Borderline Latin: John Lennon in Almería

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about John Lennon. Songs like “Working Class Hero” are really powerful, but others are full of the hippie idealism for which certain people followed him, and which received an undeserved dose of reality when Lennon was fatally shot. This is the idealism that The Mothers of Invention parodied; Lennon validated it in a way when he butchered the recording of his 1971 performance with The Mothers in New York.

Lennon has been in the news recently because of the anniversary of his birth (October 9th), and also because of the rape of an elderly woman by a homeless man in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields. The woman was bird watching near this John Lennon memorial when the homeless man attacked her. The memorial is a section of Central Park dedicated to Lennon, and named after the famous song. Now brace yourselves, because here comes the Spanish connection. In 1966, Lennon spent six weeks in Almería, Spain, for the shooting of the movie How I Won the War. He stayed in a 19th century Spanish mansion, which was turned into a museum last year. The Spanish say he was happy there, but others quote him as saying he was bored.

Bored or happy, it was during his time in Almería that Lennon wrote the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”–and this concludes our voyage. Just one more thing. Instead of going with the original version, let’s hear it from Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, whose album, Rey Azúcar, is some kind of borderline warp zone where artists from past, present, and future collapse: David Byrne, Mick Jones, and now John Lennon. And let’s not forget Blondie’s Debbie Harry, who sings on this cover version of “Strawberry Fields.” Happy birthday, Juan.

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