The Other Day the Music Died: Remembering John Lennon

6 years ago

I know the day the music died refers to the plane accident that took Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, but I can't help but think of John Lennon's death as the day the guitar strings went silent. When this man who had helped revolutionize rock-n-roll was gunned down by Mark David Chapman and the world lost one of its great musical poets -- a showman and activist; peacenik and passionate.

Plenty of people will be remembering him today, arguing what was his best song, who was the real John, and musing about what he might be like if he had lived. And, of course, I need to do the same thing. If forced to choose one song out of his enormous song book, I'd probably have to go with this version of "Real Love."

I wrote a while back about this version,

When the song is stylized and synthesized, it’s easy to forget that it was written by a very real person, someone who lived in an apartment in New York City, who set a tape recorder atop a piano to get down the tune before he forgot it. A messy individual with a prior marriage and first son; a new wife and second son. And that all those people got left behind when he died, the carrier of all of that real love.

And I'm a sucker for "Watching the Wheels," but damn, how many of us can ever apply a song like this to ourselves? (Can you tell that I like the stripped down versions best?)

And isn't it good, "Norwegian Wood?"

People, of course, know the poetry that came out in song writing, but he also put out a book of poetry too, In His Own Write, a line of which has become family shorthand for when you are hopelessly missing the point:

Arf, arf, he goes, a merry sight,
Our little hairy friend,
Arf, arf, upon the lampost bright
Arfing round the bend.
Nice dog! Goo boy,
Waggie tail and beg,
Clever Nigel, jump for joy
Because we're putting you to sleep at three of the clock, Nigel.

And then, there is looking back at your favourite pictures. Like this one, which captures the boys early on -- look at that exuberance.

The Beatles rehearse for that night's Royal Variety Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre, 4th November 1963. The Queen Mother will attend. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Or this one at a press conference:

8th July 1966:  English pop star John Lennon (1940 - 1980) at a press conference at London Airport after the Beatles' return from Manila.  (Photo by George Stroud/Express/Getty Images)

And with Yoko Ono:

1969:  John Lennon (1940 -1980), singer, songwriter and guitarist of British pop group The Beatles, with his wife Yoko Ono listening to the playback of one of their tapes.  (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Bloggers and the mainstream media have also been writing about Lennon. The New York Times kicks it off with a single memory of hearing the news that John died. Where were you when you first heard the news? I was in the living room, sitting on the floor by the sofa.

  • Bloomberg muses on what John Lennon would be like today if he hadn't died.
  • Huffington Post asks which one of his personas was the real John Lennon?
  • Two years ago, Curvature had a great post on his death date about how John Lennon didn't like his own voice, and she writes: "Those of us who are big Lennon fans will know the great tragedy that is Lennon’s seemingly eternal dislike of his own voice ... Seeing as how his voice affects me like no other, it’s a huge shame."
  • Tennessee Guerilla Women had up a great photo of him the same year.
  • Last year, Curvature had a post about gun violence on his death date. She writes, "When I think of November 29 (the date of George Harrison’s passing), I feel sadness and loss, but I don’t immediately think of cancer. When I think of December 8, I do think of gun violence. And in many ways, I think it’s important to remember why and how John died."

So join in with your memories of John Lennon -- where were you when you heard the news? What are your favourite songs?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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