The Lennon Project to bring a musical message of peace and love to The Raue June 15

To be clear, Jay Goeppner doesn’t look like John Lennon. He doesn’t imitate his accent; he doesn’t wear small spectacles. But when the music begins, Goeppner takes the microphone in hand and transports his audience back in time as he performs the music of John Lennon and the Beatles.

“I’m not trying to be John Lennon,” Goeppner said. “I’m taking the stage as a fan who loves the music. I tell the stories about what was going on in John’s life at the time he wrote the music.”

Goeppner, a Chicago-area native, has played in 22 countries and countless concerts bringing the music and the messages of his idol John Lennon. He’s more than another cover band, having received first-hand accolades from fellow musicians praising his ability to capture the essence of Lennon’s music.

Goeppner will bring his show, “The Lennon Project,” to the stage of The Raue Center for the Arts on Saturday, June 15, his first time playing the Crystal Lake stage.

“It’s a concert. It’s a celebration of John’s work. It tells the story of what was going on when John was writing the music,” Goeppner said.

Goeppner is a true storyteller, whether he is sharing tales from his musical adventures or delving into the messages of Lennon’s music. In the concert, he begins with Lennon’s contribution to the “Sgt. Peper Lonely Hearts Club Band” released in 1967 and how the album changed music traversing through the Beatles years through Lennon’s solo work until his untimely death in 1980.

Goeppner said the latter music of Lennon, as he advocated for peace in a time of turmoil, is a message that continues to resonate in our challenging times.

“John was very intellectual,” Goeppner said. “He absolutely thought he could make a difference.”

Goeppner was a choir boy who idolized John Lennon and his music. At age 14, he entered and won a Lennon sound-a-like contest at Beatlefest. He loved to sing, but when his idol was shot and killed outside of his New York home in 1980, the music became too painful for Goeppner to sing.

“I was so devastated, I stopped singing for a while,” he said.

At 17, he went to a Beatle convention and was encouraged to sing in the sound-a-like contest where in the crowd was musician Harry Nilsson, who had been close with Lennon. Goeppner said after he sang Nilsson approached him, telling him he sounded just like Lennon and telling him to keep singing.

A call into a local radio station in 1986 would change Goeppner’s musical path. He was 22 when he called into the Jonathan Brandmeier’s radio show and when prompted, sang a bit of a John Lennon song.

With that short song, Brandmeier was so impressed, he set out to find a “Paul” for Goeppner. Within a few days he introduced Goeppner to Phil Angotti and the Beatle Brothers was born. The band played together for years.

“It was a really fun time,” Goeppner said. “It’s the Holy Land of the Beatles.”

As much as music is his passion, it isn’t his career. For 35 years Goeppner has worked as a baggage handler for American Airlines. Playing in clubs and bars for fans in the evening, returning home and waking up at 5:30 a.m. to start his job loading suitcases on planes at O’Hare Airport.

“I’m the luckiest guy,” he said.

In 2005, Goeppner and his band Instant Karma traveled to Liverpool, England for the International Beatle Week, where music of the Beatles plays all day and night, with bands from all over the world.

“I was amazed,” Goeppner said. “It was wild. It was fun.”

Through the years, Goeppner has performed his own music and lent vocals to local bands and shows, but “The Lennon Project” is his own special tribute to an icon who stood for peace and love.

“It’s spreading the message of John Lennon,” Goeppner said. “We need it. The relevance of his message is still needed today.”

The Lennon Project with Jay Goeppner

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, June 15

Where: Raue Center For the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake

Tickets: $30-$40; RaueNOW tickets are $21-$28


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