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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2005/12/12
by Mike Gruenberg

John Lennon

It was 25 years ago this month that John Lennon was tragically taken from us by an assassins bullets. Lennon was gunned down in front of his apartment building in New York City. He was shot from behind in a senseless display of cowardice and malice that resulted in untold grief for his family, friends and fans. That night, the world lost a truly creative person whose thought provoking music and tireless crusade for peace touched young and old alike.
It was 42 years ago last month that President John F. Kennedy was tragically taken by an assassins bullets. Similar to Lennon, he was gunned down from behind. The newsreel footage graphically depicting his death as his motorcade traveled through the streets of Dallas has been ingrained in us all. Another senseless display of cowardice and malice took a President from the American people and deprived the world of a leader destined for greatness.
Both Lennon and Kennedy exemplified the spirit that touched all people in many personal ways. There is not a person alive that lived through either one or both of these tragedies that can ever forget where they were on the days
when Kennedy and Lennon were killed. To this day, I can still remember my feelings of utter disgust when the Presidents assassination was announced. I can still see the faces of the strangers who stood next to me in the lobby entrance doorway of my college when we heard the news on that fateful afternoon. The painful memory of that day will never leave me.
I first heard the news of Lennons death while I was in a car driving from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. It was a cold and rainy day there as the local radio stations played Imagine for what seemed like an eternity. At some point, I called my office and my friend, Chris asked how I was taking the news knowing what a devoted fan I was to John and the Beatles. I remember telling her that I wasnt alright and that I was sad and that I was disappointed at not being in New York City which made me unable to join the crowd gathered outside the Dakota to pay respects to John.

Lennon was a gifted musician with a significant chip on his shoulder. He used his music as a catharsis to seek release from the emotional scars of his youth. His biting cynicism and smart aleck attitude masked a young man fighting to find inner peace. Admittedly, early in his life, he wasnt a model husband or father to his wife, Cynthia and son, Julian. Yet, in later years he was able to find peace and harmony with his second wife, Yoko and beloved
son, Sean.
President Kennedy, his brother Bobby and Martin Luther King taught me to always strive to be a better person and that the system can be changed to help all classes of people. Lennon held the same beliefs as the Kennedys and Rev. King. However, the added dimension was that his politics was intertwined with his music. Lennon left me great memories and timeless music that meant more to me than just rhyming lyrics and catchy melodies. The part of A Day in the Life written by him is unmistakable. Julia and Mother are the songs that are dedicated to the mother he lost twice in his life. Once when she left him so he had to be raised by his aunt and then the second time when she returned to John when he was in his teens and she died in a traffic accident. Both songs give us incredible insight into the pain of his youth coping with an absentee father and a mother who also wasnt there when he needed her. Imagine is the anthem of peace and hope and has not lost a modicum of relevance after all these years. Beautiful Boy his love poem to Sean shows how he finally found family peace and happiness. My favorite, In My Life has to be considered one of the greatest songs ever written. No matter how many times I hear it and no matter who performs it, I can never grow tired of its visual images, lyrics and melody.
Coping with the death of a loved one or friend is always difficult. The death of celebrities can often be as difficult to endure because its almost as though we know these people on a personal level. The widespread coverage of their lives in the media brings them into our homes and lives on a daily basis. We really feel as though we know our favorite celebrities as though they were our neighbor living next door. Lennons death was particularly difficult for me because it was a jolt to a generation that grew up with him and the Beatles. My generation played the new music, feverishly waited for the next new trend and experimented in ways never known before. John was inextricably tied to all these facets of my generations coming of age.

When we lose a loved one, a small piece of ourselves also is lost. That significant piece of our heart or our soul never comes back and we are poorer because that person is gone, but richer for the experience of having that person touch our life. Whether we mourn the loss of a President, rock star or relative, we retain the memories, but the void in our lives is something we live with forever. Our solace is in the memories we always keep of those people who touched our lives in special ways. John Lennon touched my life in a special way. I am grateful to have experienced Beatlemania in the early 60s when I first heard his music and when he and the lads came to the U.S. I am sad that he was taken away far too early in his life and yet one can argue that the influence he had on us all remains as a lasting tribute to him. He got more out of his 40 years on earth than most people accomplish in double that amount of time. I am thankful for the memories and I truly hope that he is in a better place. He helped us to think, he helped us to care and he helped us to love one another. We are in a better place because of him.
As Lennon said, in the last line of Imagine, I hope some day youll join us; And the world will live as one.

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