2008 - John Lennon: a Cuban hero is something to be

Until eight years ago Beatles songs were forbidden in Cuba, but times have changed and even Fidel Castro regrets that he got to know the British band too late.

Lennon's statue in Havana (AFP Photo / Niurka Barroso)

Classical guitar teacher Luis Molina is known as the first Beatles fan in Havana. He reminisces about when it was illegal not only to play but to own music by the band from Liverpool.
"It was a very special emotion,” he said. “It was hard to find and listen to the music. People smuggled records from abroad. Whoever had it, had a treasure."
Considered to be against the party's ideology, Beatles songs were banned. John Lennon was viewed as a decadent foreigner and a harmful influence on the youth.

Intolerance reached its peak in the 1960s, when the Cuban media banned broadcasts of rock and any music in English.
According to Molina, John Lennon's message started to reach Cuba only after the musician's death in 1980. Since then, John Lennon has gone from being perceived as a decadent foreigner to a hero, a victim of US harassment. His statue, cast in bronze, was unveiled by Fidel Castro himself.
Castro said that he "shared Lennon's dreams completely" and expressed regrets that he learned about the musician too late.

However, if you walk into a typical Cuban bar, you will most likely hear tunes of salsa and chan chan, not rock.
Tourists visiting Cuba create a demand for traditional music and many young people don’t know the Beatles.
Still, those who love the band are optimistic about the future of the group’s legacy in Cuba.
“Music will always have a place in Cuba - son, nueva trova, Cuban pop - they all stem from the Beatles," said songwriter Raul Torres.

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