Saturday, 9 October 2010

Where have all the Icons gone?

Today is the 70th anniversary of the birth of John Lennon. It is being celebrated across the world in many different ways.

Yoko Ono for example is in Reykjavik to light up The Imagine Peace Tower whilst in the city of his birth his first wife, Cynthia, and his eldest son, Julian, will be unveiling The Peace and Harmony Monument as part of a two month John Lennon cultural season that celebrates his 70th birthday and commemorates the40th anniversary of his death.

John Lennon was an iconic figure. When he spoke, the world listened. Not everyone agreed with what he said , but he provoked a reaction. He was able to mobilise a consciousness that many had tried and failed to do before.

He was an Icon. Not in the religious sense, although in many ways what he tried to do could be seen as having parallels to the life of many prophets in biblical times. Preaching peace and love wasn't the exclusivity of those who invoked the name of God to sell their beliefs.

John Lennon was (still is) a cultural icon. Much more so than any of the other members of The Beatles. Being from Merseyside I have a lot of respect for Paul McCartney who reinvested plenty of his fortune in his home city. I actually prefer The Beatles songs that Paul wrote more than those that John penned. But I wouldn't say that Paul had half as much resonance in the world as John.

Is it because John reached an untimely and violent end. Other stars that have iconic status seem to have one thing in common. They all seem  to have died before their time. James Dean, Marilyn Monroe even John F Kennedy.

Is this the reason that we haven't got any stars that are considered icons any more? Even film stars aren't what they used to be. The Hollywood star system raised the profile of those it wanted to make a profit from to the extent that the names could be reeled off by anyone and everyone. They even placed them on a pavement outside a Chinese theatre. Nowadays the pavement is still there but the status is possibly waning. Interestingly there is a star to The Beatles as a group and to John, Ringo and George as individuals, Paul doesn't have a star in his own right in the walk of fame.

So why are we not producing cultural icons any more? Or have I got it wrong and there are plenty still around? Does Tom Cruise deserve iconic status? (In my defence I give you his 2006 Razzie ward for most tiresome movie star).

Are we in a period where the media is so of the moment that longevity in any given celebrity status is virtually impossible. And those that do make the long haul will eventually be knocked of their perch by the media who built them up in the first place. Is the cult of celebrity such that Andy Warhol's comment about everybody having their fifteen minutes of fame is now a maximum rather than a minimum?

John Lennon is possibly the only true British International Icon ever and I remember him on his 70th birthday.

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