Music reaches memory in a powerful way for me. Who hasn't heard a tune and had an unexpected recollection flood into one's mind?
When I was about 14 or 15 I was bouncing ahead in my life, just starting to mature and figure out who I was. The loss of my father at 9 was not stinging me anymore and with that, the memories of him had faded. It's a survival tool to forget, the mind packs things away so that we can move about the world without tripping on the clutter.
At 15 I was lifting weights, hitting my speed-bag, riding my 10 speed around, and thinking about girls. Not much else got into my head. One afternoon I was hanging out with my friend lifting weights in his basement when he put on a scratchy Beatles album (for those under 30, 'Album' refers to LP records; the large circular discs the size of a dinner plate that you put on a record player). All the songs were familiar but it was 'Because' that resonated. I remember how my day was stalled in thought. My father played Abbey Road and perhaps that was the last time I remember him playing music. Dad flooded back into focus; he looked like Lennon, with his full beard, I remembered his voice even the feeling of hanging on him in a swimming pool. The sound of Abbey Road still gives me a deep sadness.
In college as I began to sit at an easel for long periods of time, music was my airplane and allowed me to travel to new places or old ones. John Lennon was the most honest and thoughtful artist I listened to and for me, in that time, I found each new Lennon album as if they had just been released. Music is great like that as it waits for you to discover it and experience it like it's 1963, 1971 or 1980.
Back to my youth. I never showed any emotion other than anger. I never cried. On December 8th, 1980 John was killed.
The next night I needed to be alone and do something, anything. I had some small cans of paint and decided to paint a mural on the wall of my mother's garage. It was brutally cold but I didn't feel it. I listened to the music on a radio, all Beatles and Lennon songs. I felt wave after wave of sadness wash over me as I worked. I was feeling bad for myself. I was feeling the sadness of my dad's passing through the public mourning of Lennon.
I think we all felt bad for ourselves and have felt sad every December 8th since. The unfair, too early death. I understood this deeply.
Paul sang 'Here Today', imagining what he might say to Lennon were he here today. I also like the idea of living here, today
. Living in the moment is the best life lesson I know of.
Finally, I want to add some clips to the end of this post.
The first clip is a quick oil study I just did this morning.
The other videos are tributes from people who loved Lennon.
Paul doing a fairly recent rendition of "Here Today." It's a passionate and heartbreaking video.
The next is the very pop-songish "Empty Garden" by Elton John.
Finally the live Central Park tribute by Paul Simon. Near the end of the song a fan rushes the stage and you can see a moment of fear in Paul Simon's face that quickly moves to a strength and anger. All that happens while he pours his heart into "The Late Great Johnny Ace."