2. Lennon lived his life openly in the public eye, changing what it means to be a performing artist.
When the Beatles broke into the popular music scene in the early 60s, singers, actors, and musicians were under the thumb of record, television, and movie companies and their publicists. Entertainers adopted personas that would please their public, even to point of, for instance, agreeing to phony marriages to hide being gay.
At first, the Beatles took the advice of their manager Brian Epstein and appeared as four well-dressed young men from Liverpool. But Lennon couldn’t hide his wit, his complaints, or his opinions. (Epstein did successfully convince John to keep his first marriage a secret because fans would be disappointed).
After Brian’s death in 1967, Lennon went full-throttle as himself, and willingly took the criticism. Although in the “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” he burst out:
Christ! You know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be,
The way things are going,
They’re gonna crucify me.
Still, he persevered with being who he was, even to the point of writing and singing about sides of himself that were shameful: his excessive drinking, drug use, and violence toward women. The message of his emotional confessions in music was that he was a human trying to find his way — not a star whose life seemed perfect.
Since then, artists, musicians, actors and entertainers have tended to show their fans who they really are — whether we want to know not.