John Lennon didn’t invent rock and roll, nor did he embody it as toweringly as figures like Elvis Presley and Little Richard, but he did more than anyone else to shake it up, move it forward and instill it with a conscience. As the most daring and outspoken of the four Beatles, he helped shape the agenda of the Sixties—socially and politically, no less than musically. As a solo artist, he made music that alternately disturbed and soothed, provoked and sought community. As a human being, he served as an exemplar of honesty in his art and life. As Rolling Stone editor and publisher Jann Wenner wrote in the foreword to a collection of writings entitled The Ballad of John and Yoko, “Of the many things that will be long remembered about John Lennon – his genius as a musician and singer, his wit and literary swiftness, his social intuition and leadership – among the most haunting was the stark, unembarrassed commitment of his life, his work and his undernourished frame to truth, to peace and to humanity.”
The exhibition, John Lennon: His Life and Work, was timed to coincide with what would have been John Lennon’s 60th birthday, as well as the 20th anniversary of his death. Put together with the full involvement of his estate, this was the single biggest exhibit of Lennon artifacts ever exhibited anywhere in the world. It included numerous guitars and famous outfits. It also included paintings, drawings, collages and other artwork. Most notably, however, were the displays featuring roughly 30 original lyric manuscripts.
This exhibit was made possible through the generous support of Enterasys Networks.
John Lennon Exhibition Opening Party
October 19, 2000
“John, the singer-songwriter in him, would have been especially pleased that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is doing this as a tribute,” said Yoko Ono. “It’s an honor he would have accepted with joy.”
Yoko was in Cleveland on October 19 for the opening of John Lennon: His Life and Work. In addition to meeting with the press, Yoko kicked off the opening-night party with a primal scream. “I just had to clear my throat,” she told the crowd of 1,200 people. “I think John would have been very very pleased that you’re giving such a classy show here.”
After Yoko’s welcome, Dexter Freebish took the stage. The band – which hails from Austin, Texas – won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest “Maxell Song of the Year” in 1999. Their song “Leaving Town” beat out 27,000 other entries. Matthew Sweet, an avid John Lennon fan, came on next performing “Ugly Truth,” “Girlfriend” and “Sick of Myself,” as well as Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth.” Alan White, the original drummer from the Plastic Ono Band, as well as Yes, joined Sweet and his band on stage.
The most surprising performance of the evening was by Cyndi Lauper. Accompanying herself on the dulcimer, she did breath-taking renditions of “Imagine,” “God” and “Working Class Hero.” “When I was nine-and-a-half I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. When the screaming stopped, I heard this really wonderful voice and it was John Lennon’s,” she said. Lauper shared with the audience a dream she once had where she was brushing her teeth next to Lennon. “I don’t know what it means,” she said. “But it was deep, OK?”
To close the evening, Billy Preston, who frequently played keyboards with the Beatles during the late Sixties, performed a medley of “Imagine,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Let It Be” and “All You Need Is Love.”
“We’ve been visiting the Rock Hall for three years, about two times per year. Your displays are fabulous and we learn something new each time we’re here...It’s even allowing us to teach our 9-year-old son about all music...So do we think it’s worth a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Dayton, Ohio in the pouring rain? You bet! Rock on.” “Wow - This is the music of our lives. This place is awesome - extremely impressive. We grew up on Alan Freed, Bandstand and Cousin Brucie. Keep up the good work - we’ll be back.”