Happy birthday, John Lennon

Thursday, October 9, 2014 would have been John Lennon’s 74th birthday.

Just thinking about this brings tears to my eyes and takes me back to that moment, that truly horrific moment that occurred way back in the winter of 1980.

If you, too, are of a certain age then you know of which moment I speak.

As was usual for my young self, waking up in the morning to get ready for school was the most excruciating part of my day.  I hated school.  The best part of my day was the moment I would see my mother drive up.  Getting in the car and coming home in the afternoon was the one thing I looked forward to the most.

On that one cold December morning, my clock radio went off and the local radio station was playing a Beatles song.

Wow, I thought.  This is cool.  I never knew what I would wake up to every morning.  Without fail, the first song I heard in the morning would stick with me throughout my day and into the night.  No better way to wake up and get going than with a Beatles song stuck firmly in your head.

When the song was over, the joy was silenced when an emotional disc jockey with a trembling voice spoke about the world having lost a legend.

The news hit me like an 18-wheeler.  It just couldn’t be true, could it?  One of the most important, most creative, and most misunderstood musicians of all time?  There was no way he had been gunned down just outside of his apartment building in New York City the night before.

No way.

But it was true.  My mother’s sobs creeping in my room from the kitchen made the surreal news I heard on the radio sink in.  Her cries let me know I wasn’t still somehow dreaming in that limbo-land between sleep and wakefulness.

It was true.  John Lennon was dead.

How could this be?  Isn’t he the one who campaigned for peace?  I mean, come on.  “Give peace a chance” was his mantra.  Those four words summed up in a nutshell what he was all about.  Why on earth would anyone want to blow him away?

Of course, many decades have passed since this horrific event occurred and today we who grew up listening to his music still wonder why.  Even after John’s death, the realization that he’s gone continues to play “Mind Games” with me.

And say or think what you will about Yoko Ono, but on that night she was standing right next to her husband the moment Mark David Chapman decided to end John’s life.  Imagine.  Just imagine what it must have been like for her to be right there, to hear the gunshot and watch her lover collapse.  Imagine how she felt watching John take his last breath.

It’s too heartbreaking to even consider the pain.

So, on the eve of John’s birthday, I want to say “thank you” to the man whose music was the first I remember ever hearing…the incredible Beatles songs that set me on the rock and roll path.

Thank you, John, for showing us that it takes courage to be who we truly are.  Thank you for taking a stand for what you thought was right, and for showing us how important it is to be true to ourselves.

Happy birthday John Lennon.

Thank you for being you.

Though you may no longer be with us, your music – and your love – will live on forever.

“All we are saying…is give peace a chance…”

Photo credit: sodahead.com

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