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(Dec. 8, 2010)

          I don’t want to write, think, or hear about John Lennon’s murder any more. This will be the last time I ever write anything about it, and I’m none too enthused, either.
          I feel like a pallbearer at a 30-year funeral. My shoulders are paralyzed.
          I think it’s time to stop dwelling on Lennon’s death every year at this time. Of course, what I think is of no consequence, and trying to stop millions from thinking of Lennon, or mournful fans from gathering and wretchedly singing "All You Need is Love" off-key, or the media from profiting from the anniversary, is like trying to make cats wag their tails.
          But for starters, I don’t want to know any more about the self-pitying glob of tissue that fiendishly blew Lennon up with explosive bullets, and that seems to today live a happy, well-fed life in solitary confinement. I would gladly be the one to throw the switch, administer the injection, do whatever it takes to turn the glob into lifeless tissue. What right does that thing have to keep living, eating, laughing? Insanity is no defense for the behavior of elected officials, TV stars, presidents, terrorists, bankers, so why should it be any defense for that thing?
          Shocked, are you? Why would I say such a thing? Rage? Anger? How inappropriate and hypocritical on Lennon’s death anniversary?
          First, I believe in the death penalty. Second, I think some lives are more important than others. (Disagree? Ask yourself how much better the world would be had Hitler been stillborn.) You see, the glob did not “just” kill “Beatle John,” or a “great artist” or “social activist” or (yawn) "voice of a generation.” It did not "just" kill a good man who had as much right to pursue happiness as any other good man. It killed an immeasurable amount of joy and expectation and inspiration on the part of countless sorry souls like me who grew up being made happy, expectant, inspired by Lennon, and The Beatles. No, it’s not “Beatle John” I miss. It’s not the man, as I didn’t know him. It’s the public figure who gave a damn enough to try and express heartening, good things that lifted people up. Heartening good things, very often, that also made for original and affecting music.
          (Note to all you Fox News types: please spare me the “Lennon was a hypocrite” stuff. Yes, of course he was. Of course there was hypocrisy, complexity, contradiction. Drool. Comes with the human territory. Yours, too, and mine.)
          If you think I am being indulgent here, or sentimental, or exaggerating, do a little research into the documented fact that Beatles music (group and solo) was a major factor, if not the overriding factor, in breaking up the Soviet Union.  (Not that the replacement is so hot.) And let it be remembered that from happiness and expectation and inspiration come all the glorious wonders that make the human condition better.
          So the glob of tissue, or whatever factors that caused it to go mad, did enormous damage to the spirit of humanity, let alone prevented the creation of who knows how much more art and music and wonders. Let alone denied a good man his life, his wife her husband, their son a father. Assassinate politicians? An international tradition. Cheerleaders for human cooperation? It should carry an automatic death sentence.

I’ve had countless dreams through the years that he is still alive, that he has been hiding away, rehabilitating his arm and overcoming brain and nerve damage, and is okay again.

