I was 11 years old in 1979 and loving my pre-pubescent favorite music of Bee Gees, KC & The Sunshine Band, ABBA, etc. In that mix of favorites was one Paul McCartney & Wings, after all he did put out “Goodnight Tonight” that same year, as George Harrison would release “Blow Away”, also that year. Needless-to-say that The Beatles were still relevant in 1979, despite breaking up 9 years earlier.
In the summer of 1979 my father handed me a copy of his favorite album, Let It Be. It was all scratched and skipped in various places, but once he obtained a new copy, I then obtained my first Beatles album – and I loved it. Especially “Across The Universe”, “Let It Be” and “I Me Mine”
I played Let It Be many times that summer until I did some chores late in the season, consisting of washing his car, mowing the lawn and sweeping out the garage. As a reward for my hard work, I was given a new (sealed) copy of The Beatles Blue Album (1967-1970). It was a monster double album and it had some of those Let It Be songs, in addition to a few other menial favorites from previous years, including one ditty I enjoyed much called, “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da“.
I ripped open the cellophane, pulled out the first of two records, put it on my Sears Solid State turntable/8-track/AM/FM stereo, dropped the needle on the first song, of the first side of the first album and I was blown away forever.
That song… “Strawberry Fields Forever“. Since then my love for The Beatles overrides any other artists.
For the next year and three months I had gone from that precious blue album to John Lennon albums and 45s and the direction of my life was set. I would forever be a Beatles/John Lennon fan. Before I made it to 12 years old I was a fan of “Instant Karma”, “Imagine”, “Mind Games” and “#9 Dream”, in addition to the slew of Beatles songs that finally forced my Bee Gees records to the side (not forever thrown away, just on hold until I learned to expand my musical senses).
And then it happened…
Fifteen months from that first ‘strawberry fielded’ summer, I woke up to a note next to my cereal bowl that mother would usually leave out for me, along with my typical Cap’t Crunch box and a glass for orange juice (I had a habit of breaking dishes so my mother avoided that step). The note read:
“I’m so sorry to tell you, but John Lennon was killed last night.”
Oddly enough I went off to school not so much as bothered by the news. It was spoken about by various teachers and students throughout the day, and yet, it only hit me when I came home and on the TV was “Imagine” playing over a montage of John Lennon photos and hundreds of people crying at the front of the Dakota building in Central Park in New York, carrying signs that read, “The dream is over!”
I cried because I understood, at 12 years old, that he, much like myself, was a dreamer. And I knew I wasn’t the only one. I wanted a peaceful world and people to get together, and some kids to quit bullying me. And I knew that John’s new single, “(Just Like) Starting Over” was ironic and completely sad.
And, although only 12 years old, I had just learned that the world is cruel and senseless. I learned that people can be cold and that horrible things can happen to anyone at anytime. But yet, I still believed that the world can be a good place, despite occasional events that make it hard.
And now, at 44, that 12 year old mindset is still 100% accurate. And every now and then “Imagine” will make me tear up when I think of those people in front of the Dakota mourning the loss of a loved one, and how John Lennon kept sending me the message of love and peace, but was viciously gunned down for nothing more than greed and fame.
And I wonder what John would have written and recorded, had he survived. Seeing how Paul McCartney has lost much of his brilliance and shine currently, maybe John would have too. No matter how much I love the 1980 Double Fantasy album, I can’t get over the lack of “Lennonisms” it contained. There was no “Imagine” on that album, but there was “Woman” and “Watching The Wheels”, but more importantly, there was “Clean Up Time”.
Why that song? Because John had turned forty and it was time to grow up. Not important to me back then, but four years ago I turned forty and I incidentally did the same thing. I cleaned up much of my former life by moving forward into more responsibilities I did not want to take on before then. And the pay off has been immeasurable. Mainly because my children are now adults and they are grudging by, much like I did at their ages.
I know some don’t see what John Lennon meant to the world. And I also know that there are some who are still trying to figure out how The Beatles were important, despite plenty of places to go to learn that. But I also know that I am surrounded by many who know and appreciate who, and what, John Lennon is to the world.
Surprisingly, moreover, is how the kids out there that are getting the message of John Lennon these days. Maybe they had enough of Justin Bieber and are looking for something real and substantial. Maybe John was just that powerful to carry over into the second generation since his murder. Maybe Yoko is shoving John down people’s throats. I don’t know, but I don’t argue. I figured that if a disco-loving eleven year old child can stop everything for a his love for The Beatles, then I guess anyone can – at any age.
I don’t know.
John Ono Lennon, MBE, born John Winston Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English musician, singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a founder member of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Together with Paul McCartney, he formed one of the most celebrated songwriting partnerships of the 20th century.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Lennon became involved as a teenager in the skiffle craze; his first band, the Quarrymen, evolved into the Beatles in 1960. As the group disintegrated towards the end of the decade, Lennon embarked on a solo career that produced the critically acclaimed albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine“. After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon. Lennon disengaged himself from the music business in 1975 to devote time to raising his infant son Sean, but re-emerged with Ono in 1980 with the new album Double Fantasy. He was murdered three weeks after its release.
Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, writing, drawings, on film and in interviews. Controversial through his political and peace activism, he moved to New York City in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon‘s administration to deport him, while some of his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement.
As of 2012 Lennon’s solo album sales in the United States exceed 14 million units, and as writer, co-writer or performer, he is responsible for 25 number-one singles on the US Hot 100 chart. In 2002 a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted him eighth, and in 2008, Rolling Stone ranked him the fifth-greatest singer of all-time. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
- John Lennon would have been strong and healthy today, says Yoko Ono (indiavision.com)
- John Lennon: 40 quotes on his birthday (csmonitor.com)
- John Lennon’s Drawings & Sketches On Display In NYC (wcbsfm.cbslocal.com)
- John Lennon Art Exhibition To Open In New York (contactmusic.com)
- Lady Gaga to share peace prize in memory of John Lennon (standard.co.uk)
- Paul McCartney revisiting studio to work on lost Lennon track (indiavision.com)
- Photos: 50 years ago on this Day – October 5,1962 – The Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do” is released (photos.mercurynews.com)