Beatle


John Lennon in guns

Image by afagen via Flickr

Today is one of those anniversary days of the death of a famous person who somehow binds all humanity, depending on one’s perspective.

All over the blogosphere and in every other conceivable news and social media, people haul out their “When John Lennon was killed, I was …”

It just so happens that I do remember where I was when Lennon’s murder was first reported.  I’d just gone to bed and my father rapped on the door,

“Are you still awake?”

“Yeah.”

Howard Cosell just announced that John Lennon was shot and killed in New York,” he said. “He’s that Beatle you like, right?”

It didn’t occur to me at the time to be touched by the fact that my father, a man who loathed popular music dating back as far as Elvis, had even been paying attention to my music likes and heroes.

“Yeah, thanks for telling me,” I replied.

“Are you going to be okay?” Another shocker that didn’t register at the time.

“Sure,” I said.

He closed the door and went back to the living room to finish watching Monday Night Football.

That was thirty years ago. I was just sixteen and days away from my birthday.

Dad’s died since then. I’ve grown up. Married. Twice. Had a child. Emigrated to another country. Changed careers. All fairly important mile markers and yet the tragic death of a pop star is still etched clearly enough in my memory to earn a pivotal moment position if only because it connects me to millions of people I will never know personally, but who share this memory with me in their own way.

It was not a personal tragedy. Only those closest to him can claim that and even so, I hesitate to call it a tragedy because I don’t know what doors or paths were opened to them by his ending. Endings are necessary after all for beginnings to have their day.

In retrospect, Lennon was past his creative prime in 1980. Double Fantasy was mediocre and certainly no less fluffy and inconsequential as the music he criticized his old partner, Paul McCartney, for producing. Old men lose their edge, I guess. Love and parenting do that to most people and they weren’t exceptional in that regard.

I suppose there is a larger point to taking stock of his death. It marks time and change. There is nothing wrong with noting where we were or the journey we’ve taken to where we are now.

As I was driving home from town this morning, the disc jockey reminisced about that evening long ago. His mother had knocked on his bedroom door to tell him the news too. He played a snippet of an interview Lennon gave shortly before his death where he admitted that he’d like to grow old with his wife, but that he wasn’t afraid of death. He felt it was nothing “like changing cars”. His life would go on in any event. A lovely sentiment that I don’t think too many share, which is sad.

If nothing else, this anniversary pulls people together to a common place for a moment before they diverge again and can see only their differences.


The Beatles wave to fans after arriving at Ken...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m not sure which is more startling. The fact that John Lennon would be just eight years younger than my mother today, or that the world is uniting to celebrate the birth of someone who’s been dead – and so basically ageless – for the last thirty years.

I remember when he died. I cried. He was my favorite Beatle for reasons that had nothing to do with anything rationale. I was sixteen. I liked the badder boys though they had to be brainy because I just couldn’t suspend my own intelligence to pretend that “badness” was enough. He wasn’t pretty. McCartney was pretty and the better looking the boy, the less likely he was to even notice me, so I disregarded them as a matter of expediency.

I would go on to prefer the George Harrison‘s of the world but only after several emotionally brutal lessons with the John Lennon’s of the world.

John Lennon was an asshole despite the whole “love, peace and Strawberry Fields” image he has today. He suffered no fools. He was a prick to his friends, a douchebag to his women and a questionable father.

But happy birthday.

Happy Birthday?

You don’t have birthdays after you die. It’s metaphysically impossible. We do the cake for dead people thing, but only for the kids. Dee goes back and forth. Some years she is totally down with a cake for her father and others, she prefers not because “it’s too sad”, and I am in total agreement with the latter. What could be more sad than deliberately stalking sadness and inviting it in for cake and ice cream?

But in the spirit of a rather morbid practice, here is my favorite Lennon tune: