I was in New York City the last day of John Lennon’s life. We breathed the same cold air. I was flying west when he was shot. I learned about it in Los Angeles. That made it even more surreal—in that sudden soft air and sunshine, after the dirty wind and gray chill of New York.

The radio played his songs, Beatles songs, constantly the next day when I was driving around in a rental car, and there was a period of silence that Yoko Ono asked for as a memorial, which I spent on Santa Monica Beach. When it was over and I was walking back to the car, I saw his name written in the sand. Imagine. Lennon Lives.

Paul’s first quoted reaction, widely criticized at the time, was “It’s a drag.”  Now I know all the inarticulate grief locked in those words.  It’s still a drag.

I’ve resisted joining the chorus reevaluating him today. I guess 25 years since the day he died is a reasonable day to do that, but I don’t want to remember him for his sudden and sickening murder.

Plus the friend I spent the most time with that evening and the next day, sharing all those half-spoken feelings of awe and dread and the tentativeness of being alive, is also dead now. She also died young and suddenly, not many years later. And more beauty was lost from the world.

The Beatles are certainly still part of my life, even of a lot of days. I’ve felt closest to George the past few years, and I admire how Paul and even Ringo have conducted their lives as they age beyond what we could even imagine then. But John was the one I admired the most then, who opened the most doors to perception.

Oddly, the John song I like doing the most these days is a minor one, “Crippled Inside.” But it’s so John.

“You can shine your shoes and wear a suit

You can comb your hair and look quite cute

You can hide your face behind a smile

One thing you can’t hide/ is when you’re crippled inside”

These days the song I feel closest to is one of Paul’s, which I didn’t take note of much when it came out about two years after John’s death, called “Tug of War.” It’s only been in the last year or two that I’ve come to feel these lines:

“In another world, in another world
We could stand on top of the mountain with our flag unfurled;
In a time to come, we will be dancing to the beat
played on a different drum…”

And these:

“In years to come, they may discover
what the air we breathe and the life we lead
are all about.
But it won’t be soon enough,
soon enough for me.

No, it won’t be soon enough,
soon enough for me. “

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