For as long as I can remember, and probably even earlier than that, I have known the Beatles music.
It has played such a huge part of my life, not only on a musical level and a poetic level, but also on a personal level.
The musical level is simple. it was a deciding factor for me to learn guitar. I wanted to be like John Lennon. I wanted to write music, start a band, play guitar… even grow my hair long. Even to this day, I would love to be able to play what they played, perhaps form yet another Beatles cover band, and teach a new generation what REAL music was all about, even though the Beatles had disbanded well before I was born.
On a poetic level, the lyrics of John, Paul, George and Ringo resonate true, even to this day. They are deep, honest and yet, in some ways, also vague. They were obviously written about personal experiences in the lives of the individual members (for example, Penny Lane was written by John, using letters that his girlfriend had written to him while the Quarrymen were touring in Germany, updating him on what was happening in the little township that they would hang out in to help combat his home sickness… or Strawberry fields, written about the Salvation Army orphanage near where John grew up, who helped him through some rough times when his mother was not around, and later, when she was killed in a hit and run, right in front of John.) Although the lyrics are personal to the authors, many people can relate to a ‘Penny Lane’ in their area, talking about the daily life of almost any small suburban or country street.
On a personal level, these lyrics have helped me through some rough times in my life. Their honesty always seems to shine through in their lyrics, their chord progressions, their rhythmic drums and dancing bass riffs. Beatles music always puts a smile on my face, and helps to centre me, if I am having a rough day, or a rough week at work, hearing the opening bars of “Imagine” or “A Day In The Life” always gets me back into the right mindset.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of heading to New York City, where I decided to visit the site where one of my musical heroes was selfishly gunned down, 30 years ago today.
The Dakota Building is located on the corner of W72nd and Central Park W, in Manhattan, NYC, and was John and Yoko’s home, along with their son Sean, until the night of the December 8th, 1980. It is a solemn place, even to this day. As it is still a residence for many people, it has to be closely guarded, to prevent well-wishers, fans, and simply photo-happy people from preventing the building’s normal operations, however they allow photos of the exterior of the building.
John was shot three times in the back, and once in the shoulder, destroying his heart, and causing him to bleed out fatally. Behind these gates, in the walkway before the courtyard, the Music World lost a huge part of their history, and future.
Across the road in Central Park, a favourite area for John and Yoko to relax, walk through the Autumn leaves, and to take baby Sean to play, Yoko has commissioned a memorial garden named Strawberry Fields, along with cities from all around the world, who have donated a plant from their country to be planted in the grounds, uniting almost every country in one place, in a beautiful, harmonious garden.
In the centre of the garden lies a mosaic tile installation, representing the piano keys of John’s Grand Piano, with the single word.
This is a place of peace. A place where people from anywhere can simply go and sit. There are no peddlers, no buskers, no hassles from any of the usual sources of Manhattan. It is simply a place where people can relax in peace, perhaps strike a conversation with someone from another country, and even make a new friend.
Even in death, John’s legacy of peace will live on, both in his music, as well as the tireless work of Yoko Ono, who still organises Peace functions of various concoctions, from a John Lennon movie screening in Central Park, to re-releasing the remastered albums of John’s solo career.
The more I read about John and Yoko, the more my heart goes out to Yoko. her loss is the greatest loss of all. She has lost her soulmate. Her Yang. And yet, rather than swell on the negative, she has kept the legacy alive. Never letting people forget of the work that was done by John and Yoko, and keeping it in the minds and hearts of many world leaders.
Thank you John, for your music as well as your poetic and heartfelt lyrics, that have been an inspiration to so many musicians since the inception of the Quarrymen and the Beatles, way back in 1960.
Thank you Yoko, for keeping the dream alive, keeping John’s Legacy alive, and for being an inspiration on how we should always live life, and cherish every single day.