Bullets can’t erase legacy of Lennon

By Marc Alberts

This Saturday marks the ten-year anniversary of one of the most heart-rending assassinations in our times. John Lennon was only forty years old when he died, but it was not only his youth and fame but also the circumstances of his life that make his murder seem so tragic, even now.

As has been pointed out often, it is an ironic twist that a man committed to pacifism should die so violently. In this way, his fate is comparable to that of Gandhi, although obviously without the worldwide impact the Indian leader had.

At the time, many criticized the attention given to Lennon and saw no sympathy for someone who had hung around with “Chicago Seven” activists Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

Certainly Lennon had many faults, one of them being a disarming naivete. Songs like “Imagine” or “Instant Karma” are great in their own right, but too often Lennon seemed to believe radical lyrics could be brought into reality simply by stating them.

This explains his ill-informed involvement with Rubin and Hoffman and his unfocused political activism on issues from victims of prison riots to Native-American rights.

Lennon at times was the worst example of “pop-star advocacy,” the idea that professional entertainers’ opinions on world events should be taken seriously.

What redeemed Lennon’s hopeless quest was his ruthless self-criticism and ability to admit a mistake. Runaway egotism is such a common trait among entertainers, especially rock stars, that it is a rare sign of maturity when someone of Lennon’s stature can be honest about his own faults.

For instance, it took Lennon to write “Sexy Sadie” about guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s hypocrisy and admit the Beatles had been made fools of.

When Lennon became involved with Hoffman and Rubin’s attempt to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention, he realized only then how he had been a pawn in their game of agitprop. He admitted his mistake and disassociated himself with them.

It was these human qualities, coupled with his enormous talent, that made John Lennon loved and admired as few celebrities have ever been.

But beyond this, what makes his death so depressing is that it cut short the life and career of a man just on the verge of entering a new and promising stage of his life.

In 1975, Lennon, who was all but ignored by his parents when young, decided to drop out of the music business for the sole purpose of raising his and Yoko’s son, Sean. For five years, the fabulously rich Lennon gave his son something all his money couldn’t buy—his time.

After five years, John Lennon finally seemed content with his life. After being disappointed by his parents, the Maharishi, the U.S. Government, his so-called friends, the Beatles and even at times, Yoko, raising Sean gave Lennon the confidence he needed to pursue music again.

The “Double Fantasy” album put him in the spotlight again but ironically, it also brought him to the attention of his killer. This is the real tragedy of Lennon’s death because he was killed just at the point when he seemed to be beginning the happiest time of his life.

Nevertheless, his music remains the ideal for millions of rock fans and bullets cannot change that. Rest in peace.