“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”— John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)," from the Double Fantasy LP, released by Lennon and Yoko Ono (1980)
John Lennon was born on this day 75 years ago in Liverpool, England. His mother was inspired to give the future Beatle his rather unusual middle name—“Winston”—after hearing a radio address by Churchill the night before. It may seem unusual that the composer of that secular hymn to peace, “Imagine,” would derive a portion of his name from the British Prime Minister who led his country through a war that threatened its very identity.
But then again, that middle name was a signifier: that Lennon, like the British leader, would make his reputation on the radio; and that, like the older man, he was slotted for a most unusual destiny.
I chose the image accompanying this post for a simple reason: 40 years ago this week, the New York State Supreme Court reversed a deportation order against the singer by the U.S. government. In 1972, the Nixon Administration had used his conviction on a marijuana possession charge—a misdemeanor—in a paranoid attempt to muzzle his dissenting voice just before an election it would win by a landslide.
Judge Irving Kaufman’s ruling on behalf of the musician may be, in its way, more eloquent than Lennon’s memorable lyric: “The courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds. Lennon’s four-year battle to remain in our country is testimony to his faith in this American dream.”