Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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June 14, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: Of Democrats and Lennon

FRANKFORT — My daughter inherited few things from her dad, but one is a love for The Beatles.

This weekend she attended a concert featuring Paul McCartney, the second time she’s seen a live performance by the former Beatle. I think she enjoys lording it over me as much as being there.

Two years ago she saw McCartney perform in New York when she worked in the big city. I knew she was going. I didn’t expect her to call me during the concert. When I answered my cell phone I could barely hear her: “Dad? I just had to call and tell you I’m here — and you’re not! Wanna listen?” she asked, giggling and devilishly delighting in my envy as she held the phone toward the stage.

So what has this to do with politics? Well, I recently ran across an obscure poll which asked people to identify their party registration and their favorite Beatle. It didn’t surprise me that a majority of Republicans chose McCartney while most Democrats preferred John Lennon.

For years I’ve been registered as an independent, in part just to confound the Democrats and Republicans I cover for a living. But, over time, I realized it just fits me.

I’ve never “rooted” for one party or the other as partisans do (they remind me of sports fans sometimes, loyal to the label despite the performance). Right or wrong, I tend to look at the problems my country or state faces and then decide for myself which party I think offers the most promising solutions.

Over the years that’s led me to favor one party or the other at different times. But I admit that during the times I gravitated to the Republican side I wasn’t entirely comfortable from an image perspective being part of the staid, grand OLD party of the comfortable establishment. In Democratic moods, I sometimes was nagged by a suspicion their idealism conflicted with the real world and they didn’t always offer serious solutions to serious problems.

But on the question of who was the more important Beatle, I’m firmly with the Democrats.

Lennon wrote “Imagine” and “Working Class Hero.” McCartney wrote “Yesterday” and “Silly Love Songs.” Lennon wrote “Help.” McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

Now McCartney also wrote “Penny Lane,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Good Day Sunshine.” But he was the “cute” Beatle, less threatening to my parents’ generation. What’s the point of rock and roll if it doesn’t frighten your parents?

Lennon was the trouble-maker who questioned authority and conventional attitude, out to change the world. He poked fun at the well-heeled and challenged power, deliberately offended the establishment and told people all he was saying was give peace a chance.

He loved America and chose to live here, fighting deportation for years in American courts. Ironically, he died a uniquely American, big-city death, a victim of gun violence just when he seemed to have made peace with himself and the world.

A tortured soul for most of his life, his final album, released just days before his death, reflected acceptance of himself and his place in the world and addressed a “perpetually young” young generation suddenly confronting middle age.

Lennon is forever locked into our collective memory as he was. But McCartney has hardly changed either, playing the same songs into his seventies.

Lennon and McCartney were songwriting geniuses. Lennon’s lyrics and music, like his life, were edgier than McCartney’s, more appealing to those who like trouble-makers. But the truth is they made their best music when they worked together as a team.

The same goes for Democrats and Republicans.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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