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A Day in the Life: Remembering Lennon

by Dwayne Eutsey

Thirty years ago today, a deranged man murdered John Lennon on the street in New York City.

I can still remember clearly when I heard the news that day, oh boy.

I was a teenager attending Cambridge-South Dorchester High School (CSDHS) at the time, so it was rare for me to wake up early in the morning (especially on a school day). My mom, in fact, would have to knock on my bedroom door a few times after my alarm clock went off just to get me out of bed.

On that morning 30 years ago, however, I woke up before the sunrise. I’m still not sure why. Because I couldn’t go back to sleep, I switched on the radio beside my bed and searched the dial for something to listen to before the dreaded alarm clock went off.   

I found a station playing the Beatles’ classic “A Day in the Life,” one of my all-time favorite songs, and laid there in the pre-dawn dark savoring it. By the time the haunting tune had reached its dramatic finale, I was drifting between sleep and consciousness as that crashing, concluding piano chord slowly faded.

“John Lennon, dead at age 40,” the deejay somberly announced in the growing silence.

All these years later, I can still feel the shock of that moment reverberating like that endless piano chord.

Why is that, I wonder?

I was becoming a huge Beatlemaniac at the time, so that’s part of it. However, even non-Beatle fans could be appalled by the violent way Lennon’s life abruptly ended outside his apartment that night. It’s a perfectly human response to tragedy, however far removed from our personal lives it might be.

In my case, though, I walked through the halls of CSDHS all day in a daze, profoundly shaken by a sense of grief over the loss of someone I never actually knew.

Why was that?

Among the many reasons for such a response, I suppose, would be the sense of meaning his music and the myth surrounding his life gave me.

I never idolized the man (I knew from reading his interviews that he certainly had his flaws and personal demons). However, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, Lennon may have been in the gutter with the rest of us, but he was also among the few to point out the beauty of the stars above, as in his beautiful ode to meditation, “Across the Universe” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rj-4t9drUlM).

As a shy, bookish kid at the time (I still am, in many ways), I loved his absurd, Lewis Carroll-style word play (“I Am the Walrus” totally blew my mind the first time I heard it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nnpil_pRUiw); his courageous truth-telling inspired me to risk speaking out for and acting on what I believe in (“Gimme Some Truth” is perhaps even more scathingly relevant today than when it came out in the ‘70s): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlzrNKN3rZI).

I honestly cannot imagine the type of person I’d be today without Lennon’s legacy. To have an influence that was so personally meaningful to me so brutally wrenched away from me when I was younger has a left a scar that still hurts.

But as Lennon’s friend and fellow Beatle George Harrison once wrote, all things must pass away. There’s something of a tragic lesson about the impermanence of our mortal lives in John’s sudden death all those years ago.

There’s much we can learn from his life, as well…something, perhaps, about how our fleeting lives send enduring ripples through the web of life long after we’re gone and in ways we’ll never know.

Imagine that, as Lennon would have said.

Imagine that.

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