Wednesday, December 08, 2010

We all shine on.

Hard to believe it's been 30 years since John Lennon died. Somehow it seems odd that I've had more years on earth than he did.

I remember being a high-school junior in the winter of 1980, and deep in my initial admiration phase for the Beatles. My crush at the time was a fellow-Beatles lover with more than a passing resemblance to Paul McCartney, but really he was just an entry drug of sorts, encouraging me to delve deeper into the phenomenon that was the Fab Four. From Paul the cute one, I shifted my attention to George the mystical one who opened my eyes to Eastern philosophy. I was never a massive John fan, but I respected his complexity and his capacity for deep thought and questioning the status quo. In total, their songs spoke to me in a way no other did, both the words and the music behind them. But John's lyrics were always the ones with deeper meaning.

Today's New York Times asks where readers were when Lennon was shot at 11 p.m. on December 8, 1980. I was home, already in bed and asleep, yet I can still vividly remember a scrap of a dream I had that night. It was the Ed Sullivan Show, in black and white, and the Beatles -- just three of them -- were performing. Ringo and Paul were there, as one could clearly see from the figure behind the drums and another playing a left-handed bass. But was that John or George with the guitar? Before I could figure it out, before the camera went to closeups, the dream dissolved.

When the clock radio came on to wake me the next morning, the first thing I heard was Richard Neer on WNEW-FM: "If you're just waking up, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but John Lennon was killed last night." The synchronicity of the radio switching on just as Neer started his sentence seemed too surreal to be possible. It only happens that way in fiction, not in real life, and it certainly doesn't happen after you have a bizarre dream about a missing Beatle. Besides, it didn't make sense. Lennon hadn't been doing anything vaguely controversial. He'd just been living his life with his wife and kid and three cats on the West Side. Yeah, he and Yoko had just released Double Fantasy, but that didn't seem to be cause for anger. After everything he'd lived through, who'd want to come after him now?

As his death came to prove, sometimes there's no sane answer to why people act out so violently. It seems that the lesson that violence teaches, is how valuable peace and kindness truly are. And that lesson won't ever die, because, as trite as the expression might sound, the Beatles' music will always live on, each recording sounding as fresh and relevant as it did the day it was released.

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