Take a deep breath. Today, 9-October-2015, would have been John Lennon’s 75th birthday.
If that doesn’t blow your mind, it might be because John is always going to be 40 to us, because that’s the last time, sadly, that we saw him. The image of him in his prime, forever etched in our consciousness, and, now, all over the internet. Of course, that’s how I remember John.
But, like you, I also remember all those years before. We can all sit back and recall that night in February 1964 when we first witnessed The Beatles. I was only 5, but I remember watching on our black and white Curtis-Mathis and my dad mumbling curse words under his breath about their long hair, and my older girl cousins being in awe and flitting around the living room to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Then there was the Saturday morning cartoon, and the movies at the Saturday matinee. The songs constantly on the radio, the news about this and that, retiring from concerts, then retiring alltogether. I don’t think — no, I know I didn’t appreciate what was happening at the time. It would take another 40 years or so for me to fully realize it all.
Being born almost 20 years after John nearly puts me in a different generation from him and at a slight disadvantage to even my older girl cousins when it came to the Beatlemania phenom. I loved the music, it was easy to sing along to as a kid. And I remember being bummed when they called it quits. Like most kids my age, we knew about The Beatles, though we didn’t understand everything that was going on; the visits with the guru, the mind altering drugs, the crazy sounds being produced into their music, and that thing about Paul being dead…yeah, I never bought that, but my older girl cousin had her doubts.
And then the whole Yoko Ono thing happened…the sleep-in, the naked photo, the trouble with the U.S. government. Weird stuff for a teenager to digest from a guy who used to sing really catchy tunes with three other guys. And that’s how I thought of John until Happy Xmas. And then it was like a light bulb went off. The lyrics got me: “War Is Over If We Want It.” and then Imagine: “You May Say I’m A Dreamer..But I’m Not The Only One.” Finally songs with substance and power that spoke to me and the way I felt — still feel — from a guy I saw mostly as one of the 4 lads from Saturday morning cartoons. Wow!
About a half a dozen years ago, I was at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, Yoko had an exhibit of John’s personal effects, his hand-written lyrics for “Imagine,” The Sgt. Pepper’s costume, countless photos and memorabilia…and his glasses, shattered and still blood stained. At that moment I understood. Peace was something John had strived for. But he himself couldn’t attain that which he was reaching for, and ironically, was cut down in a horrifically violent act. Too bad he didn’t have time to finish whatever it was he was meant to do. For me, personally, I felt that I had been robbed. There would be no more Imagines or Give Peace A Chances or Happy Xmases. Which led me to reflect on what if…what if we had the past 35 years with John. We’ll never know, and he’ll never be 75 to us. He’ll always be 40, even on his 75th birthday.