Sean Lennon learnt a lot from Jimi Hendrix.
"I grew up in a world where learning about things was kinda looked down upon," Sean Lennon says. "Movies like Animal House and The Blues Brothers kinda made nerds and smart people seem stupid, like they were always uncool.
Maybe I was too insecure to try too hard because my dad was a famous musician...Sean Lennon — Don't Look Back
"So I remember growing up and thinking school is stupid and people who studied music too much were not really cool. It was cooler to be punk. But every time I gave myself the opportunity to study something it always helped."
Being a totally a self taught musician, Lennon recalls a song that inspired him to studiously figure out the intricacies of the interaction between melodies and words.
"There was something about hearing ‘Little Wing’ by Jimi Hendrix," he says. "There was a way he held down the rhythm section while also playing leads and singing at the same time.
"I remember having to figure that out when I was young because I was just so obsessed with it. That really turned me on to guitar playing. I still feel like I’m learning from that song."
One can only imagine the kind of exposure and opportunities Sean had to absorb a broad range of music and art growing up. But on reflection, he confesses to perhaps putting obstacles in his own path.
"I also regret not having learned more when I was young," he says. "I didn’t take lessons because it seemed uncool, or maybe I was too insecure to try too hard because my dad was a famous musician.
"So I wanted to pretend like I wasn’t trying too much. But, whatever it was, I definitely regret that. If I had a kid and they wanted to do music, I would definitely encourage them to study."
Sean found further confirmation of the value of music education when he read Hendrix’s collection of diary writings.
"He just talks nonstop about how he wishes he had studied classical. All he wants to do is compose symphonies and jazz. Every day he would write that, 'wish I had studied more', which is funny because he’s the greatest player.
"Now that I’m kinda getting better and I’m older, I feel like it would’ve been nice to take it even more seriously when I was younger. That’s when your brain can absorb all this stuff."
He thinks there’s no validity to the argument that too much academic musical knowledge can get in the way of intuitive and expressively made music.
"I’m not one of those people who feels that studying can take away from art," he says. "In fact I feel like, if it does, that’s probably just because you have bad taste.
"There’s a lot of examples of people who are well educated in art and make bad music. Like Kenny G."