by Tim Den
It’s hard not to confuse the myth with the person. After all, who didn’t grow up instilled with the perception that John Lennon and The Beatles are not ordinary human beings, that they were authors of timeless melodies, deities who walk without touching the ground, and omnipresent beings whose images stare back at us from every walk of life? They’re so integrated into our consciousness that we need only to refer to their first names: John, Paul, George, and Ringo. So it is all the more incredible that Legend is able to surpass all of these set-in-stone ideas and show, for 100 minutes, John Lennon as a regular person.
Through newly-constructed music videos such as “Beautiful Boy,” “Watching the Wheels,” and “Mind Games,” we are transported into the most unguarded, private moments of John’s life. The home movie reels, cleaned up and looking immaculate, show us John the father, John the New Yorker enjoying pretzels, and John the goof who never took himself seriously. Not John the supergenius who wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever,” or John the icon whose Ed Sullivan Show pose remains etched in our brains. No, we’re shown a person living his life. Loving his wife, raising his child, buying food when he’s hungry, acting silly when he feels like it, etc. As you watch, you begin to be able to separate the human being – with needs and weaknesses – from the infallible musical deity. Almost.
Cuz remember, the music’s still there to remind you that, even without The Beatles, John was constantly making incredible music. “Love” and “#9 Dream” as tender as a child’s touch, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” and “Instant Karma!” as joyous as a New Year’s Eve party, “Power to the People” and “Give Peace a Chance” simple yet passionate and undeniable. When he primal screams in “Mother” and “Cold Turkey,” it’s honest emotional outpouring that we hear, not the manufactured angst flooding today’s airwaves. And that’s such a powerful weapon of John’s: He always gives you all of himself, whether growling or whispering. His voice is always completely saturated with spirit, soul, and essence. And nowhere do we hear more of this than on Imagine, perhaps the most famous of his solo recordings.
It’s amazing how someone who’s been dead for 24 years can feel like your best friend. Your long-lost uncle. The father you never knew. Watching Legend, you almost feel like you’re getting reacquainted with someone close and dear… and making viewers feel this way about a person they’re never met or knew is Legend‘s crowning achievement: It makes John a real person.