For John Lennon’s Birthday

Many complicated explanations have been given and will continue to be given for the depth of the grief that people all over the world have felt at the death of John Lennon, but one explanation may be quite simple. Beyond Lennon’s great gifts as a composer, poet, and performer, beyond, and in spite of, his unparalleled and burdensome celebrity, he remained truly a man of the spirit – this humorous and friendly man who held on to his humanity against awesome odds, and who did not lecture us but, rather, spoke to us quietly, and in ways that we all understood. In what he said directly, in what he said in his very beautiful songs, and in the way he tried to live his far too brief life, the message that came through – and how rarely we hear such a message – was: Be peaceful, be loving, be gentle.

William Shawn
The New Yorker, 22 December 1980

Music: Grow Old with Me
Written and performed by John Lennon (1980)
Gimme Some Truth

Photo: Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Bed-In for Peace, Amsterdam, 1969


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