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John Lennon

Among my personal store of mnemonic devices is the December 8, 1980 murder of John Lennon, on the day I turned fifteen. Henceforth I’ve had many an occasion to answer the question When is your birthday? with the response “On the day everyone is talking about the death of John Lennon.”

John Winston Lennon was born seventy years ago this week, but he is among those — John F. Kennedy is another — for whom the preponderance of their remembrance concerns the character and circumstances of their death rather than either their birth or life. This is not to say that the latter are overlooked or under-regarded. I know that the mourning and mythologizing were well underway on December the ninth, and that both were founded upon the conviction that the world had lost a man of peace as well as of artistic genius. The reputation of peace-maker was already by 1980 an anachronism, fed in infancy on the gruel of sentiment and then sustained only by easy nostalgia and the familiar convention of celebrity worship. The usefulness of the Lennon myth would increase for many who carried on and who thereby experienced with distress the fierce repudiation of the 1960s, first ascendant in the Reagan and Thatcher administrations, and through which we are still living. Continue reading John Lennon