Thursday, December 08, 2005

Shine On

So today's 25 years since John Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota in New York City. Everybody's got their own story of how they heard the news and reacted to it. I told mine last September, when Mark David Chapman was up for parole, so there's no need to repeat it here. I hope to find some airchecks from that night posted on the Internet somewhere, but so far, I haven't. (At some point in the late 1990s, I heard an aircheck from WPLJ in New York on the web, but it doesn't seem to be out there now.)

Reminiscences are thick on the ground today--just search "Lennon" on Google News. One of the best I've ever read is actually not new this year. It's by Salon executive editor Gary Kamiya, writing on the 20th anniversary in 2000. I have actually used the opening paragraph to help teach writers the definition of a great opening paragraph:
If there were any justice, it would have taken more than a gun to kill John Lennon. His enemies should have had to fight him with his own weapons, hand to hand, the way they do in the Iliad or Beowulf or the Song of Roland, all those tales in which the strong young king, the mighty in spirit, the proudest, the most reckless, the most potent dreamer, goes out into the world and sweeps all before him. They should have been forced to compose "Strawberry Fields Forever" and make a fortune at age 23 and screw everything that moved and write "Julia" and get churlishly drunk and live out every stupid and sublime '60s impulse and tell the royal family to rattle their jewelry and crank that Gibson Jumbo and hide behind a hundred hairstyles and get strung out and wail on "Twist and Shout" and bellyflop into mysticism and spend a public week in bed with Yoko and take acid in the face of everything and through it all create, sitting on the edge of a thousand hotel beds with a guitar, alone or with a brother named Paul, the most varied and memorable body of songs of our time. If they could do all that, then let them kill the man.

Just as the family of John F. Kennedy no longer observes the date of his death, perhaps it's time we quit focusing on Lennon's death, and focused on his life instead. Salon has compiled a bunch of tales about Lennon that show him in many of the guises Kamiya wrote about five years ago--artist, rebel, hero, lover--and also as a regular guy, in a coffee shop and at a football game.

Chances are pretty good that you're within earshot of a radio station that's playing Lennon's music wall-to-wall today. The thing about great musicians is that in the end, it all comes down to the grooves (or, today, the bits and bytes). That's where you're remembered or forgotten. It's your best monument as an artist--and so it's the best one for us to gather around today. Not outside the Dakota or at Strawberry Fields in Central Park, not at 251 Menlove Avenue in Liverpool--but in front of a speaker, anywhere.


At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard Jonathan W.Little on the radio today talking about John Lennon and how many people thought of Lennon as an "anti-Christ" or "anti-religeous." However, Lennon said he was raised a Christian and was very much a deeply religeous man who believed in the power of peace, much the way Christ did. It is interesting how you'll hear some of today's country superstars talk of how they were inspired by John Lennon's songwriting yet sing songs of a "pro-war" theme and make statements in 100% support of He Who Shall Not Be Named. ---Shark

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who dislike Lennon on a religious basis tend to do so for two reasons. First is his comment that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. I can understand how that would offend a religious person. Others dislike him for the first line of "Imagine" which says "Imagine there's no heaven." They get freaked out by that, and it makes them utterly unable to hear the Christlike message of peace and brotherhood that follows.

It kind of reminds me of the so-called war on Christmas. You wouldn't think it matters what we call the holiday season as long as we get the substance right--but to a lot of people, the name matters. So even though Lennon preached a message that seems Christian enough, if it doesn't have the right label, it's not the same thing.

The problem with that doesn't lie with the preachers of the incorrectly labeled message. It lies with those who are so hung up on the label that they can't hear the message.


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