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Thursday, December 08, 2005

We all shine on

Posted by: Jambo / 12:25 AM

"It was 20 25 years ago today..."

Today is the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. December 8th, 1980 was a Monday, which I only know because, like many people, I got the news from Howard Cosell while watching Monday Night Football. I didn't know at the time that it would be a particularly influential event in my life but I could tell from Howard's tone something important had just happened. I don't remember his exact words but he was obviously quite moved and I learned later that part of what he said was quoting Keats: "My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense."

I didn't really know much about John at the time other than he was a Beatle and I knew a few songs. My parents had given me “Yellow Submarine” for my 8th birthday and earlier than that I remember my mother singing to me when I asked her to explain what a “hard days night” meant. But the tone in Howard's voice, the subsequent magazine covers, the moments of silence on the radio and the candlelight vigils told me that for some people this was much more than a rock star who had died. (20 some years later I would attend my own heartbroken vigil, centered around a green bus rather than a gothic apartment building. Oh, John would have loved our Paul.)

After that week I started buying Beatles albums, first getting a taste with the "Red" and "Blue" compilation albums and later becoming a passionate fan. I eventually had the little round glasses and for a while in college even had a Sgt. Pepper era Lennon mustache (admittedly not my finest hour.) People who came to my wedding were probably not surprised to hear “In My Life” at the start of the ceremony. (When I told our harpist I wanted that song she was not familiar with it but said she would find the sheet music. She later called back to say it was so beautiful she would start playing it at all the weddings she did. If there has been a prettier song written in the last 100 years I don’t know what it is.)

I have often been sad that I missed the raucous “Twist and Shout” Cavern Club days of the early Beatles or the unbridled joy of the “Hard Days Night” and “Help!” years. 15 years after the rest of the world I too was trying to find myself to the tune of the “middle” albums and the later psychedelic recordings. And no doubt my political leanings owe much to my long ago discovery of songs like “Revolution” and Lennon’s utopian outlook in “Imagine”, "Instant Karma" and “Give Peace a Chance.”

But today I'm 41 years old, and it is very strange to mark the first anniversary on which I am older than John was back in 1980. Now I find myself thinking of his last years and listening to him find peace in domestic life with “Starting Over” and “Watching the Wheels.” And I believe that if you don't occasionally sing "Beautiful Boy" to your own kids you're not really doing your job. I'm sure John would not mind that a few of us have to change the gender.

I'm quite pleased that with very little prodding from me (honest) my five-year-old daughters have latched onto the Beatles themselves. Depending on the day they might even tell you their favorite movie is "Hard Days Night." (Other days they will say it's Mary Poppins which ironically beat out Hard Days Night for the best soundtrack Grammy the year I was born.) I've promised them a trip to New York City some time in the next few years, that's where Sesame Street is after all, but while we're there we'll stop by Strawberry Fields and the big "Imagine" mosaic in Central Park. And I'll try to explain it all to them without choking up.

Well, we all shine on.


(For those of you reading this in Minnesota you should remember to check out Curtiss A. doing his annual John Lennon tribute show at First Avenue tonight. I've seen quite a few of them over the years and Curt puts on a great show. I'll miss this year's show since my wife is out of town and I'll be home taking care of my girls. I think I will likely sing to them.)


But today I'm 41 years old, and it is very strange to mark the first anniversary on which I am older than John was back in 1980.

Sometimes I think of that, or that Orson Welles directed Citizen Kane while in his mid-twenties, and think "What have I got to show for my years on the planet?"

Well, of course, my children are the biggest part of the answer. Thanks for reminding me of that, Jambo.

By Blogger Joseph Thvedt, at 9:53 AM  

Great post!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:10 AM  

Rachel Maddow had an interesting addition to the anniversary; apparently there are ten pages of Lennon's FBI file that they still refuse to release.

The entire show is available at AirAmericaPlace.Com

By Blogger Nyarlathotep, at 11:08 AM  

I know this is a cliche but that day truly was the day that music died.

I just read that last night U2 dedicated their show to Lennon. Bono kept sprinkling Beatles and Lennon solo lyrics thoughout songs all night and they encored with Instant Karma.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:58 PM  

I didn't know it was a monday... today is my son's 8th birthday. He was born on a monday. I always thought beautiful boy was a lovely lullaby... and it's days like this i miss my own father who introduced me to the beatles and whose White Album i've been spinning today. here's a moment of silence for a great light gone out... he's a supernova, really. i've heard it said he didn't become appreciated until he died. I can't speak for myself as to whether that's true. It's true for me only because I was 7 at the time and I think Scott Baio was the height of my hero worship then. anyway, I'll have to tell henry someday that he was born not only on the date but also the day.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:58 PM  

Joseph, I often feel the same way and I am with you 100%.

The FBI files serve as a reminder that there was a time when rock and roll was still subversive. Does the government even bother to pay attention to rock stars any more? Of course that was also the day when you could have the VP of the United States publicly condemn a group for singing "I'll get high with a little help form my friends."

I think Lennon was certainly appreciated in his day but at the time of his death he was just emerging from a several year period in which he had completely withdrawn from public life so I'm sure there was a time when the attention paid to him had waned.

By Blogger Jambo, at 11:49 AM  

I can see Instant Karma being a good song for U2. It is one of the most positive and uplifting songs I can think of.

"Who on earth d'you think you are,
A super star,
Well, right you are.

Well we all shine on,
Like the moon and the stars and the sun,
Well we all shine on,
Ev'ryone come on.

Instant Karma's gonna get you,
Gonna knock you off your feet,
Better recognize your brothers,
Ev'ryone you meet,
Why in the world are we here,
Surely not to live in pain and fear,
Why on earth are you there,
When you're ev'rywhere,
Come and get your share.

Well we all shine on,
Like the moon and the stars and the sun,
Yeah we all shine on"

By Blogger Jambo, at 11:58 AM  

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