Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John Lennon and Amelia, or I'm more famous than Jesus

Yesterday was the anniversary of John Lennon's murder. I remember the night he died, my husband and I held each other, and we cried and cried and cried. John was my favorite. Did it matter? There were some wonderful articles written after the fact, and one horrible one that went on about how they wished it had been Paul instead. I lived on 105th Street then, and we huddled inside the house for a week overcome with grief. But we went out on the day of the memorial service to Central Park. It was a perfectly clear day but at the exact moment the service took place, the sky filled with snow.

So many people had been murdered by then; Malcolm X, both Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King Jr. Why did this upset me more? Not that the other deaths didn't stun me, or change my world in larger ways. Imagine if all of these seminal figures had lived? It would be a better world, I really have no question about that. Would John Lennon have changed the larger world as much as any of them? I think it's possible, I think cultural change is as important as political change. Last night I watched old footage of John being interviewed by Gloria Emerson, a brilliant journalist who rightly told him that his idea of protest was solopsistic. I remember listening to him and Yoko singing at the biggest protest march I ever attended in D.C. the Moratorium and thinking how naive they were. I was a jaded New Yorker, and a jaded American. Yet now I find their optimism wonderful.

When he died, I felt as if I'd been robbed of all that I could have been, and all I'd hoped to believe in. We'd lost our innocence so many times, but that day it mattered more than ever.

We invest those who are famous with so much. They become a piece of us. We think we know them, and worse we think we own them. It's a great burden to carry, one which they can't possibly understand when they set out, full of ambition. In her time Amelia was equally famous. She chose privacy early on. John went after it later, he withdrew from the public eye and when he was murdered was just returning to the limelight, having taken time off to care for his son, to be a private citizen and walk through Central Park with the rest of us.

This one's for him.

1 comment:

  1. We can still hear that beautiful, otherworldly voice, forever young, eternally irreverent. John Lennon left an indelible mark on our culture that cannot be denied. He is still a very real part of our lives, almost as much as he was all those years ago when he walked among us. Thanks to the miracle of recorded sound, the voice of John Lennon can still be heard, a lingering ghost from our past that refuses to fade into the void. At least we have that to be grateful for. Dr. Winston won't be going away any time soon.

    When a celebrated person passes on, we may pause and reflect for a moment on his or her life and career, but then we move on. We may watch with appreciation the brilliant performance of a long dead James Dean in the film Giant and think not a thing about his absence from our lives. That's not the case in this instance.

    I sure do miss John Lennon.

    Before you cross the street
    Take my hand
    Life is what happens to you
    While you're busy making other plans

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY