In case you haven’t yet noticed, people are celebrating what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. He was born during an air raid in Liverpool England, October 9, 1940, and was killed by a crazed fan on the night of December 8th, 1980. What would John have looked like today? I wonder sometimes. He was worried about going bald, and I think he probably would be thin up on top, perhaps he’d just comb it back in a nice dapper style. He’d probably wear a lot of hats. He’d like the internet because of its instant quality of delivering the news all through the day—John was a purported news junkie, both the good and the bad. He would love iPods. He would hate most modern music, but dig some beats in a few of the songs out there. He liked reggae so whatever might be hanging around, not a very active genre these days, he’d seek out. I think he would be writing books, creating art, speaking out about the environment and our battles in the Mideast. He’d tell us to go ahead and build the damn mosque near the Trade Center, because there’s a whore house just down the street and denying religious freedom is a very hypocritical, non-Jesus thing to do. Work on the mosque inside yerself, mate (sorry, I was channeling here).
Around the time of his death, John had spent around five years being a househusband—as he liked to call himself. He said he may not have bore Sean, but he was going to oversee all foods that went into his body and so as he grew, his health and well-being was from John’s strict, but loving parenting. Yoko said the man should take care of the children after birth, and she became busy with selling estates, talking to numerologists, psychics, stock traders, you name it. John became a literal shut-in those last few years, much like any housewife, only he was a Rock God and unlike any housewife, couldn’t enjoy the pleasure of a day out to refresh his energies. He was extremely paranoid about fans recognizing him, because they always wanted something: a touch, a signature, a button from his shirt, a lock of his hair—it would go on and John knew from experience that the more you gave, the more they wanted. So he hid. He sat up in his room and watched tv and read and smoked and sometimes got high, and he looked out over Central Park at the rest of the world in action. He fantasized about sex, sometimes beautiful, sometimes violent. His childhood memories of living with a promiscuous mother and absent father had caused him to have a skewed view of relationships. It wasn’t until Yoko came along that he was able to see women as more than just things to abuse; she showed him that women were powerful creatures; men had much to learn. Many people wonder why John stayed with Yoko when she was so cold. The truth is John Lennon was in a co-dependent relationship—it wasn’t healthy, he was alone much of those last few years of his life; he was controlled, it has been reported that she was cheating on him, spending his money, etc. But he needed her because she was the only thing on this earth that made him feel safe from himself. He loved her, and say what you will, she did a good job of keeping him in a constant state of self-awareness and internal growth.
Throughout his life, John made comparisons to himself and Jesus. He even tried to look like Jesus, sans the robe and jute sash. And I have to say, that although the rest of the world may find the idea insane, he had a point. Every word that John said was taken as gospel. Much like Ghandi and Martin Luther King—who also have been compared to Jesus—he spoke with the utmost of clarity, had the intense gift of making every word count, so that whatever he said would ring true for the eons of time. People still cling to his statements of peace and love, they look to his personal life for clues on how to live theirs, they still listen to his music to save them from their despair and show them how to embrace unity. And just like Jesus, John was persecuted for those very statements, because peace often attracts violence as a counteraction. We can’t handle peace, it requires too much and we have so little time to devote for such a high concept.
One of my favorite things about John was that he was always in a state of renewal. He continuously looked for faults and tried to fix them. One of his faults though was being transparent—it’s why we loved him, but it’s what killed him. Perhaps if he hadn’t spoken out about the war. Perhaps if he hadn’t made those comments about Jesus. Perhaps if he hadn’t said where he lived and what he loved and what he liked to do, on and on. Perhaps if he hadn’t written his songs so that each sounded as if it were a personal note to all who listened. Perhaps . . .
But that’s not how you live when you’re John Lennon. He gave everything with no feelings of remorse, and so it came to be, unfortunately, that one person felt it was his right to claim his life; make his death an anthem for their own. John and Yoko had been recording all evening. The day had been filled with photo-shoots and interviews for the recent release of Double Fantasy, and John was in a rush to get home and kiss his little boy good-night. Because, despite the cult-rock world he lived in where he could have had maids do it for him, he wanted to be the one who put his little boy to bed and wish him sweet dreams. Yoko stepped out of the car first, followed by John. There were no bodyguards as Yoko had continuously pushed off the request to be dealt with on a later date. Someone called John’s name—it was the young man who’d asked for an autograph hours earlier in the same spot outside the Dakota apartments. John turned and shots were fired. Seven shots in all, but only four penetrated his body, the first one fatal. He was taken to the hospital only to be announced dead shortly thereafter.
It’s what happens next that defines John Lennon, I think. All of a sudden people realized what they had, and what they would have no more. Even I, as a young girl standing on the upper steps of my childhood home, listened to the news with a heavy heart and shock. We knew, finally, with our own eyes and ears, that good men can be taken away and the rest of us must still go on. Knights fall.