"Beatle-John's Alter Ego." Music & Letters 80 (1999): 254-268
by Daniel Beller-McKenna
abstract: Few artists have encouraged us to examine their lives through their art as adamantly as did John Lennon. Beginning with his Beatles songs In My Life and Strawberry Fields, songs that refer to his youth in Liverpool, Lennon came more and more to use the rock song as a self-conscious, public diary. By contrast his early songs are usually understood to be unreflective love songs that owe more to standard format pop lyrics than to any circumstances in Lennon's own life. In this paper I seek to redefine how we know John Lennon through his songs, arguing that his later autobiographical songs and abundant public comments on his life provide us with too much information to form our own critical perception of the "real" John Lennon: that person has been reinterpreted for us by the "public" John Lennon. By the same token, some of his supposedly earlier songs bare the traces of a struggle between that real (unknowable) person and the public persona of Beatle-John, as Lennon worked to express some of his individuality against the facade he had created with Paul McCartney and the Beatles.