by JUDE SOUTHERLAND KESSLER
It’s a film classic: the moment when the sage Yoda advises young Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
It’s truly the motto that John Lennon lived by. He was completely and utterly committed to success, to “the toppermost of the poppermost” in a never-say-die way that permitted no room for failure. John was determined.
In fact, after The Beatles returned from Hamburg, Germany, in December of 1960, Paul McCartney’s father convinced him to return to school and complete his teacher training. George Harrison took a job as an electrician’s mate, and drummer Pete Best (pre-Ringo) began playing gigs with various groups around Liverpool with whom he was friendly. For The Beatles, it was almost the end.
But enter Johnny Lennon – his eyes on the prize! John went door-to-door, dragging his band members back to their raison d’etre.
“What’re y’doin’???” he exhorted them. “Y’ can’t get a job! There’s no time for it! We’re goin’ to be big! We’re goin’ to the toppermost of the poppermost!” And so, one-by-one, they surrendered: Paul dropped out of school; George gave up the job; Pete zeroed in on just one band: The Beatles pledged their allegiance. It was a conscious decision to do, not to try.
Of course, you know the end of that story, don’t you? The Fab Four, those lads from Liverpool, made it! They got a manager. They got a recording contract. They got a Number One (and many, many, many Number Ones after that!) They got gold and platinum records. They got a World Tour, a North American Tour, and a contract with United Artists for five major motion pictures. They got a GRAMMY. They got fame and power and, oh, yes, Beatlemania! They got it all … only because they were determined to hang in there … only because they refused to give up.
For the last 34 years, I’ve been researching and writing about the life of John Lennon, not because he was a great singer-songwriter (though indeed, he was!) … not because he was an exceptional single-line artist (again, yes, of course he was!) … not because he was an acclaimed author of three books (he was!) and not because he was a peace activist … but because in the face of the myriad tragedies that life handed him, John Lennon never gave up. He never let pain or sorrow or hurt defeat him. He kept on keepin’ on, no matter what.
This February, I urge you to try again. Make a pledge that despite disappointments and lost dreams, you won’t be beaten. Despite the ones who were false and the ones who let you down, you won’t let yourself down. No matter what life has given you, promise that you’ll keep going.
To paraphrase one of my favorite songs, “Tubthumpin’” by Chumbawumba, “you’ll get knocked down, but you’ll get up again … ain’t never gonna keep you down!” Promise me that … and in turn, I promise you.
We say it frequently: life is NOT easy. No way. No how. But it certainly wasn’t easy in the bitterly cold Liverpool winter of 1960 when twenty-year-old John Lennon walked door-to-door, bringing The Beatles back together again. It wasn’t easy that bleak and dark December day when John wouldn’t let his mates give up on the dream that their band would someday be “bigger ’n Elvis.” Nothing about The Beatles’ rung-by-rung climb to the top was easy. It took commitment to “up,” again and again.
And if John can do it, then so can we. If a lad from a disrespected, Northern, industrial town can bring the world to its knees, then so can we. If a boy who never learned to write a music score can leave us with the soundtrack of our lives, then so can we. If he can, we can.
Don’t try … do.