Monday, December 8, 2008

These memories do not lose their meaning

I was only 9 years old but by that time, my life had been deeply affected by the Beatles. To say that I was a huge fan is a tremendous understatement. The Beatles were and still are one of my great interests, a real passion. Their music and affect on western culture were things that I could talk about that helped me bond with my dad. The music was great, too. I loved it for its own sake.

I'll never forget my pop telling me ,"Sean, one of the Beatles was killed tonight." "What? Knock it off. Stop being a jerk, Pop!" "I'm serious," he said. "Someone shot John Lennon."

In the following days, I was glued to the TV. For months -- maybe years -- I saved all the articles I clipped out of the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. When I could get my hands on news magazines like Time -- we had those at school but not at home -- I clipped out the articles and photos from them, too. Probably within a month of John's murder, I chose him as my biography subject for a school paper.

My aunt bought a copy of Double Fantasy when it came out, which was just a month or so before John was killed. In the week before his death, I had already listened to the album on her record player. I remember "(Just Like) Starting Over" being on America's Top 40 or some radio show like that. Of course, after his death, I played that record every time I went to my aunt's house.

It really shook me, his death. I'm not so sure that I fully understood death, but the violence of it really stunned me. I could not fathom why someone would want to kill one of the Beatles, or anyone for that matter. The sadness on the faces of people all over the world, as seen on the news every night for a week or more, really caught my attention. As much as I knew that John Lennon had been known worldwide, until I saw the news coverage on TV, the immensity of his loss was not something I could have imagined. I missed Beatlemania entirely and did not have that as a frame of reference.

Twenty-eight years later I still remember that day. I remember the days and weeks that followed. These memories flood my mind every December 8 for the last 27 years.

While this certainly was an extraordinary (and horrendously tragic) event which is forever burned into my mind, it no longer holds any kind of sadness for me, at least not a sadness that I could feel or express. John Lennon was a brilliant man: funny, immensely creative; a great rock and roll singer; a humanitarian of sorts. Like many of the rest of us, he was also deeply flawed, a person burdened with a deep pain and sadness most if not all his life.

Unfortunately, John has become something of a god since his passing. Certainly, he was worshiped and adored as a Beatle, but he seems to have been elevated to deity status after his death. John never had the answer for himself, let alone for the rest of us. I appreciate his contributions to the world of art, music and pop culture. But he was a man, a brilliant one. Nothing more, nothing less. Human or not, we miss him nonetheless.

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