Steve Wilson. On music.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Goodnight, Sleep Tight.

A few December 8th thoughts.


Lennon, Lennon everywhere.

He’s on every television news show.
He’s all over satellite radio.
His solo works were recently re-released in re-mastered versions.

And everywhere that song.

“Imagine” became what the “I Have a Dream” speech was to Martin Luther King, Jr. – a glory and an albatross. In each case the provocative depth of the message is undermined by reduction and repetition. And of course both men’s darker, more pressing statements are ignored. Jesus is always easier to tidy up than Marx, I suppose.

And here he is – bigger than Jesus. Okay, maybe not. But anyone watching the endless television coverage of the anniversary of John Lennon’s slaying could be forgiven for thinking so. A December killing, with its proximity to the savior’s birthday (or at least its date of agreed upon sale-a-bration), lends itself to new frontiers in martyr marketing. Would it be better if this wretched event went unobserved? No, the absence would pain those of us who loved his music. Still, much of what passes for the commemoration of his brutal departure chafes.

I can’t presume to think what the man himself would have thought. My guess is that it would bring out his fine sarcasm. So I’d hope. He’d notice that war was not, in fact, over. And maybe he’d have to change the line about ‘imagine no possessions’ to ‘imagine no corporations.’ Who knows?

Ultimately, I just know that the man’s work, image and statements changed how I see the world. Those of us in love with the public Lennon must, no matter how we study his music and manner, accept that this day belongs, in all its loss and horror, to those who truly knew and loved him. So, for Yoko, Sean, Cynthia, Julian, Paul, Ringo, and others this is a day that brings back many memories, some beautiful, some maybe not so beautiful, but certainly vivid, real, personal.

John Lennon understood intuitively that life was about the reconciliation of opposites. All of his flirtations with absolutes, with answers, came gratifyingly to naught. Like all great artists he contained multitudes – peace and aggression, love and indifference, Eros and Thanatos. And his work was the mostly courageous record of his confrontations with this conflicted existence.

My friend Marty and I were watching Monday Night Football and learned of Lennon’s killing from Howard Cossell. Strange, really – we watched television, and sports especially, very rarely in those days. But there we were, instantly devastated and gutted.
A few minutes later my friend James called, looking for a companion in commiseration.
We closed one of our favorite watering holes trying in vain to make sense of it all.

We didn’t. I never have. And I never will.


But the impact of the man and his music - that was about the life force, driving like a son of a bitch through the straitjacket of American Sixties existence. And things were never the same. Thank God.

When my son was born in 1996 my wife Nancy and I selected Lennon as his middle name. Eddie Wilson could be a punk, a hustler. Edward Lennon Wilson could be a poet laureate. We wanted his name to reflect the range of life’s rich possibilities. John Lennon’s life did.

I remain grateful for his life, his work, and its place in this man’s life.


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