Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, John Lennon

John Lennon would have turned 70 today, and I like to believe he still would have been a valid member of the music community.  For me, that is who John is.
I fell in love with the Beatles before I was old enough to remember.  And, having always been a fan of words, John was my favorite.
I recall fighting with my best friend in grade school over who was better John or Paul (even though The Beatles had broken up long before we were born, and John was killed before we were school age), and convincing grade school administrators and teachers to participate in the world-wide simultaneous playing of “Imagine” for John’s 50th birthday.
I remember my visits to Central Park to laud his birth and commemorate his death when I lived in NYC.
It always caught me slightly off-guard how the mood differed on those two days- regardless of weather or exactly who was there.  Oct. 9 was always filled with laughter and merriment, and Dec. 8th was always significantly more somber.
Sure, birth is to celebrate and death is to mourn, for most people.  But surely, to remember the life of someone who was grievously taken too soon has to evoke some thoughts of that death, or at least what could have been.  And to memorialize a death, one has to reflect upon the amazing life that made the death consequential.  Either way, one exists within the other.

I traveled to Liverpool to visit the places John knew, to walk in the footsteps of the greats who have gone before me.

To me, John was the most extraordinary voice in rock-n-roll.  His lyrics are raw and honest.
I also respect his social activism, and shudder when I think of how he failed to show the same compassion, love, and peace in his personal relationships.
There are many stories of him being physically and verbally abusive throughout his life.  His lack of respect for his family and friends was often evident; however, his concern for society was, at times, overwhelming.  And that seems to be the only Lennon that his fans remember.  Those same fans seem to spread that image as the whole Lennon, and I’ve often wondered if it is a disservice to see a real person so one-dimensionally.  However, perhaps sometimes a myth that inspires good is better than the truth that disappoints.  Or maybe the beauty of his truth lies in the little boy who was abandoned by his parents, so instead of embracing individuals chose embraced the world as a whole.

Regardless, I like to think of John as one of the most exceptional contributors to music the world has ever known.  What he has created will live on long past the rest of us.

Through his music, he has brought generations together.
I worked at the concert that opened the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  I had a minor position that did not allow me many perks, but my co-workers and I would take turns watching the show, from a vantage point better than first row, while the others covered the workload.  Between acts, large screens displayed clips of 10 years of Rock Hall inaugurations to a packed stadium who paid no attention at all.  The performer would walk off stage to cheers, and as soon as the video began, the indiscernible blather from the crowd was like a loud rumble through the aisles.  I stood waiting for the next performer as Paul McCartney was splayed across the screen, the white noise of thousands of conversations droned over it.  The clip ended with his proclamation “John Lennon, you made it.  Tonight you're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” And out of nowhere, the seemingly ambivalent crowd of more than 65,000 simultaneously broke into uproarious applause so astonishing that I’m convinced even the Rolling Stones fans had joined in.
From just that simple sentiment.

John, we’re still coming together -right now- over you.

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