I wasn’t there.
I didn’t see it happen. I wasn’t watching the news. I didn’t hear the sirens. I wasn’t in school. I didn’t hear it from a friend. I didn’t see an announcement. I didn’t hear the gun shot. I wasn’t at work. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t listening to his music. I wasn’t at a party. My friends didn’t tell me. I wasn’t at the grocery store. I wasn’t reading a book. I wasn’t in a meeting. I wasn’t watching a movie. I have no remarkable story about where I was, who I was with, or how I found out, the day that John Lennon died.
Simply, I wasn’t here.
Thirty years ago, on December 8th, 1980, the day that Mark Chapman murdered John Lennon, the “day the music died,” I was — as they say — a mere twinkle in my father’s eye. And although I wouldn’t come around till seven years after his death, every year I make sure to find some time to mourn the loss of one of modern history’s most influential people.
John Lennon is more than a Beatle, more than a musician and more than an activist. To me — a kid who was listening to his music before I could actually process that I was listening to his music — John Lennon is, simply, an idea.
I don’t mean that negatively. I just want to emphasize that sometimes there are figures in the world — whether they’re politicians or writers or philosophers or artists — whose impact is so large and so important that it carries beyond any point they could have imagined. And sometimes, as is the case with John Lennon, they’re turned into some sort of mystical figure, whose work extends beyond generational gaps.
As I stated, I wasn’t alive when John Lennon was. I have no possible way of knowing what life was like when he existed as a “real” person. My only interaction with Lennon has been posthumous tributes: listening to his music, reading articles and books, and spending countless hours lost in Wikipedia. In my mind, John Lennon has been separated from the actual John Lennon who walked the Earth. And although that seems a little odd, I’m okay with that.
But this is why I love entertainment. And perhaps more accurately, why I ingest all things books, television, movies, and music related to him. Each medium provides an outlet for not only the person who’s created the work, but the person consuming it. There’s a comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, I can still put on my copy of Sgt. Peppers and know that — no matter what — it’s going to sound like it’s always sounded. It’s going to give me the feelings it’s always gave me. Simply, it’s just there for me.
And so, Mr. Lennon, I want to take this opportunity to say one thing: thank you. Your music has impacted my life in so many ways — you were an influence that I’m sure you never expected to be. I remember the first time I heard The White Album. I remember buying a biography of The Beatles from a used book store and finishing it within the next day. And I remember, in 7th grade, attempting to write an English paper that argued The Beatles were the greatest rock band to walk the Earth, ever.
I am forever grateful for your life and all that you brought to the world. And even though I wasn’t there, I am so sad that things ended the way that they did. I still mourn for your loss and feel your influence every day. Your impact will never be lost, and you won’t be forgotten. Please, rest in peace.