John Lennon: The Dream Is Over
Feb 6 2006
By Paul Collins
THERE is really nothing that is unique about dying.
In the final analysis - despite the fact that the vast majority of us delude ourselves into believing that we'll live forever - we will one day all arrive at death's doorstep.
However, there are those times when the death of an individual represents a freeze-frame in our lives and becomes a watershed moment to an entire generation.
Most of us from a certain generation can remember exactly where they were when John Kennedy was assassinated. The untimely death of Princess Diana captured and held the attention of a newer generation as they huddled around television sets across the world
Tucked in between the deaths of Jack Kennedy and Diana, there was John Lennon.
The dream, for John Lennon, had its beginning in Liverpool, and ended all too soon in a hail of gunfire on a New York City street.
When I look back at John today, it becomes increasingly clear to me that he was indeed a very complex man who straddled that fine line between genius and mad man. A chameleon who could be warm and charming in one setting, and then appear cruel and acid-like at the very next moment.
He was a brilliant singer/songwriter who had a gift for marrying words together with music in a way that made them like a candle that had the power to illuminate the darker corners of life.
His words and music touched us deeply, and to this day, they are still as fresh and pristine as a carpet of new-fallen snow on a clear winter morning.
So many memories of John still linger. As I write about him, a string of thoughts from long ago and far away are tumbling though my brain. Half-forgotten images come back into focus with crystal clarity.
Faded and misty scenes of crowds of screaming fans, exploding flash bulbs, of thrashing hair, wailing guitars and steel-rimmed granny glasses fill every seat in the theater of my mind as they play out and dance before that projector in my mind's eye.
It was a time that has passed by. A time that lives now only in books, bits and pieces of old grainy black and white news footage, and on the time-worn tracks of those scratched vinyl copies of Rubber Soul and Revolver that lay tucked away in the attic under gathering layers of dust.
It was a time that lives now in the hearts and minds of those who lived in that moment, those who drank-up and soaked-in the atmosphere of what was the Beatles.
It was a time that saw four young men from Liverpool capture the imagination of the world in a heartbeat, and when rock music reached a level of innovation and creativity that had never been known before or since.
It was a time when the world belonged to those four young men from Liverpool.
It was John's time.
John was always out in front, exploring new areas of music, and taking on the press and public.
He was the band's spokesperson and its leader. To all intents and purposes, when John died, the Beatles ceased to exist. He was the engine that drove the Beatles train. John offset Paul's tenderness by giving the Beatles a hard and biting edge.
As seen in the harsh glare of the worldwide spotlight, there was always a certain attraction and allure in the irreverent "I don't care" attitude that he displayed to the world, and his quick-witted Liverpudlian humour drew fans and critics alike to him the world over.
When the Beatles first arrived in the United States and New York reporters asked, "How did you find America?" John quipped, "I took a left turn at Greenland."
From that moment on, America was held captive to the charms of John and his band mates.
Suddenly, in every big city and small town across the United States, Liverpool became the coolest place on the planet. It was a place that everyone wanted to be.
The centre of the rock 'n' roll world that had young Americans from California to Maine planning Mecca-like pilgrimages to. John and the Beatles had a hold on America, and the passing of time has not loosened that hold.
He was an artist who was loved, and appreciated by the generation who followed him like a musical pied piper all the way from She Loves You to Abbey Road.
In the midst of global turmoil and unrest, he asked us to Imagine the possibilities of a different world, and in the middle of bloody conflict he pleaded for the warring factions to sit down together and try to Give Peace a Chance.
As seen with the clarity that the passing of time provides, it was peace and love that were always the core of John's musical offerings, and of his philosophy of life.
Whether it was carried in his anthem All You Need is Love, the hope that he expressed in the classic holiday song Happy Christmas (War is Over), or his hard-edge rocking and rolling admonition to people in Revolution, he saw a paramount need for love and peace in this world.
The thread of consistency that ran through the fabric of so much of his work across the years was his plea for all of us to try to get along with each other.
This was what John Lennon was all about.
These were the messages that he conveyed in so much of his music, and they form the cornerstone of his legacy.
To all outward appearances, John was a walking contradiction. A fabulously wealthy man who wondered if we could live with no possessions in Imagine; a man who wrote the lovely song Beautiful Boy as he watched his young son Sean sleeping peacefully in his crib, and yet failed to display that same warmth and fatherly love to his other son, Julian.
A man who clearly loved the fame and fortune that he commanded as a rock super star, but who also often shunned life in the spotlight while coveting his privacy like a hermit.
Many of his songs were often painfully personal in their presentation, and made us look a bit deeper inside of ourselves, and at our own lives, as we listened.
I believe that in the distant reaches of their minds, many Beatles fans always harboured the dream that possibly, just maybe, one day the Beatles might get back together for one last concert.
It was indeed a case of millions of adults secretly holding onto those childlike dreams that remained alive and well living inside of them.
Of course, that dream was shattered forever the day that John died. Without John, the Beatles simply no longer existed as a band.
His life, his dream, and his musical odyssey all came to an abrupt end on a New York City street all those years ago.
John was one of those unique artists whose music and larger-than-life personality reached out across multiple generations and geographical boundaries to touch so many people.
He shared his dreams with those who appreciated him, and his legacy has stood the test of time.
Across the years, we still remember John fondly, and despite ourselves, there are those of us who still hold onto a fading trace of those long ago and far away dreams of what might have been, but never was.
We realize full-well that at the end of the day, this is naïve and wishful thinking more than anything else, but we still find inside ourselves that urge to imagine.
" ... and so dear friends, you'll just have to carry on. The dream is over."
*Paul Collins is an American freelance writer and public relations consultant who lives in Massachusetts.