A while back someone told me she wasn’t sure that she’d ever really done John Lennon’s story justice to her daughter. I told her to watch Imagine, the documentary, with her, as that was a good place to start.
I got my first Beatles album at the age of five, Revolver, about the time it came out. After that I got all their albums. They were as much a part of my life as anything else. I was six years old, camped out in front of my cheap ass record player trying to understand A Day In The Life.
John was my favorite. He sang about things honestly and with passion and that came across even to a small child. When I was nine years old they broke up. The next year I got a copy of Lennon Remembers, an extended interview with John by Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine. That’s the book that has had the most influence on me. It had more of an influence on me than my parents.
When I was about seven or eight it was all about peace and love. John was naive, he was being the fool in the cause of peace, and he was alright with that. He was one of the first who made it his mission to raise awareness for a cause. And he succeeded. Whether it helped end the war or not is debatable. But by god he tried.
There were two takeaways I found in Lennon Remembers. The first was artistic integrity. Art is supposed to be honest, to come from within. It’s not about selling albums, books or paintings, it’s expressing yourself and hoping others can relate. But if they can’t, fuck ‘em. It’s your story.
The second was the redeeming power of love.
In the early years, Lennon did push the boundaries a bit, with hidden messages, slightly deeper meanings to his lyrics and his songs took on a desperate feel. By the time of Sgt. Pepper, he was into imagery, surrealism and poetry … but that wasn’t his invention, though he was great at it. That was Dylan, and Lennon followed him as did everyone else who wrote songs at the time.
Then came Yoko. It’s often argued she was the end of the Beatles. That may be true, but she was the making of John Lennon.
He returned to love songs with a vengeance, but this time they had meaning. They were written for her, about her, about this life changing experience that falling in love had been for him. He stopped being John, and became part of John and Yoko. He changed his middle name to Ono. He became an artist.
One quote from Lennon Remembers stuck with me for nearly fifty years. It’s why I never settled on one person, because I never found my Yoko.
“I can be alone without Yoko, but I just have no wish to be. There’s no reason on earth why I should be alone without Yoko. There’s nothing more important than our relationship, nothing. Both of us could survive apart but what for? I’m not going to sacrifice love, real love for any whore or any friend or any business, because in the end you’re alone at night and neither of us want to be. I’ve been through it all and nothing works better than to have someone you love hold you.”
That was what would drive me on my whole life. The search for that kind of love.
John and Yoko had their problems, including a lengthy separation. But in the end, she was once more at his side. He gave up a career in music to raise their child. For the first time in his life, he was really living. He went back to music, and as always his art reflected his life … his love for Yoko, his self doubts, and his love for his kid.
Then some nut with a gun killed him.
More than thirty years later, I finally found her. I fell in love, wholeheartedly. She filled my days and nights. She inspired me, colored every aspect of my world, made it beautiful. There wasn’t a moment in those years where my thoughts weren’t on her. If I was honest, there still isn’t. It was the realization of a dream, the only dream I ever really had.
And just as quickly as an assassin’s bullet ended his dream, mine ended as well.
During their separation, John never found another Yoko. After his death, Yoko never found another John. That’s the way that kind of love works.
His first solo album is an abject lesson in pain, expressing that pain and exorcising it. It’s something I do myself, because it does work. You either leave those thoughts unspoken in your mind and they become a cancer, rotting you from the inside, or you puke them out. I puke then out. It’s not pretty, I’m not proud of it, but sometimes I get a message from a stranger or a friend, saying my story helped them through a difficult time. I’d rather have that than the cash.
Lennon was often accused of being a phony, of being naive, a dreamer. I get that too. But he stuck to his beliefs and to dispense of mine now would be to dispense of the belief I’ve held longer than any. In hindsight, I had two dads growing up. One died last month, he took care of my physical being and brought me into this world. Lennon was the other, for he helped shape my soul.
I miss you John.
Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved
Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved
Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
we can be
Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living love
Love is needing to be loved