October 9th is a big day for one of the first families of music. Not only is it the 37th birthday of John and Yoko's only son, Sean Lennon, John Lennon would have turned the ripe old age of 72 today.
The late Beatles legend, who passed away at the age of 40, wrote some of the band's most famous songs and had an uncanny ability of speaking in timeless quips. Today, on John's birthday we're pouring some out and offering him one of his best, “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” In celebration, we've collected some of the singer's most insightful, eloquent, and famously controversial quotes. Take a look below:
1. "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
2. "As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot."
3. "Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."
4. "You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are!"
5. "We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity."
6. "Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."
7. "Rituals are important. Nowadays it's hip not to be married. I'm not interested in being hip."
8. "It doesn't matter how long my hair is or what color my skin is or whether I'm a woman or a man."
9. "You have to be a bastard to make it, and that's a fact."
10. “Declare it. Just the same way we declare war. That is how we will have peace... we just need to declare it.”
11. “I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.”
12. "Everybody loves you when you're six foot in the ground."
13. "If there's such a thing as genius — I am one. And if there isn't, I don't care."
14. "Before Elvis there was nothing."
15. "What we’ve got to do is keep hope alive. Because without it we’ll sink."
16. "If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."
17. "Happiness is just how you feel when you don't feel miserable."
18. "Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it."
19. "You either get tired fighting for peace, or you die."
20. “If someone thinks that peace and love are just a cliche that must have been left behind in the 60s, that’s a problem. Peace and love are eternal.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post stated that Sean Lennon was 36.
Photos courtesy of Robert Whitaker on behalf of LIFE Books