It was 30 years ago today. . .
I bet the title of this post seems a bit of a misnomer. How do you remember someone you never met? How are you friends with a stranger? How do you grieve the loss of something you never had?
Anyone who knows me knows that I love liberally, but not lightly. And this holds true for most all areas of my life. . . so if I ‘love’ a musician or band, then I make a true emotional connection with them. Something about them relates to me, resonates, lingers.
The Beatles and their music have followed me through life, nearly from the beginning. Before I had a crush on any boy I knew, there was George Harrison and Paul McCartney, respectively [I finally decided Paul and I connected the most. But George remains a very close second].
There were themed birthday parties, every imaginable poster and knick-knack, and collectible. And the Rock Band and iTunes franchises have made sure the Boys remain by my side in quarterlife.
John was never a “favorite Beatle” of mine. His persona and manner of self-expression, and some of the choices he made in his family life, clashed with my ideals. But he was one of the Four, part of the whole.
In life, John was a reminder of the importance- and the price- of speaking out. His ‘countercultural’ sentiments, and vocal opinions put him under investigation by the FBI. His seeming off-the-wall artistic undertakings with Yoko Ono raised many eyebrows. But he never seemed the type to back down from being wholly himself.
The most tragic thing the loss of any life to violence is that it is unexpected, an interruption of a unique existence, a robbing of human potential. I often think about John as a songwriter and performer, and as a person, like any of us. And I wonder about the songs he could have written for us; the performances we could have witnessed, the opportunities he could have had to mend relationships with his friends and family that had been strained by dysfunction and dispute.
John is remembered these days for all the remarkable contributions he made to songwriting, music, pop culture, and the cause of Pacifism in popular media. Musicians, poets, and visitors to the Imagine Circle, his memorial in New York City, offer him countless tributes.
But I have one favorite.
This song was released in 1982. Two years after the loss of his friend, Paul McCartney shares with him feelings of grief and loss, of love and hope. I have heard Paul perform this song a few times, and it never ceases to move me.
Whether in the life of John, the legacy of his music, or the tribute of his friends, I hope we are all reminded today of the fragile and beautiful nature of life. . . and the redemptive power of true friendship.