Sunday, December 12, 2010

Belated John Lennon Post (On the 30th Anniversary of His Death)

I've been toying with this for the past few days. How can you possibly sum up someone so iconic, someone whose life and influence is so stupefyingly huge, in a single blog post that probably no one will read? How do you do that when you're probably the one person on the planet without that "connection" -- that flashbulb moment when time stopped and you cam remember where you were, what you were doing, wearing, feeling when it happened.

I was seven-years-old when John Lennon died. I have no memory of this other than the timeline would suggest I was in second grade at the time, and if I concentrate hard enough, I can vaguely recall playing outside in the short alley between my house and the one next to it, and it was cold. I have no idea why this comes to mind. Maybe it's been conjured up by thirty years of "Where were you when it happened?" Everyone my age or older has an answer but me. Like this writer from Glorious Noise:
I was but a child when I heard that John Lennon was dead. It was a cold morning in Michigan and I was at the breakfast table when my mom told me he’d been killed the night before. For the rest of the day—and much of the week—his songs were on every radio I passed. His voice calling out through the speakers and from beyond this earth. (Derek Phillips)
I've written before, on what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, about my not having grown up with the Beatles. It's some sort of sacrilege to be child of a pair of baby boomers and not grow up with the Beatles, but my blues and country loving parents gave up pop music long before I was born. I had to discover them on my own. And I did at the ripe old age of thirteen. (Through the Monkees, no less.)

It wasn't a Beatles song that resonated with me, though. It's was John's solo, "Working Class Hero." I hate to be reductive, but I was drawn to it, at least in part, because it was the first song I heard somebody drop the "F-bomb in song." It was so deadly serious. According to a 1970 Rolling Stone interview, Lennon himself says the song is about "working class individuals being processed into the middle classes, into the machine." No one was tackling issues of class and culture when I was growing up. At least not in popular music when I was growing up -- it was all "You're only human," and "Express yourself." In the you-can-do-anything 80s, no one was willing to expose that lie. It was more than a decade old song, but I got it.

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