John Lennon Shares Identity With NPR Producer

NPR's Art Silverman is shocked to discover that John Lennon's 70th birthday is Saturday. He shares somewhat embarrassing thoughts about the man — and his music.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Finally, this hour, a note that will rattle baby boomers who grew up on The Beatles. If he had lived, John Lennon would be 70 years old tomorrow. That's right, 70.

This milestone gives NPR's Art Silverman a chance to acknowledge a favorite Liverpudlian did for him.

ART SILVERMAN: Here's a confession. In 1968, John Lennon kindly lent me his identity or rather I borrowed it. He wore glasses; I wore glasses. He had long brown hair; I had long brown hair. His nose was a prominent feature on his face, and so is mine. And there was something else.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. JOHN LENNON (Singer, Beatles): The next song we like to sing...

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. LENNON: ...is our latest record or our latest electronic noise, depending on whose side you're on, I call "Help!"

SILVERMAN: Well, it was his sense of humor more than his looks that got to me. Under that tough caustic surface he projected was something I suspected but didn't hear until years later after his death when outtakes from recording sessions showed how fragile his ego could be.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) (unintelligible).

I cannot do it. I cannot do it.

SILVERMAN: Or how silly.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) I'm only sleeping take one.

SILVERMAN: Or even how sentimental.

(Soundbite of song, "As Time Goes By")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) You must remember this.

(Soundbite of song, "A Kiss Is Just A Kiss (As Time Goes By)")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) A kiss is just a kiss.

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) A sigh is just a sigh.

SILVERMAN: Until all those studio tapes were released, I didn't quite appreciate how much this world-acclaimed pop star needed to work up his courage just to record a song. He did it with clowning or sometimes a childish touch.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) (unintelligible).

SILVERMAN: John Lennon's confidence could be a bit shaky at times. He needed humor to disguise that. It's another thing I borrowed from him. So although this comes a bit late, I want to say thanks, John, for sharing your identity with a kid who really needed it.

(Soundbite of song, "Real Love")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) All my little plans and schemes aren't like some forgotten dream. Seems like all I really was doing was waiting for you.

SILVERMAN: Art Silverman, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Real Love")

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) No need to be afraid. No need to be afraid. It's real love. Yes, it's real. Yes, it's real love. It's real.

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