Monday, December 8, 1980, started out as a good day for me.
I was doing well in my college classes, I was writing for the student newspaper, I had my first girlfriend, and the radio featured catchy songs such as John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over.”
I returned to my dorm that evening and learned from the resident assistant’s roommate that Lennon had been gunned down outside his New York apartment building.
I felt blindsided. Rock stars overdose or die in plane crashes or fade away on oldies tours. This was too surrealistic. Not only would there be no new Lennon masterpieces, but it was as if my childhood was being erased behind me. (For one thing, the “Fab Four” helped inspire me to go from a flattop to bangs. Of course now when I look in the mirror I just feel like singing the Beatles classic “Help!”)
I find solace in different ways. At least widow Yoko Ono got to see how much Lennon meant to the world, when 10 minutes of silence was observed the following Sunday. Poor Yoko is still vilified for supposedly being the reason the Beatles broke up. If you’ve heard her sing, you realize she could probably also be accused of making the CONTINENTS break up.
At least John went out in his prime (he was only 40), not reaching the point where he obtained “Instant Karma” only with Metamucil. Nor did he have to sell out to Madison Avenue by turning “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” into a companion jingle for “I Get By With A Little Help From Depends.”
I’m glad Lennon’s legacy survived the controversy that erupted in 1966. Churchgoers were burning Beatles records after Lennon told an interviewer that - for good or ill -- rock stars (not the Beatles in particular, as is commonly reported) were more popular than Jesus. The audacity of that statement is comparable to Pres. Bush claiming today, “I am more popular than root canals.”
I’m glad Lennon didn’t have to update his songs to fit the world of the 21st Century. We didn’t really need to hear “I Saw Her Standing There (So I Notified Homeland Security),” “Strawberry Fields Forever - Or Until I Get A Subdivision Deal,” “Give 19 Confusing Medicare D Plans A Chance,” and “I Want To Hold Your Choirboy.”
Lennon fought personal demons, but I’m glad he had good points for us to emulate. Have you paid tribute to Lennon in the way you’ve lived the past 25 years? Do you experiment and innovate with your career/hobby, instead of stagnating? Do you strive to balance work and family? (Lennon was the world’s most famous stay-at-home dad.) Do you go through the motions of griping, or do you seek attention-catching ways to take a stand? (Remember John and Yoko protesting the Vietnam War from their bed?) Have you tried to leave something that lives on after you, whether it’s a well-adjusted child, a tree, or a donated book? Do you use your mind to imagine the best instead of the worst?
Let’s be happy that Lennon inspires us and will inspire generations to come.
And let’s rejoice that he didn’t have to compose an anthem about the looming Social Security crisis. (“Imagine there’s no trust fund/ It’s easy if you try/ Congress blows our money/Retirees only sigh...”)
Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”