How John Lennon Has Inspired My Life

So this is Christmas. And what have you done?

“It was shortly before midnight on December 8th, 1980. Here I am, overjoyed with the birth of my first child. Your father and I exhausted, yet beaming. Suddenly, nurses from all corners of Englewood Hospital rush into my room. I was in one of the only rooms that had a small television in the corner. I panicked at first, thinking something is going on with you or me. I see them crowd around the TV set, zipping right past us. They packed in with this burst of silent hysteria. Finally, someone turns to me and shouts, ‘John Lennon was shot’, Howard Cosell had just confirmed it on Monday Night Football, he had been pronounced dead.”

Those are the words of my Mother. I’ve heard the story many times, still I always ask to hear it again. Each time – thinking about something different, or noticing a captivating detail from the occurrence and they way it all unfolded.

Here I am minutes old, but I can assure you – I was observing, maybe even feeling something.

The Near and the Dear Ones:

My first memories of John Lennon and The Beatles date back to being as young as two years old. My parents gave me a red record player. My Mother would often talk to me about The Beatles and Stevie Wonder. “Everybody loved Paul, but John was always my favorite,” she’d tell me. I’d spin that black circle, sitting on the shag carpet of our living room floor until the plastic arm (needle) fell off.

Then, as I climbed the years of youth, my family would host Christmas at our house. The day was always magical, laced in streams of green and red, and divided into two parts. A blissful Christmas morning at home with my immediate family, and then most of my extended family would make their way in through the garage stairs, coming from all over the east coast.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was the song of that time in-between. My Father, sharply dressed and lighting a fire while my sister and I were in our rooms organizing the gifts we were fortunate to receive. My Mother would request the volume on the Christmas music get turned up a level and when I’d hear Lennon’s voice haunt in over the acoustic strum, I’d just stop still. I then knew it was Christmas. It was something spiritual.

Act two was about to begin – the day rising up with the night descending down. Somehow they’d meet in the middle, sounding like jingle bells. All of this coming together – the thrill of what the day had already brought meshing with the rush of what’s to come, and who I would get to see all sound-tracked by Lennon…. I was observing, maybe even feeling something.

The Old and The Young:

I won’t be seeing any of the aforementioned family this year for Christmas. Some of them I have not seen in over a year. It’s the circumstances of a now 10-month pandemic. But I do have a lot to be grateful for. One thing Lennon’s music has always taught me was how to think. There’s only way to do it… deeply. And then, how does that occupying thought engage others?

Like many people my age, my mind bounces like a ping pong ball now, going from my older to young, my parents to my kids. How is this crazy time affecting them?

And What Have We Done?:

Did it need to be like this? Just like, did that have to happen to Lennon? He was simply returning from the studio where he was working on “Walking on Thin Ice”, after a day filled with an Annie Leibovitz photoshoot and a radio interview.

Lennon was so ahead of his time in his messaging. I’ve yet to find someone who can ink a song title full of punch like him. “Isolation”, “Mind Games” “Gimme Some Truth”, “Just Like Starting Over”… they are all so relevant to right now. Sometimes I know, and sometimes I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go ’round and ’round.

One thing I’m sure of is that we are certainly singing, “Power to the People”. From December of 1980, to November 2020, to next year… it’s “Power to the people, right on.”

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Even though sometimes it can feel like you are. But we all shine on. Because a working class hero IS something to be. Lennon’s music has taught me just that because I’ve still been observing, maybe even feeling something sentimental, especially when I hear “Happy XMas (War Is Over)”.

art by: Aldous Collins

Sometimes I tell people about being born the same hour Lennon passed. I recall once saying, “Maybe we slapped hands on the way.” How dare I say such thing. Stand by me just a minute here.

I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for six years, often walking by the Dakota. Each opportunity I had, I walked into Strawberry Fields, hovered over the Imagine area and starred in silence. No matter what day it was there were always flowers left beside it. 

“Beautiful Boy” was the first song I played for each of my son’s when they were born. My daughter and I always sing “Imagine” together, each time emphasizing the, “Youhouuuuhooouuuu”. We picked “Imagine” in part because it’s the greatest song ever written (it has everything), but also because imagine all the people living life in peace.

“One Day at a Time” has been my moto since March as I sit down on couch each night with a glass of red and a snack. “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.” How do you sleep?

And So Happy Christmas:

I hope you have fun, and that this war is (almost) over.

So what does this mean? To be born the same day we lost Lennon? Perhaps it doesn’t mean much at all and it’s just observing, and feeling something deeply special.

I do feel a pull to always consider his melodic messages, and if applicable – put an effort into carrying them out in my own way. I’ve studied his words like a bible, truly analyzing what he’s trying to say. I occasionally listen to his music only to dwell in the emotional way in which he sings. When you write, make it personal. Have something to say.

Another year over, a new one’s just begun.