I was quite young when John Lennon died. I wish my parents had awakened me and explained to me what had happened that night but I understand why they didn't. I have memories of listening to the radio around that time. I remember riding around in our Pacer and hearing the Beatles on every station. There was a moment in my childhood I remember “Imagine” being played in a constant loop. The death of John Lennon had a huge effect on me. At the time, I didn’t realize how powerful this event would turn out to be in my life, but as I grew older I began to look up to the Beatles more and more. I remember buying my first Beatles music. Lennon was probably the first musician I listened to with a sense of awe. The first Beatles album I picked up as a kid wasn’t a real album at all. It was “Hey Jude,” one of the many compilations Capitol issued in an effort to showcase the band’s many non-album tracks. (These cuts are of course better showcased on the “Past Masters” discs, which are currently more readily available.) I always listened to John knowing what happened to him. Sadly, he was always a ghost to me. In 1980, I was three. Lennon died at the very moment I was just becoming aware of music. I heard a very peaceful man, singing about a world where we all could live together in harmony and yet, this man, who had done so much good in his short forty years, was gunned down so violently and senselessly. Ultimately, that notion of injustice resonated with me. Life isn’t fair. You can give the world so much great music and still find yourself gunned down by a maniac in front of your house. Working just a few blocks away from the Dakota, I find this especially haunting. As big an effect as Lennon’s death had on me, ultimately it was his life’s work that had a stronger impact. Listen to the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout,” and you’ll discover that he was a punk long before there was punk. The Beatles’ version of that song makes the Isley Brothers’ original seem tame and mild-mannered in comparison. From everything I gather and have read about Lennon, he was a complex visionary, as troubled and haunted as he was gifted. He could write a sweet song, but there was an angry, darker side, too. He was the perfect yin to McCartney’s more jovial yang. In his later work, he would mellow, seemingly finally finding a grounded happiness in New York. I think this anniversary must be extremely strange for McCartney. It’s been thirty years since he lost his best friend. He’s seen a creative resurgence, lately, issuing some of the strongest albums of his career. McCartney even finds himself in New York, considering that this week he’s the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. I’m sure when John, Paul, George and Ringo originally landed in New York for that landmark “Ed Sullivan” appearance, they never imagined that they’d still have such staying power 47 years later. Even with the loss of John and George, the Beatles are still an omnipresent cultural fixture. Both the physical reissuing and remastering of their catalogue last year and their recent arrival in the iTunes store have given the Beatles a constant sense of currency. As a fan I feel robbed by Lennon’s death. What great music would he have been making now? As I stated before, I think McCartney currently finds himself in a surprising peak period. (Ever since “Chaos and Creation In The Backyard,” he’s been back on top of his game.) Would Lennon have had another golden era had he lived? It’s too tragic a question to ask, really. Ultimately, John Lennon would be very proud that his legacy is still as strong as ever. The Beatles’ music is evergreen. Lennon, McCartney and Harrison are considered among the best songwriters of all-time. His solo albums were just reissued in honor of his seventieth birthday. Listening to “Double Fantasy,” it is evident that he still had much more to say. Sadly, his future was stolen. December 8th, 1980 is a day we should never forget. NEVER! In honor of this anniversary, please listen to your favorite John Lennon or Beatles song and try to do something nice for someone else. Lennon imagined a unified world. In spite of his jarring death, ultimately it’s Lennon’s message of peace that shines through. He inspired generations of musicians and his music and influence still live on.
Remembering John Lennon (October 9, 1940-December 8, 1980) – 30 Years Later
Dec 8, 2010 2:42pm