THE BLOG
12/05/2010 01:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Who Was the Real John Lennon?

This week marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination. While some wonder what Lennon's next 30 years would have produced, others are focusing more on the day of his death. Discussion has also predictably turned to the legacy that the musician left behind, and how we remember him today. Here's a sampling of different takes on Lennon:

He was an artist through and through: "Lennon's willingness to let life bleed into art, and art into life, seems remarkably prescient," says Newsweek's Andrew Romano. "Today it's a prerequisite for stardom." He demonstrated how "stars could mine their fame for inspiration and bend it to their will," and "he showed how much of a celebrity mass media could make you." That's the mark he left on the world of celebrity - "When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt lured the paparazzi to Namibia for the birth of their daughter Shiloh, then donated the proceeds from the sale of her baby pictures to a local charity, they were pulling a John and Yoko."

Was he really such a pacifist? "Lennon will be celebrated as a man who boldly proclaimed for peace in a world gone mad," says John McMillan in The Boston Globe. We remember him this way at least partially due to our "desire to underscore the tragedy and senselessness of his death." However, these "well-intended tributes and vigils are off the mark." In reality, Lennon was "ambivalent about pacifism, and his public enthusiasm for the peace movement was fleeting and capricious." If we're more honest about Lennon's views and experiences in the 1960s, we can "understand just how harrowing and uncertain that decade was."

Lennon was more complicated than we recall: Lennon came to "reflect the attitude of his generation," says Ray Connolly in The Telegraph. "But for the past three decades the man I've been reading about has grown less and less like the John Lennon I knew." Yoko Ono and others have "air-brushed from public memory" any "warts" Lennon had. Even though we "speak of him in idealised tones" now, Lennon was a "complex, often contradictory character," who "did some very foolish things when he let a naïve, well-meaning heart rule a hasty, agitprop head."