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Happy Belated Birthday, Julian!

Posted by purplemary54 on April 9, 2013

Julian Lennon, the first Beatle baby, turned 50 yesterday.  Of course to many people he will always be a somber, wide-eyed toddler staring out as his famous father grins for the cameras.  (John was wholly unprepared to be a father.  He was callous and immature, and then, because of the Beatles’ success, he was gone all the time.)  To critics, he’ll probably go down as a mediocre songwriter and musician.  I’ll always remember him as the first artist I ever saw in concert.

Yep, I saw Julian Lennon at what was then the Universal Amphitheater (near Universal Studios theme park).  I was all of sixteen, and I attended with a fellow Beatlemaniac I knew from junior high (one of many, many Julies I was friends with).  I guess I was a bit of a late bloomer in terms of live music; I know of many folks who started going to concerts when they were twelve or thirteen.  (I made up for it in later years with sheer quantity; I lost count years ago how many concerts I’ve been to, but I have the tinnitus to prove it.)  I honestly don’t remember much except that he wore very tight jeans and a Union Jack t-shirt, and that he played a couple of his dad’s classics for the encore.  “Twist and Shout” and “Stand by Me,” if I remember correctly.  Interesting that neither song was one of John’s compositions.  Even then, he was wary of the comparisons.

To be fair, there was no way Julian was ever going to live up to the legacy of his late father.  At that point, it was only five years after John’s death; people were still fanatical about his memory.  (And I will be the first to admit that some of us still are.)  Fact is, Julian really isn’t that bad.  He just suffers from the indignity of having a brilliant father who was one of the people who literally defined an era.  His half-brother Sean and Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers suffer this as well.  And there’s a reason artists like Harper Simon and Ben Taylor didn’t go into the business until they were in their 30s.  It’s really hard to live up to an iconic parent.  Julian’s first album, Valotte, probably would’ve been a hit no matter what.  I owned it, although I no longer do.  But sales on most of his later work has been diminishingly small.  He got some critical acclaim for 1998’s Photograph Smile, and deservedly so.  It features some lovely acoustic and lightly arranged songs, the title track being one of the best.

But his eerie similarity to his father, in looks and in voice, has pretty much doomed Julian Lennon to sideshow status.  He’ll always be thought of as John Lennon’s son.  He’s learned to live with that identity, learned to be gracious when reporters want to ask about his relationship with John and Yoko instead of about his own work.  At least he has company.

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