carry his legacy to a new generation.
“Music heals, it inspires, it brings happiness and it brings us hope,” said Joe Anderson. “Liverpool is the world capital of music and we need now to hear it loud and proud again.”
The Liverpool International Song For Kindness contest hopes to find an anthem as inspiring as Lennon’s Imagine, to lift morale as the city plans its recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Liverpool needs a positive and uplifting story in these current days, so we are turning to what this city does best – making music,” Mr Anderson said.
“This contest will help to unify the people of Liverpool, encourage acts of kindness in the city and inspire the songwriters of both here and around the world. It will encourage young people to learn an instrument and make music, and who knows what great songs could come out of this?”
The content, run by the city council, the youth charity tuff.earth and the Cavern Club where The Beatles honed their act in the early 1960s, will run for 11 months, with the winning song – to be chosen by a public vote on Facebook and premiered at the Cavern – announced next September, on the 50th anniversary of the release of the Imagine album.
“It is fitting that we are launching this initiative on the 80th birthday of John Lennon,” Mr Anderson said. “The songs that John wrote with Paul in The Beatles, and the classics like Imagine that he created as a solo artist and with Yoko, changed the sound of music and uplifted the world. Now we need to be uplifted again.”
Dr Shamender Talwar, co-founder of the tuff.earth charity, which works around the world to encourage acts of kindness, said the contest was “open to every musician on the planet” and to all styles and genres.
“Literally, if Paul or Ringo want to submit a song they would be very welcome to,” he said.
“It can be your song or a cover, it can be rock ‘n roll or rap or classical and orchestral, and the contest is unique in that it is open to every musician on the planet, unknown or famous, from buskers to Beatles.”
Meanwhile, Sir Paul McCartney has revealed that the three other Beatles were “massive fans” of Lennon.
“He was that kind of guy,” he told the actor Alec Baldwin in a podcast to be broadcast at the weekend on the internet station Sirius XM.
Asked whether the band had a natural leader, Sir Paul said of Lennon: “His personality was a leader’s personality.”
His former partner would have been “very literate” in his later years, he added. “He would be writing and not necessarily just music. I think he would have matured nicely.”
He credited Lennon’s second wife, Yoko Ono, as the major influence on his life.
“I remember his first wife, Cynthia, telling me that all she wanted was for John to come home, put on his slippers and smoke a pipe. I said, ‘you picked the wrong guy there’.
“When he met Yoko she was so different and the two of them were a tight little unit. She was showing him new things in life.
“John had always had strong women his life – his Auntie Mimi was strong – and he liked that. He was very happy to be influenced.
“It caused problems with us until we realised that he had every right to do what he was doing because he was in love. And you don’t just do what everyone expects when you’re in love.”
Previously unseen pictures of Lennon in New York are going on display to mark his 80th birthday.
The black and white photographs were taken in October 1974, when he was at the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road show at the Beacon Theatre, and include one of him changing a street sign off Broadway to read Sgt Pepper Way.
The photos, taken by freelance Robert Deutsch and kept at his home ever since, will go on display at The Beatles Story in Liverpool. Mr Deutsch described the singer as “very nice, very friendly and very accessible”, adding: “He was having a great time talking to us, then he sat down at the organ and started playing – I couldn’t believe it.”
Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, remains in jail.
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