My birthday would never be the same after December 8, 1980. Only seven years earlier, I received the present I desperately wanted for my tenth birthday: The Beatles 1962-1966 (otherwise known as ‘The Red Album’ double LP).
I made a habit of bringing that prized possession, as well as all the others I soon snapped up in short order — “Meet The Beatles”; “The Beatles Second Album”; “A Hard Day’s Night”; “Beatles ’65” etc. — to my elementary school, to my friends’ houses, school dances, parties, and after-school play dates (we didn’t call them that then). Yep, even at 10, I was the guy with the tunes.
I much prefer smiling at those memories, rather than mulling over and dwelling on the horrifying, senseless tragedy that occurred on the night of my 17th birthday (but which I didn’t find out about until the next pale morning on the school bus). For many years, more than a few actual, angry, impotent tears were mixed in with the celebratory elation I felt being surrounded by family and friends on my birthday.
Now, being (shockingly) well past the age John was when he was murdered at age 40, the annual pall created by that sick jolt of violence has been transformed into a gentler reminder; a soft voice at my shoulder that perhaps comes with age. It’s very close to the voice I grew up with, encouraging me to make the most of my time, to not squander my spirit or shortchange my passions, and finally, to love as best as I can and be grateful: for my life and the people in it; for the triumphs small and not-so-small; for everything I’ve been able to become and attain and hold onto.
And it’s also taught me to take stock of — and even honor, if grudgingly truth be told (I’m no saint) — the bitter failures and hard disappointments that come with any life. And to pay private homage, especially, to those life scars that came from having the courage and strength to dream, to reach, to try in the first place. We are all of us only human, after all, as even (or especially) John Lennon knew. And as he urged us “dear friends” with such blunt yet clear-eyed clarity in “God,” which hits me hard at my core every time, in the face of dashed dreams, disillusionment, and even fallen idols, we have little choice but to “carry on” for ourselves, to forge ahead and try for a better tomorrow. And making tomorrow today is as good a place to start as any.
In commemoration of what would have been John Lennon’s 75th birthday today, October 9, here’s one of my favorite songs from one of my two or three favorite singers — in any genre — ever, and owner of quite possibly the greatest rock & roll voice of all-time. Hard to argue with the guy who sang lead on “Revolution”; “Come Together”; “Ticket to Ride”; “Tomorrow Never Knows”; “Help”; “And Your Bird Can Sing”; “Yer Blues”; “A Hard Day’s Night”; “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”; John’s first-half opening on “A Day In The Life”; and the post-Beatles solo tracks “God,” “Working Class Hero,” and so many more. Then there’s the early number “Twist & Shout,” one of the most unhinged, throat-shredding vocals of all time (recorded while John’s throat was sore and voice — allegedly — shot…
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