If you were to trace all the streams and tributaries of the music I love back to their sources, nearly all of them would converge in the endless river that is the Beatles – and so many of the qualities of the music I love can thereby be traced directly back to John Lennon.
Lennon would have been 70 today, and the crushing irony of his death 30 years ago is that he had spent most of his life struggling for peace – mostly internal peace, but external peace as well – and had finally seemed to have found a significant measure of it, when a man so confused and deranged by an utter lack of inner peace shot him dead.
I think we still miss his voice. I think that voice would have continued to call out bullshit when he saw it, to find hope when he could sense it, and to express love and beauty when he felt it.
This song, “#9 Dream,” has always been one of my favorites. It’s one of his most beautiful songs, and it’s somehow aptly Lennonesque that it’s at least half borrowed (Lennon was unafraid of his influences): it’s built on the chord sequence of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross,” and its string arrangement is essentially the same as the one Lennon used on Harry Nilsson’s version of that song. But Lennon transforms the character of the chords, and of course those chords are only part of his song, whose character is strongly colored by the tension between its dreamy sound and its abrupt chord changes, as well as its moments of becalmed stasis contrasted with sawing cellos and basses.
Now it’s time to say good night.
John Lennon “#9 Dream” (Walls and Bridges, 1974)