(From the Archive – 12/08/05)
This is not a happy anniversary for me. The Beatles, more than any other band before or since (despite some spirited competition), inspired me, entertained me, comforted me, and provided a soundtrack for so much of my life. They’re a little before my time – I was 2 when they broke up, and 12 when Lennon was killed – but my Mom and two older brothers played little else around the house. At least when my poor Dad – "Turn that crap down!" – wasn’t home.
Growing up, it felt like there was a Beatles song for everything, at least everything that happens in puberty. I can remember sitting in my bedroom in the 8th grade, my headphones up to 11, listening to You’re Gonna Lose that Girl, psychically singing along, sending angry mental messages to Steve Lytle hoping that he might walk away from the lovely Kelly Vaughan . . . and then switching tracks (and albums) to I’m a Loser, when he didn’t. I’ve Just Seen a Face helped me hold on to the chaste excitement of meeting Lisa Bonney – I was 15 and we never saw each other again, since she lived 45 minutes away by the car that neither of us could drive. Heather Graham (no relation) and I promised to remember the Things We Said Today. Jennifer Eaton always said she’d remember me When I’m 64, so long as I’d indicate precisely what I meant to say . . .
Day Tripper helped teach me to play the drums, and later, the bass guitar. Let it Be and Hey Jude, the piano.
Good Day Sunshine and Penny Lane invariably make me instantly happy. In My Life and Julia make me wistful, and, if I’m not careful, I’ll tear up a bit, since they both, in their way, connect me with my late mother, among others that are gone or remain.
John, Paul, George, and Ringo were lightning in a bottle – each of them undeniably and equally remarkable in their "own write", but, in combination, something happened that was far greater than the sum of its parts.
As a kid, even though they’d broken up, the Beatles were constants. Thankfully, the music still is, even though Chapman took John Lennon in 1980, and cancer took George Harrison 20 years and 51 weeks later, destroying my plans to meet them all just once and be able to say "thank you". My brother met Sir Paul (and the late Lady Linda) on an airplane once, and hopefully passed the message along well enough for both of us.
As much as I love the music, I disagree with many of the messages . . . I don’t think that All You Need is Love, for example – aside from the obvious bits about food, shelter, and Hot Tamales, I need Reason, and Productivity. While I like the politics in Revolution and Taxman, the lyrics of the simplistically beautiful Imagine are more Lenin than Lennon, and paint a picture that isn’t Utopian, as far as I’m concerned.
Irregardless, to use the vernacular of the peasantry, Lennon’s assassination was a tragic, terrible, and very personal loss for me, not to mention a few hundred million other people around the world. I cried my eyes out 25 years ago, and still choke up when I remember, and when I, if I dare say it, Imagine what might have been.
Chapman’s act represents the empty and short-lived triumph of ugly and irrational brute force over kindness and creativity. Chapman doesn’t deserve to be remembered, but history dictates that he will always be a footnote as the story of Lennon and the Beatles grows ever more remarkable with time. Lennon may or may not have been a hero, depending on what you ask of your heroes, but Chapman is undeniably a villain.
John Winston Ono Lennon didn’t deserve to die, any more than Mark David Chapman deserves to live. I’ll leave it to gentler souls to Imagine " . . . a brotherhood of man" . . . Today, I mourn a little, and Imagine . . . justice.