Writings About Music
The Greatest Composer
I saw it online. Someone wrote that John Lennon is the greatest composer who ever lived. Wow. He’s right. It’s true. Lennon’s songs possess the immense profundity of towering Himalayan Mountains containing infinite minerals and metals and prototypes of life within rocks and earth. His melodic-harmonic-rhythmic complex yields stunningly original and heart touching, resonantly deep modes of expression that are simply unmatched, with an inexplicable musical imagination vast as the Pacific Ocean and mysterious as the Indian Ocean. Harmonies within harmonies within harmonies suffused with Irish-British passion, sorrow and bravery befitting his middle name, Winston. And his voice: John Lennon is my favorite singer of all, with exquisite colorations, breathtaking sensitivity, and a weighted, tempered strength and balance transcendent of time and genre, towering over the impossibly great range of artists who sprung from rock.
Some of the masterpieces are Ticket to Ride, Strawberry Fields Forever, I am the Walrus, Norwegian Wood, I'm A Loser, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, Nowhere Man, In My Life, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Dear Prudence, If I Fell, Come Together, Tommorow Never Knows, No Reply, I Should Have Known Better, and on and on and on. John Lennon hits an aesthetically pure and ingeniously creative region with his musical vision that no one else remotely touches.
Now, I believe more fervently than anyone that the Beatles are indivisible, entirely equal five parts because George Martin was musically as indispensible as any other member. Paul McCartney may be just a shade less profound (if more beautiful) in his composing then Lennon, but without their collaboration neither would exist, so its just as true to say that Lennon and McCartney are one. George Harrison and Ringo Starr are equally essential, so you might fairly say that my whole premise here is misguided! Sorry about that, but it would appear that I’m not the first to feel that John Lennon was the soul of the Beatles, and I’ve simply given some reasons why. And to remove any ambiguity, I believe he ultimately surpasses Bach, Beethoven, or anyone else. If Lennon was still here and read this, I'm guessing he would find it amusing, but perhaps he might also agree inside, sometimes having difficulty appearing humble.
Beyond tragic how he's been gone, but I hope he's somewhere, living in a splendid Astral Palace, still writing and singing his wondrous songs, even if they're not quite as good without his mates.
- Michael Robinson, June 2017, Los Angeles
A gifted friend and colleague questioned how Beethoven would feel about this. My reply: I know what you mean! When I first came across this idea online, I found it ridiculous. However, the more I thought about it, it seemed true to me. I am someone (among many) who believes that just as jazz overtook European forms as the predominant Western classical music of the time, so rock did the same some years later. Leading that wave were the Beatles, and now, upon reflection, I feel that Lennon was perhaps the underlying explanation for this. And I did reference Beethoven and Bach at the end of the essay. Sometimes relative simplicity surpasses relative complexity. But I know I'm being provocative while being honest about my views at the same time.
© 2017 Michael Robinson All rights reserved
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).