John Lennon left the planet 28 years ago today. I have a hard time contemplating that without tearing up.

It's not that I wanted to meet him, or hang out with him, or imagined that we could have been BFFs. I simply liked living in a world with John Lennon in it—a world where a song like "Norwegian Wood" could change everything simply by being played on AM radio. . . A world where the brutal honesty of "Working Class Hero" could revolutionize my conception of what or how much a "pop" song could say. . . Even a world where the two most famous songwriters on earth could carry on a bitter spat by mocking one another in serial record releases.

I was in the fourth grade when the Beatles first performed on Ed Sullivan's show. I remember skipping school in the seventh grade to watch a double feature of A Hard Day's Night and Help. In junior high school, Sgt. Pepper's taught me to closely read an album in much the same way that I. A. Richards would later teach me how to close read a text. My junior year of high school saw the release of Abbey Road and I attended a faculty party at UVA and the director of the McGuffy Reading Center chatted with me over a glass of rose about the tension between the connotative and denotative meanings of words in "Because."It was the first time I'd ever experienced an adult taking "my" music seriously. Essentially, the Beatles greatly shaped the way I thought (still think) about words and music.

The Beatles didn't just change the world, they changed the way I perceived it—and before December 8, 1980, I simply assumed that they would always be a part of my world. In one sense, they always will be, but Lennon's death hit me hard, not least because of its utter senselessness.

Other rock stars had died—too many—but Lennon was murdered just as he was growing up. He'd worked through (or at least had worked on) many of the ghosts that had haunted him and was struggling to become a good husband, a good father, a better man . . . .

John Lennon might have lived a long life and never again have produced a song, a sketch, or a story that would touch me. We have no way of knowing, but I still feel cheated that I will never again have a chance to stumble onto a new Lennon song and recognize a thought or feeling from my own life.

Damn it all.

Yoko Ono has posted a memorial site, where people can share their memories of Lennon. It has a lovely portrait of Lennon by Allan Tannenbaum, one that I've never seen before. If you miss John, it's a nice place to visit and reflect

In the world's eye,
We were Laurel and Hardy;
In our minds,
We were Heathcliff and Cathy.
In a moment of wisdom,
We were a wizard and a witch.
In a moment of freedom,
We were Don Quijote and Sancho;
In reality,
We were just a boy and a girl
Who never looked back.
You're the One

Keith Spring's picture

Well said, Wes. Everyone I know remembers where they were that night, and the stunning effect it had on us all.

Anthony Venturo's picture

We ALL feel cheated.

Steve's picture

Wes, just got a chance to read your post. Beautifully written.

nunh's picture

Great article - I feel similar