It’s that time of year again.
Christmas? No, well, almost. But not Christmas.
31 years ago today, the light that is John Winston Ono Lennon was extinguished by a nutter with a gun. But the afterglow is still as bright as ever. That sentence came to me this morning and subsequently became both my Facebook status and a tweet on Twitter. It may be crazy, but it is so true.
I can think of no other anniversary that marks an individual’s death that resonates still with so many people as the anniversary of John Lennon’s death every 8th December. Over the course of the day, at the various memorial sites across the word (Strawberry Fields in New York’s Central Park, and the one in Liverpool to name but two) people will go and pay their respects to a man, his music, and his legacy. Lennon tunes will be played, some people still get weepy.
The fact is that John is mourned by family, friends, people who grew up in his lifetime, and those who have grown up knowing only his legend and creative output. There aren’t many people who can say that.
In life he was a man for our times, in death he became almost a deity. Which is terribly sad. In life he had both devoted fans and harsh critics, in death it seems that all the bad stuff has been washed away.
I would say his fans can be categorised as the Beatles fans who didn’t like his overtly political, outspoken solo career, the Lennon fans that liked the honesty and harshness of his early solo career and baulked when he softened upon his return to recording before his death, and those who loved it all. There is also a special category for those fans who loved the Beatles, and loved his solo career, but thought that ‘Some Time In New York City’ wasn’t really a great album.
I fall into the latter category. I can’t remember now how John first came to my attention. It may have been through my parents listening to the odd Beatles track, or my brother. Either way, as I grew up I began to devour pretty much everything that came from the Beatles and John’s solo career. I was amazed at how he was able to write from his heart yet connect with the man in the street. The Beatles as a group have a back catalogue with a song for every possible mood. As John matured, so did his music and his outlook. He started writing about what was going on around him and in the world, bringing us ‘Revolution’, ‘Cold Turkey’ and ‘Instant Karma’ to name just a few.
John’s greatest achievement for me, are the two albums that signalled his solo career – The Plastic Ono Band and the behemoth that is Imagine. On one hand you get the harsh reality and raw emotion, on the other there is a melodic genius that anyone would struggle to match.
His music became a little overly political upon his move to the US, he was immersed in borderline extreme political movements, and this alerted the Nixon government, beginning a 4 year fight for John to remain in the country. He won in the end.
The birth of his and Yoko’s only child, Sean, signalled a period of self-imposed absence which was rare for someone of his stature and profile to do. Five years passed before he returned to the studio and gave us what would prove to be his swansong. He clearly saw this as a new start, a rebirth. Now comfortable in his own skin and looking forward to growing old, he gave us ‘Woman’, ‘Beautiful Boy’, and ‘Watching The Wheels’ where he tells us how he looks at those rushing by and explains how he’s happy to sit back and smell the roses, take it easy – a reversal from how he used to be.
And then in a couple of shots, he was gone. And I was only a few months old. Yet I get quite emotional on this day, listening to Imagine, All You Need Is Love, Grow Old With Me.
We All Shine On. Like the moon, the stars and the sun. God rest your soul John, we all miss you on Planet Earth.