          Now, I don’t want to get into some failed eloquence here about who and what Lennon was, as so many writers and poseurs do every year. You’ve heard and read all the endless characterizations until they have become wilted clichés. “House husband.” “Voice of a generation.” Blah blah. Look, the guy spoke his mind. It was his nature, long before he became ridiculously famous. He sought (and sang) truth about himself and the world, however clumsily and Quixotically and recklessly. But it should be remembered, also, that he was never far from a barb, a goofy face, a wry aside, a retort (still love hearing him call that creep, Al Capp, “Barrabas,” at the “bed-in”), a slogan, a chorus, a cigarette, wicked insight, capriciousness, compassion, and Yoko (except for the so-called “lost weekend,” and even then she phoned him obsessively.) He wrote transporting songs, and his songwriting skills, if demos in circulation are an indication, were entering new sophistication when he was destroyed.
          Beyond that, I don’t want to try to describe or rehash who he was or why he was important. If you’re too young to understand, read about it elsewhere and make up your own mind. If you’re my age or older and still don’t understand, go away.
          And I'll tell you, I’ve sure as hell had enough of reading all the maudlin “I remember where I was” fan articles every Dec. 8, and I’ve had enough of blunderbuss documentaries on CNN with oh-so-serious, full-throated narrators and lurid tabloid titles such as “Losing Lennon: Countdown to Murder.” Yes, I understand the media make a hell of a lot of money by profiting from tragedy, but the lure has driven so-called editors to necrophilia. How many years will we have to keep hearing about Anna Nicole Smith and Elvis and Marilyn and Michael?
          I just don’t want to re-live what happened “that night” any more. I don’t want to think about the people who encountered the glob earlier that day, outside the Dakota, thought it was behaving suspiciously, yet did not call the goddamned cops. I don’t want to think about how after giving the glob an autograph, Lennon gave a companion a weird look because the glob had not spoken at all. Just silently collected the autograph. I don’t want to think about how John and Yoko became far too lax and complacent about moving around in public in New York City, perhaps figuring the intimidation of celebrity was enough to keep people respectful. I don’t want to think about the albums that will never be, the tour that never was, the interviews that never will be, the Beatles reunion that never was, the father-son(s) concerts that didn’t happen, the inspiration and laughter and consolation and amusement and optimism and trenchant observation that would come no more.
           I don’t want to think about the night that I drove home from the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, and for some reason found myself listening over and over and over to two songs in the car, Lennon’s “No Reply,” and “I’m a Loser.” I’d never done such a thing before. I was sort of transfixed by them. Perfect in their way. Earnest, plaintive, confessional, angry, dejected, beautifully sung and harmonized, electric. Those live-wire Beatle voices. All the way home on the 5 and then the 134 into the Valley, I listened to those songs over and over. Loud. I sang along. Exactly as I listened, Lennon was being gunned down while stopping off to say goodnight to his boy. No reply. I’m a loser.
          I don’t want to remember how I got home, happy to relax after a routinely brutal day, and the phone rang with my old friend, Kallberg, in Philadelphia, saying only this:
          “Hear about Lennon?”
          I figured he was going on tour or something.
          “Whaaaaaaat? Is he. . .”
          “Dead. Yeah.”
          I hung up. I went through a lot of shit that night, and for weeks and months afterward, as countless millions have. I first spent some time trying to put my fist through my front door, eventually with the aid of a lot of alcohol. The next morning, I somehow drove to work on about an hour’s “sleep,” just absolutely stupefied, incredulously noting pictures of Lennon in car windows. It felt like a different, strange world, because it was. What kind of a world would it be without somebody who could write and sing “Imagine,” “Strawberry Fields?” “I Am The Walrus?” What kind of world would it be without the possibility of the Beatles recording again? Without uniquely delicious impishness, truth-telling, irreverence, craziness, courage, naivete, wisdom, inimitable melody and lyric?
          An editor asked me to write a “tribute” for a special section. Might as well have asked me to breathe grape juice.
          Write? Write what? I couldn’t even think. The rats that normally ran on the wheels in my brain had quit, and the wheels would not turn. I typed, of course. You do that. You get a deadline, and you type. I had little idea what to say, or what I was trying to say, or how  to say it, or what I said. I faked it. It turned out really bad, a circumstance that was not helped when I searchingly asked a respected colleague what she thought of it and she said, imperiously, “Very poor.” That same idiot later looked at my black tie and said, mockingly, “Are you ‘sad’ today?”
          A lovely day, that.
          I don’t want to think or write about these things anymore, every year, at this time. It is too painful. Consider: Two weeks ago, I had a dream that Lennon was killed again. That somehow, he hadn’t been killed dead enough the first time, and some other glob had killed him a second time. I woke up sick to my stomach. I’ve had countless dreams through the years that he is still alive, that he has been hiding away, rehabilitating his arm and overcoming brain and nerve damage, and is okay again. Really. I’ve dreamed new Beatles songs. And I am far from alone in these experiences.
         And that’s what happens, really. Every year Lennon gets killed all over again, and the mourning breaks out all over again. I can’t take it. I understand and applaud the efforts to keep the spirit present, but not around Dec. 8. I think that everyone should just stay quiet and go on a sort of Lennon fast.
          This year, as dithering media idiots again secure the fame (infamy) of the glob, and exploit pain for profit, I am hit with the poignant sight of giant billboards all over L.A.. Billboards with one of the greatest photos of The Beatles, from one of the last photo sessions, when they somehow looked older and wiser then they ever would look again (and maybe they were.) “The Beatles on iTunes,” proclaim the billboards, and I think, no, The Beatles’ music on iTunes. Two of the Beatles are gone, and these are just the same old songs. “Across the Universe” has no new verses, “Hey Jude” no guitar solo. The only real significance of the iTunes acquisition is that it will make a whole lot of money for people who already have a whole lot of money. Not exactly something The Beatles stood for.
          And of course, Ono dutifully put together yet another Lennon boxed set with. . .the same old solo songs, except for three or four demos that had not been previously released (why she doesn't convene old Lennon cronies to “finish” them, I’ll never understand.) It's remastered, yes, but it’s still rearranged furniture.
          That’s what I take away every year from the anniversary. There is nothing new, and there will be nothing new. No more new statements, new songs, new winks, new asides, new interviews, new pranks, new poems, new books, new compassion, new sincerity, new absurdity, badly needed new inspiration. Just the same old stuff, recycled, souped-up. Rearranged furniture. In a ritual of broken hearts and corporate cash-in.
          Of course, I’ve now done exactly what I did not want to do. I’ve remembered it all over again. But it’s the last time.
          I’ll take my Lennon living.
          Funeral’s over.

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