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January 2011



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By Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.
~ John Lennon

On Dec. 8th, 1980, I was in bed listening to the radio when suddenly, in a voice labored by heavy breathing and halting words, the disc jockey broke the news that John Lennon had been shot and killed in front of his New York City apartment building. The news ransacked my brain.

The Beatles weren’t just a rock band; they gave us an identity. Their songs weren’t simply catchy tunes or stray memorable lyrics. The music told us who we were. It pointed us in a whole new direction. The simplicity and clarity of their message pierced the fog of the Vietnam War, drugs, the environment, and politics. “Love is all you need” not only made sense, it gave us something to work toward.

Collectively the Beatles offered hope. But it was John Lennon who offered inspiration.

More than the assassination of John or Bobby Kennedy, or the shortened lives of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendricks and Janis Joplin, Lennon’s tragedy undid us. “If you want to be a hero,” Lennon recommended, “then just follow me.” We did, and still do. How could we not follow him? We still wrestle with war, drugs, the environment, and politics. What argument exists against someone who insists we Give Peace a Chance?

But what type of childhood provides the creative drive to be belligerent for peace? As many psychologists might suspect, the answer lies with John’s mother.

The White Album (and if you don’t own it go out and buy it right now) included the first of two songs Lennon wrote about his mother, Julia Lennon. In favor of a more carefree life, she had given John to her sister Mary, and brother-in-law George Smith, to raise. Prior to this, stories from rock and rollers were about girlfriends and lovers. But this beautiful ballad was about John’s mother.

Here is an excerpt:

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering
In the sun

Morning moon
Touch me
So I sing a song of love

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind
Sleeping sand
Silent cloud
Touch me
So I sing a song of love

Beautiful music; beautiful words. But the truth is John’s mother abandoned him, then was killed when he was 18; his father was absent throughout John’s childhood. Painful realities, but Lennon’s creative energy uniquely honed and focused these dynamics. His resilience, the love received from his aunt and uncle, and his creative talent came together to produce many songs about love and peace. Perhaps in “Julia,” we see the first creative effort to reconcile with his mother by attempting to transcend the pain; this was most likely a result of his venture into meditation. The lyrics and melody suggest that he may have been coping with the truth of his mother by detaching with love.

But there would be other ways of coping, alcohol and heroin among them.

Read in Full:  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/12/07/john-lennon-psychodrama-of-a-gifted-child/

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