Whenever I hear about a celebrity death, my reaction (or series of reactions) is usually the same. I think “Gee, I haven’t thought about that person is ages. It’s too bad that s/he died”. For a few minutes I’ll recall their career, and my most recent exposure to their work. By the end of the day, s/he is once again out of my mind, and I usually don’t think about this person much afterwards.
John Lennon, however, is an exception. I still remember what I was doing when I heard the news. I was in my room that morning, getting ready for school. My clock radio, which wakes me up each day with a local radio station, had started broadcasting the 8:00am news. I still remember the shock and disbelief. My record collection included a couple of Beatles albums, and I was just beginning to discover their music. That morning, disk jockeys were already lamenting an additional loss – although the possibility of a Beatles reunion was remote, many people still hung onto that faint hope; now gone with the passing of John Lennon.
I still think about John Lennon regularly. To me, his untimely death at age 40 was a tremendous loss. He was a social and intellectual luminary, and I think that many of us were fascinated by his outlook on life and society. His comments were sometimes controversial, but I believe that they were just ahead of their time. I still reflect on how much our world has been deprived by the loss of this one man. Here are a smattering of my thoughts and speculations:
- What would John Lennon look like today? His shoulder-length hair would likely be even longer and entirely grey by now, with age lines starting to creep across a wizened, angular face. I imagine that thirty years on, he would look a little like Gandalf, and carry with him, a similar a sage-like air.
- From time to time, I think about all of the music John Lennon would have undoubtedly composed and recorded since 1980. Had he lived, I’ll bet that at least one of his post-1980 songs would be playing on a radio station, in a shopping mall or on someone’s iPod, 24 hours a day, every day of every year. In my opinion, this is truly an immeasurable musical loss.
- Back in the 1980s, musicians were using their talents to help those who were less fortunate. What would Lennon have to say about the Farm Aid, Band Aid and Live Aid concerts? Would he have participated in the USA For Africa video, We Are The World ?
- What would Lennon have to say about American Idol and its contestants – singing other people’s songs and unabashedly pursuing fame for its own sake? I think I already know, but I’d still love to hear his opinion.
- How would Lennon interpret the events of 9/11? What would the man whose mantra was “give peace a chance” have to say about the unprecedented carnage and destruction in his adopted city? Watching Lennon on Larry King Live, talking about 9/11, would have been fascinating.
- What would Lennon think about MP3 players? Would he own an iPod? If so, what would be on his playlist?
- Is Lennon a Mac person or a PC person? I’ll bet he would have been a Mac person, since many of his public statements have been decidedly un-PC… I also think that Lennon would have made an excellent casting choice as the “Mac guy” in those Mac vs. PC commercials. Although it’s unlikely that he would do any commercial endorsements, I nevertheless think that he would be far more persuasive spokesman than any young hipster.
- I’ll bet that John Lennon and Steve Jobs would have been good friends – they’re both creative, outspoken and forward-thinking, and they’ve also both spent time in India, seeking spiritual growth. I can imagine them taking a trip there together, during Steve’s hiatus from Apple.
- I sometimes think about how amazing it would be to put Steve Jobs and John Lennon in a room together, and have them talk for a couple of hours. Who knows what ideas might emerge? I have no clue, but I’m sure that they would be TED-worthy. I also think that had Lennon lived, the Beatles catalogue would have been available on iTunes much sooner.
I know it’s difficult to quantify the loss of something you’ve never had in the first place, but I can’t help but think about how much richer our post-1980 world might be if John Lennon was still here. Although he contributed a vast amount to the world, he clearly wasn’t finished. In my skewed sense of entitlement, I feel that we are owed his presence – and that the world still needs John Lennon. Three decades later I still feel a loss, but I can find some solace by remembering that for forty years, we were fortunate to have this visionary walking among us.