“Change the things that don’t serve us in life,” was just a morsel of the many lessons learned from Julian Lennon as he took the stage at Robert Mondavi Winery for the 15th annual Live in the Vineyard last week.
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These words have manifested themselves in the way Lennon approaches the music industry, now seven albums into his journey. Up until this point, the only way to describe the waxes and wanes of Lennon’s career would be “complicated.” His public relationship with his father, and former Beatle: complicated. His track record with record labels: complicated. By the time 2020 rolled around, his namesake had become more of a blockade than it was bolstering, so much so that he legally changed his name because it no longer served him.
With the release of his latest studio effort, Jude, Lennon has come to terms with his history, taken ownership of what was once a source of dissension, and turned it into a personal manifesto. Across the record are songs about environmental conservation, wars both within oneself and in the world, and additional themes that color a portrait of who Lennon is in the modern age – complications aside.
“Jude is kind of my life in music in many respects,” Lennon told American Songwriter. “Creating this album left a clear path moving forward. I’m probably more focused and more at peace than ever before. I know who I am now and it’s taken many years to get to that.”
Elsewhere during his LITV appearance, Lennon took the audience through the origins of the record and his relationship with Paul McCartney.
It has been confirmed for years that the Beatles’ 1968 hit “Hey Jude” was about Julian. McCartney wrote it as an assuage to the younger Lennon as he reeled from his parents’ divorce. Earlier this year, Lennon joined an intimate conversation with Elton John and voiced his feelings on the song, once and for all confirming its origins.
In the name of his latest album, we see him claim the track and the heartache that surrounded that period in his life. Lennon said that McCartney was “a little surprised” by the reference but ultimately “gave his blessing” to the project. In the same vein, after years of toying with the idea, Lennon decided to cover “Imagine” in an effort to support Ukraine amid its war with Russia. Given the “extreme circumstances,” the decision was a quick one for Lennon despite years of shunning the idea.
“I had anxiety about the response,” he said. “I was overwhelmed by how much positivity came out of it. I feel I can walk around with my head held high – again not feeling fearful anymore. I’ve garnered more respect than ever.”
A large contributing factor in Lennon’s decision to start embracing this side of his life was The Beatles: Get Back documentary. On stage, Lennon remarked that “he found an extra amount of love for everyone in that film” and rekindled a relationship with his dad thanks to the artistry, humor, and energy revealed in the doc.
After discussing the story behind the record, Lennon exited the stage and let the songs from Jude fill in everything left unsaid. Starting with the gorgeously cinematic “Love Never Dies,” Lennon departs a message of left-over affection often felt when losing a loved one. Later, his 2022 single “Change” urged everyone in attendance, “always find a new way forward.”
In all of this – the music and his personal growth – Lennon has found the ultimate gift: a sense of freedom.
“Although it was a little frustrating at times, it allowed me time to think and breathing room to make sure every song felt right,” he said. “After proving to myself that I was pretty good at doing all the stuff (documentaries, philanthropy, etc.), when I came back to music I just felt this sense of freedom.”
He continued, “Like a painter, when I finally did that last brushstroke, I felt there was nothing to change. That’s a rarity.”
(Photo credit: Alec Savig / courtesy of Aristo Media)