“It was 20 years ago today...”

    “Sgt. Pepper’s,” The Beatles



Actually, it was 30 years ago this month — on Dec. 8, 1980, to be precise.  That’s when ex-Beatle John Lennon was shot dead in front of the Dakota apartment building where he and wife Yoko Ono lived with their son Sean in New York City.


“It was 20 years ago today...”
    “Sgt. Pepper’s,” The Beatles

Actually, it was 30 years ago this month — on Dec. 8, 1980, to be precise.  That’s when ex-Beatle John Lennon was shot dead in front of the Dakota apartment building where he and wife Yoko Ono lived with their son Sean in New York City.
Lennon’s music lives on, though.  Look at any rock critics’ list of the greatest songs of all time, and you’ll find his hit Imagine somewhere near the top (Rolling Stone ranks it #3, behind only Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and the Stones’ Satisfaction).
Personally, I’d nominate Imagine as the worst song of the rock era, and arguably of any era or music genre.  If ever there were an anthem for the leftist counter-culture movement of the 1960s — and the narcissistic, nihilistic “Me generation” it spawned — Imagine is it.
The song is a celebration of a corrupt, and thoroughly corrupting, “value system” which has been enshrined by ’60s radicals as a kind of model for remaking American society as well as the world at large.  These bedrock values of the Left include militant atheism as a creed (“Imagine there’s no heaven...no hell below us...”);  humanism as a governing philosophy — the idea that man is the center of the universe and is basically good, and therefore perfectible, so working together we can solve the world’s problems (“Imagine all the people living life in peace”);  socialism as an economic basis (“Imagine no possessions...”);  and globalism as a political goal (“I hope someday you’ll join us/ Then the world will live as one”).
This is pie-in-the-sky stuff, a defiant dismissal of God and all that He has told us about the depraved nature of man and this fallen world in which we’re living.  Yet to the “true believers” of the Left it represents the very pinnacle of human thought and aspiration.
It’s a utopian worldview, at odds with reality itself, as they readily acknowledge (“You might say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one...”).  Still, they not only affirm it themselves, but many of them spend their lives working assiduously to see it embedded into the social fabric of all nations and people groups, and encoded into their laws.
The only paradise that the utopian Left believes in is the one they want to create on this planet — the one they imagine.  Indeed, to them, all we have is the right here and right now.  This world is all that therefore matters to them and, as far as they’re concerned, all that should matter to the rest of us.
For Lennon, even the fabulous success he enjoyed with The Beatles was meaningless.  So he wrote in his song God, another atheistic anthem from his early solo work:  “I don’t believe in magic/ I don’t believe in Bible/ I don’t believe in tarot/ I don’t believe in Jesus/ I don’t believe in Kennedy/ I don’t believe in Elvis/ I don’t believe in Zimmerman [Bob Dylan, his real name]/ I don’t believe in Beatles/ I just believe in me/ Yoko and me, that’s reality....The dream is over/ I was the Dreamweaver/ I was the Walrus/ But the dream is over.”
Lennon was particularly pernicious when it came to Paul McCartney, whom he eviscerated in the meanest, nastiest, most vicious personal attack ever set to music, How Do You Sleep? (from the Imagine album).
In it, Lennon riffs on everything from the famous “Paul is dead” rumors to two of Paul’s best-known songs — Yesterday, which he wrote for the Beatles, and Another Day, an early McCartney solo hit — to totally trash him with lyrics like these:  “Those freaks was right when they said you was dead...The only thing you done was yesterday/ And since you’re gone, you’re just another day....The sound you make is muzak to my ears.”
Where was the guy who gave us All You Need Is Love, some were left to wonder.  All of a sudden he was demeaning his longtime bandmate and former friend as a maker of muzak (the lowest of low blows among rock artists).  He also dismissed McCartney as a composer of what he called “silly love songs.”
McCartney responded in his own way — with another huge hit single — writing:  “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs/ But I look around me and I see it isn’t so/ Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs/ And what’s wrong with that, I’d like to know/ ’Cause here I go, again.”
It looked like the dream really was over — especially when Lennon stopped recording altogether in a self-imposed musical silence that lasted for five years.
Yet he re-emerged in 1980 with a renewed artistic determination.  And what seemed to be a new outlook on life.
For one thing, he had reconciled with McCartney.  Also, his new music was infused with the sort of infectious power that characterized his best work with The Beatles.  The dour outlook and overtones of his early solo work were gone.
His comeback record was the pop masterpiece Double Fantasy, and the exhilarating first single (Just Like) Starting Over seemed to encapsulate the sense that this truly was a new beginning.  It starts out with the lovely chiming of a bell leading into the opening chords, which Lennon used as an antidote to the morose bell sound that opened his first solo album (another clean break with the past).
Most improbably of all perhaps, Lennon was deeply moved by a 1977 television broadcast of Jesus of Nazareth and told friends that he had become a born-again Christian.  He began communicating with prominent Christian ministers, as documented in the book The Gospel According to The Beatles.
He wrote to one of these ministers, explaining his quest for peace in his heart and life, and asking about Jesus:  “Can He love me?  I want out of hell.”
Not everyone was happy with the changes taking place in Lennon’s life, though.  Yoko, who was deeply embroiled in the occult, reportedly pulled him away from committing fully to Christ.  And when Mark David Chapman, a deranged and disillusioned “fan,” read about Lennon’s lavish lifestyle at the Dakota, he became enraged.  He decided that Lennon was a hypocrite who sang about needing “no possessions” but lived in luxury.  Already obsessed with Lennon, he determined to kill him.
On that fateful night in December 1980, as Lennon walked past him outside the Dakota, Chapman thought to himself:  “He doesn’t know that he’s going to be dead in five minutes.”
No one can say for sure if Lennon had made peace with Christ.  But there’s a reason that God's Word tells us “now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), and that’s because none of us know if we’ll be here tomorrow.  We’re not guaranteed another day of life — not even when we’re starting over again, or going into a new year with all of its hopes and promises (as we’re about to this weekend).
None of us know what the future holds.  Indeed, as Lennon learned so tragically, we don’t even know what the next five minutes may bring.

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