The Songs of John Lennon: the Beatles Years
by John Stevens
Writing this book about the songs of John Lennon has given me a greater understanding of Lennon's music than I ever had before. In 1964 in my mid-teens, I started off playing his songs on guitar by ear. Then later I began seeking out and studying the sheet music of his songs where I would often be surprised to find a new chord or lyric that was difficult to hear.
I began teaching at Berklee College of Music in September 1976. During my first four years, I taught an array of jazz, pop, and classical studies. In 1980 when I started teaching Songwriting, I was delighted because I was able to employ many of the classic Beatles songs as teaching examples. Having spent many years focused specifically on Lennon's songs, I created the Music of John Lennon course in 1981. I have read many books about Lennon's life and music -- his journey, his struggles, his humor, his genius. Lennon's time on this planet has been examined extensively in books, films, concerts, interviews, and even in college classes. So many of us have been passionately affected by his music that we are driven to put pen to paper on the subject.
I personally found both the William Dowdling book "Beatlesongs," and the Mark Lewisohn book "The Beatles' Recording Sessions, 1962-1970," to contain the most accurate information on the background and recording of the Beatles' songs. However, I found it difficult to find a good book of musical analysis that could explain the technical workings of their songs.
After 40 years of playing and singing Lennon's music, and after 25 years of teaching and analyzing his songs, I finally decided it was time to write my own book about John's songs.
My publishers, Berkleepress and Hal Leonard, suggested that I limit myself in two ways in the writing of this book: 1) only Lennon "Beatle" songs, and 2) only 25 songs total. I totally agreed with this focused approach. The only hard part was trying to decide which songs to leave out of the book!
The 25 representative "Lennon" songs from 1964 to 1969 show Lennon's progress and growth as a songwriter with the Beatles. As you journey through the songs, you will be able to get a sense of how Lennon developed his distinctive songwriting style. You will begin to see how he had, like any great composer, certain musical gestures that were his and his alone.
Each song is divided into 5 sections: Background, Structure, Phrasing, Prosody, and Summary. The reason I took this approach was because I wanted Lennon fans, musician and non-musician alike to be able to glean something that they could really understand from each song analysis. Reading the Background, Structure, and Summary sections gives the reader a broader and less technical view of the song. By contrast, the Phrasing and Prosody sections gives a more in-depth analysis of melody, harmony and lyric for the trained musician. Therefore, it is a good fit for a fan or an artist.
This book is not only required reading for The Music of John Lennon class at Berklee College, but also the companion book to the online version of the Music of John Lennon with Berkleemusic.com. If you're a Lennon fan, or a musician, or both, this book can provide some insight for you into one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century.
|© john stevens