All images courtesy of Getty Images
By Andrew Daly
We all have our favorite Beatle. Some people like the nice guy Paul McCartney. Others prefer the quiet and subdued George Harrison, and there are even some who like the big-nosed goofiness of Ringo Starr. And then, there are the rest of us… we are the followers of John Lennon.
John wasn’t always my favorite. When I was very young, I loved Paul McCartney. I think it was because, at the time, his songs were my favorite. They were simple (in a good way), and my young brain could follow along easily. As I got a little bit older, I started to think that George was my favorite. He was “the forgotten Beatle,” and his shyness made sense to me, but I soon grew out of that. I never had a Ringo phase.
The man can play a tremendous downbeat, keep perfect time, and yeah, “Octopus Garden” and “Don’t Pass Me By” are underrated Beatles tracks, and while Ringo will always have my undying respect, he will never be my favorite. And so, that leaves me with John Lennon.
My adoration and respect for John Lennon snuck up on me. When I was very young, I didn’t understand him. The man was known for his laconic sense of humor and a stoic, subdued way of being. While he seemed gruff, if not semi-abrasive on the surface, just beneath was a man with a heart of gold who only wanted peace and kindness for all.
To simplify things (if that’s possible with Lennon), the man was as multi-faceted as they come. It takes a mature sense of self and a little bit of life experience to wrap one’s head around an artist like John Lennon, let alone his music which ranged from as pop as it gets to downright obtuse. Over time, I learned that the man had layers, which required some genuine effort to peel back, but the riches were incredible once exposed.
Today is December 8th. For those who don’t know, that is the day that John Lennon was taken from us—gunned down at point-blank range by a deranged man named Mark David Chapman, who was at the time citing J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, as his murderous gospel. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 42 years since that fateful evening, in front of the now-famous Dakota building, in New York City.
Often times I think about John Lennon; while he was never alive during my lifetime (I was born in 1988), I’ve learned a lot over the years about the person he was beyond his music. I personally think the world could have used someone like John Lennon. Mark David Chapman indeed robbed us of a unique human being, and for that reason alone, on December 8th, we should always remember and pay tribute.
You may say he was a dreamer…
I’ve heard some more closed-minded people refer to John Lennon as a “communist” or a “socialist.” He was neither. John’s beautiful, idealist vision in his famous song “Imagine” was not a hope for a communist free for all. No, it was a vision of hope that John Lennon truly felt could exist if we as a human race would only agree to be decent to one another. Instead of seeing one another as black or white, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, perhaps, if only for a minute, we could see each other as just people. People with hopes and dreams. People with fears and anxieties.
People who make mistakes and people who make up for them. John Lennon understood that we are only human. Songs such as “Cold Turkey” tell the tales of his withdrawal from heroin addiction. At the same time, “How Do You Sleep?” is a venomous retaliation against his friend, Paul McCartney, and “Jealous Guy” tells the story of his jealousy toward the other men in his wife, Yoko Ono’s life. John Lennon wasn’t asking us to be perfect. He sure wasn’t. John Lennon knew he wasn’t perfect, making him highly relatable. All he was asking was for us to imagine and maybe even try. John wasn’t a socialist. He was a peace activist. If you open your mind, you’ll see there is a difference.
Our life together is so precious together. It’s been too long since we took the time…
Men like John Lennon are often misunderstood. I believe that has drawn me to him as I’ve gotten older. Peel back the curtain, and you’ll find a man who only wanted peace, love, and happiness for himself, his family, and his friends. What more can you ask for? A lot of people will tell you that the ideals that John Lennon stood for aren’t realistic. Still, I feel they aren’t out of reach. Even after all these years of being hateful toward one another, there’s time to turn it around.
I guess, what I am trying to say, is that the world as John Lennon saw it, or what he hoped it could be, doesn’t have to live only his lyrics. It didn’t die with him. And so, in my opinion, the best way to honor John Lennon on the anniversary of his death is by doing our best to be decent each day. Keep his ideals of peace and love in your heart and mind daily. Do your best to remain mindful and thankful and try and push both anger and hate away. Be good to those you love, with the understanding that both you and them will sometimes fuck up. Understand that it’s ok. It’s all part of the human condition.
I don’t know. Maybe I am as much a “dreamer” as John Lennon. Perhaps I am angry at the thought of a malicious killer gunning down such a transcendent musician and quality human being for no apparent reason. John Lennon deserved better than dying in the back of a police car, gurgling on his own blood. That image may seem stark, but it’s real. Artists and men like John only come around once in a lifetime. I am angry that he was taken from us. He still had so much to do and so much to say.
As I said before, today is December 8th. It’s exactly 42 years since the passing of John Lennon. My favorite Beatle. Had he lived, he would be 82 years old at the time of this writing. I often wonder what he would have accomplished over the last 40 years. I like to imagine a world where John Lennon was alive during my lifetime. Perhaps the world would be better, if only by a little bit.
In the world we find ourselves in, wouldn’t it have been nice to have the comforting words of John Lennon out there? I suppose, in a sense, we do. We still have his music. John is still with us. Like John once said, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” And so, if only for today, let’s all imagine the world as a better place, and maybe if we keep imagining it, if we keep trying, someday it will become a reality.
A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.