I was only 4 years old on December 8th, 1980 – the day John Lennon died – so I don’t have one of the “I remember where I was when I heard he died” stories. But I grew up with the Beatles blasting through the speakers of our home. My brother and I have countless memories of playing Beatles records from our dad’s collection and skipping around the house. Penny Lane was probably the very first Beatles song I remember hearing – one of the first indications to my 4-year-old mind that my dad was way cool. Soonafter I fell in love another notch when I heard the song “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on an episode of “Joanie Loves Chachi.” My adolescent infatuations began with The White Album (I had a special place in my heart for Rocky Raccoon, Piggies, Martha My Dear), Rubber Soul, Revolver, not to discount the brilliance of Sgt. Peppers or Abbey Road.
Well, you can’t just pick one – they were pure genius translated into sound. Although among their influences were Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers – they took everything they knew, stirred it into their alchemical pot of unparalleled songwriting, joy and a small dose of rebellion infusing their own generation with a soundtrack to be extremely proud of. Their music erased lines of generations and they have clearly insinuated themselves into the hearts of every generation today.
It was not until college though that I became easily impartial to John. I always felt sympatico to him on some level (maybe because we are both Libra/Dragons, lol.) Behind his consummate songwriting was cynicism, vulnerability and pain; he repeatedly birthed to us a dose of the hauntingly beautiful laced with irreverence and shrewd wit. There was so much to be admired about him. As Paul preferred to stay more on the conventional side of protocol (both in his crafting of music and in press conferences) John thumbed his nose at the establishment, never apologizing for saying what he felt, even when it rankled the powers that be.
His long drawn out battle around the U.S. government’s attempt to deport him was clearly a not-so-disguised attempt to silence him – his message resonating with so many – and a modern-day witch hunt. As many before him who disrupted the status quo by fearlessly speaking out about injustice (and who are often ahead of their time) he was snuffed out early. One of the main reasons I believe Dylan is still around and in one piece physically and psychologically is because of his lack of vulnerability and refusal to be pigeon-holed, projected upon or owned and crushed by the media. Although Bob Dylan is also somewhat of a modern-day prophet and a man ahead of his time, the relationship he has to the media can only be described as a clever, impish and invincible Road Runner running from Wile E. Coyote. I believe Bob has come out relatively unscathed because he always stays 5 steps ahead of them by questions aimed to cage him.
Which way is the more admirable path? There isn’t one. It is simply tragic and unjust that John was cheated out of the prime of his life. When John’s message stepped beyond the bounds of his cozy little music label/box, the powers that be became uncomfortable. Whatever you might believe about conspiracy theories, John always had a subconscious fear of being shot by a nutjob. In spite of the paranoia around his phone being tapped during the “felonious” marijuana witch hunt, he never shrunk into his shadows or stifled what he thought in order to play it safe. Some may call him a martyr for this – he often made himself, almost dangerously, open and vulnerable to fans in service of his principles and beliefs, one time spending almost an hour talking with a mentally disturbed fan who crossed the precipice of his estate. I remember seeing the clip in a documentary thinking he was simply trying to re-wire the poor sod’s brain through a gesture of sheer compassionate reason and love. It is not surprising that it was his very message of love, openness, one-ness and vulnerability that doomed him. Quod me nutrit me destruit (What nourishes me also destroys me.) Even if John’s assassinator acted alone and was not at the frontlines of a conspiracy, his message only grew in power when he departed from the earth plane.
When you take a candle into a dark room, the darkness can’t swallow the light. The light always wins. The same is true for his life – he very well may have decided he was done with this dimension. The last two songs that John wrote, Watching the Wheels and Woman seem eerily prophetic.
If you listen to the lyrics of the two songs respectively, it almost seems that he unconsciously knew he was going to die and was saying his goodbyes:
“Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind,
I tell them there’s no hurry…
I’m just sitting here doing time,
I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.”
And what seems like a haunting goodbye to Yoko:
“After all I’m forever in your debt,
And woman I will try express,
My inner feelings and thankfulness,
For showing me the meaning of success,
oooh well, well,
oooh well, well,
Woman I know you understand
The little child inside the man,
Please remember my life is in your hands,
And woman hold me close to your heart,
However, distant don’t keep us apart,
After all it is written in the stars”
Well, for all intents and purposes his life (or at least estate) is most definitely in her hands now for better or for worse; and maybe his untimely death was written in the stars. Either way, he was a bright light and the joy and message he brought to the world, although greatly missed, could never be diminished by a lone gunmen who is hopefully rotting away in prison being raped up the a** by a large tattooed cellmate. Although this sentiment may not echo his message of peace and love I have to draw the line when dark forces make cowardly attempts to quiet the light of brilliantly creative and giving forces. Why are some of the brightest lights taken from us so early? Maybe they reflect back to some people the things that are difficult to look at in themselves, or embarrass, like disconnection from the light in themselves. While these losses may be sad and confusing for the rest of us, we must remember that he like so many others were just exceptionally bright lights who were on loan to us for a while. The important thing – as with all those who lifted humanity in some way – is how we will keep each spirit alive by continuing to live their particular message. That’s our job here and now; and as tragic as John’s shortened life was to so many, he has just started over somewhere else.
Guilt for being rich, and guilt thinking that perhaps love and peace isn’t enough and you have to go and get shot or something.
I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?
If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.
If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.
Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.
Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.
Rituals are important. Nowadays it’s hip not to be married. I’m not interested in being hip.
The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that’s making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?
Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.
We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.