Thursday, December 09, 2010

It Was Thirty Years Ago Yesterday...

... that I was a teenager who'd fallen asleep watching the Patriots and Dolphins on Monday Night Football when I woke to hear Howard Cosell announce that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I turned off the TV, rolled over and went back to sleep. (The owner of this video's disabled embedding

It was thirty years ago today that I woke up and told my mom that I'd had a terrible dream that John had been killed. She told me it wasn't a dream and I was devastated. I'd been to see Beatlemania in October that year, I think, and was totally enamored of the music. All of it. The Beatles, Wings, Plastic Ono Band, George's solo work, even Ringo's stuff. It was John who affected me the most, though.

I loved his new album. The music was great, the words were easy to understand. What I'd been able to read about John and had seen on TV had informed me that he was perhaps the Beatle I was most like. (I harbor no such illusions now, though. This was back in the day when there was no internet and we had to rely on things like network TV, newspapers and Rolling Stone for information about music, arts and everything else. I know what John probably was as a man and an artist because there's so much more accessible information now, but I digress...)

I was morose. I went to school wearing my Beatlemania shirt and a lot of my friends didn't understand why I was so sad. It was just some old dude who made some old music. I didn't bother to explain, we were all in seventh grade and I just didn't have the energy. I accepted that I was the weird guy who was sad about a celebrity death. The whole thing, as it unfolded in the papers, was insane and I won't spend any time on the murderer here. I've never read Catcher in the Rye, though, largely because of Mark David Chapman.

Despite all the negative sides to John (and there were a fair few that even he would admit to), he was an artist who I respected and still respect. I was sad a little yesterday when I heard people remembering him. I'm sad today thinking about how I felt all those years ago. I'm older than John got to be now, and I still miss the possibilities of what he could have been as an artist. I've admired that he was obviously head over heels in love with Yoko, and I think that's the best part of him that I may be most like. (If that makes sense.)

I'm head over heels in love, I made it through my 30s just fine and came out on the other side more an artist than I was when I went into them. John's not been a role model, exactly (how could he be?), but I've tried to live with love in my heart and offering peace where I can, though I'm human and that means that I haven't always been successful. That he affected me in that way is perhaps his legacy to a boy from Kansas who grew up listening to the message in songs on the radio.

I miss him. I have the music and a wealth of books and movies about him and his music. I heard the message, I tried to rephrase it for others. It's up to them to hear it, too, right?

I've never written this down before and only told the story a handful of times. In the comments, if you want to share something about John that affected you, please do. I'd love to hear from you.


Sara L said...

My Dad likes to tell the story of how just a few short weeks after John's untimely end, his devastation turned to joy as I came into the world. I missed being in this world at the same time as John Lennon by 23 days, which has always made me incredibly sad. I went through a Beatlemania phase when I was in junior high, and I, too, celebrate his birthday and the day of his passing. I would agree that regardless of his downfalls, he was an amazing musician, and really a pretty decent man. I also admire how much he loved Yoko, and often feel badly that so many people hate her because they think she broke up the Beatles. As far as his influence, or the Beatles in general, when I first decided I wanted to learn to play guitar, it was because of the Beatles, and I strummed my way through the entire Beatles catalog. I always appreciated John's clever lyrics, and one time I even "channeled" him to write a wicked poem.

Anyways, yeah. That's my John story.

Just Wendy said...

A lovely heartfelt tribute to a great man who will always be sadly missed.

A tragedy.

Jason Arnett said...

@Sara - What a great story! Thanks for sharing it.

@Wendy - yeah, I'll always miss him no matter what. It just hit me yesterday that I was older than one of my heroes.