Remembering John Lennon.

Dec 11

It was 33 years ago this week that former Beatle John Lennon was gunned down in cold blood outside his New York apartment by a madman.

His death was the first “where were you when you heard the news” moment in my life. I was 17 in December 1980 and a high school senior. Momentous news events had occurred during my young life. The moon landings, Nixon’s resignation, Elvis’ death are among my earlier memories, but they didn’t hold as much importance for me, simply because I was too young to really understand their significance. Though the Kennedy and MLK assassinations occurred in my lifetime, I was too young to remember them and thus they had no impact upon me.

John Lennon. 1940-1980.

John Lennon. 1940-1980.

Lennon’s death, however, was different. Only the year before I got turned on to The Beatles’ music. Up until then I considered them Paul McCartney’s old band, as he had more commercial success in the late 1970s when I started seriously listening to rock and pop music. After I discovered The Beatles in the summer of 1979, I learned McCartney was only one part of the most important band in rock history, preferring Lennon’s music over McCartney’s.

I was asleep when Lennon was murdered on the night of December 8, 1980. I first heard the news the following morning as I listened to my radio whilst preparing for school. It was a gut punch. I was in shock. How could it be that such a talented, important artist could be senselessly gunned down, and in front of his poor wife Yoko Ono, no less? It just didn’t make any sense. It still doesn’t.

Lennon’s death was the first time I realized just how cruel life can sometimes be. That life isn’t fair. That mindless, stupid events can occur for no reason and take away someone who was important to us.

In the following years I read up on Lennon and bought more of his music. For a while I hero-worshipped the man, even wanted to be like him. He had become “Saint John” and like millions of others I treated him more like a deity than a human being.

Over time I got over it. It was hard to accept that Lennon was in fact fallible like the rest of us. That he had abandonment issues dating back to his childhood. That he could sometimes be cruel and petty. That he sometimes treated his first wife Cynthia and son Julian badly. That he was a mean drunk who sometimes slapped around his second wife. That he was unfaithful to both women. That his desire for peace sometime naively led him into questionable associations with people of dubious character and motives. That even during his five-year sabbatical from the music business in the final years of his life to spend time with Yoko and second son Sean, he still made mistakes.

But I did accept them because Lennon was, after all, only human. Like all of us, he has his faults. But he was also capable of kindness, good humor and love. He always made time for his fans, friends and neighbours. He attempted to reconnect with Julian late in his life to heal their relationship.  He dearly loved Yoko and doted on young Sean. Like most of us he grew and changed, and near the end seemed to have achieved peace in his own life, even if his efforts for world peace came up short. And he left us the wonderful gift of his music, which continues to inspire and entertain successive generations of music fans.

Today, I see Lennon not as a rock god, not as Saint John, but simply John, who was complex but also a decent guy who was tremendously talented, and along with his former Beatles band mates changed and shaped the face of modern music.

December 8 will always be a historical anniversary that sucks, but it serves as a reminder of what a great musician John Lennon was, that his music still lives on and his legacy will never be forgotten.

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