Rock Hall Debuts Lennon Exhibit

Friday, October 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened its most in-depth exhibit ever on one artist Thursday, a tribute to John Lennon's life and work.

The collection is made up mostly of items saved by Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, who viewed the display Wednesday.

Except for a timeline wrapped around one wall, the exhibit doesn't try to tell the life story of the man who started the Beatles. Instead, it gives glimpses of the many roles Lennon played: rocker, poet, visual artist, activist, wit, husband, father, murder victim.

``The nicest thing about John is the fact that he was a very inspiring energy in all different directions,'' Ono said. ``So that people who are in art school will come here and see John's art work and maybe be inspired by that. Songwriters, with his lyrics. Various people will be excited in different ways, and that is what I think is exciting and beautiful.''

On display are a leather jacket Lennon wore on the group's early Hamburg trips, the ``Hair Peace'' and ``Bed Peace'' signs Ono and Lennon hung in their hotel room during their 1970 ``bed-in,'' and Lennon's report cards.

``He has too many of the wrong ambitions and his energy is too often misplaced,'' a headmaster warned in the summer of 1956, about the time Lennon started playing with the Quarrymen, the band that evolved into the Beatles.

Lennon's wit pops up throughout the exhibit.

As a schoolboy, Lennon wrote a mock newspaper called the ``Daily Howl,'' and some editions are on display. One has this parody of a classified ad: ``Women needed. Preferably female.''
Later, as he and Ono crusaded for peace in the early 1970s, Lennon wrote an open letter to the world. ``Dear World, I think we should have peace,'' the letter says. ``Why don't we have it? I would like it today — so would my wife.''

One floor is filled with Lennon lyric sheets, mostly from his solo career, and his songs play continuously.

Among the other highlights are some rarely seen Lennon collages, including two done as tributes to Ringo Starr and George Harrison.

Ono, an artist with her own retrospective show starting in New York, contributed a piece to the exhibit: a white telephone that she will occasionally call so she can talk with visitors.

The most painful part of the show — timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Lennon's birth and the 20th of his death — confronts the visitor right at the start of the exhibition.

There, on view through tiny glass windows, are the bloodstained glasses Lennon was wearing the night he was slain in New York by a deranged fan and a bag from the hospital containing his clothes.

Ono said she decided to put those items on display as a statement about gun violence, in the hope people will try to limit handgun sales.

``I realized the emotion I have for these items. One part of me was thinking 'It has to be a great show,' but the other part of me is thinking 'I just don't want this thing to leave my house,''' she said.

``I'm thinking, probably, this is good for me, too. It is important. John was a very public person and he stood for peace and he stood for music. We have to share it with the family of the world.''

The exhibit will run until next summer.