Watching The Wheels

by Cara on December 8, 2009

in Gratuitous Beatles Blogging

John Lennon and Yoko Ono lay on their beige carpet together. Yoko, dressed in a black top and dark jeans, is on her back and rests her arm over her head. Her black hair is splayed out, with her head tiled slightly towards John. John is naked, laying on his side, with his leg curled around Yoko's torso in the fetal position. One arm is over her head, the other wrapped her face, holding it close to him. His eyes are closed, and he kisses her cheek. Yoko's eyes are open and she stares off, looking somewhat wistful or sad. The edge of their white couch sits to the right, a leg of John's discarded jeans peeking over the side.

December 8, 1980, a few hours before Lennon was murdered.

Today is December 8, and 29 years ago tonight, John Lennon was lethally shot by a stranger in front of his own home. His wife was walking in front of him. One of his sons was upstairs, waiting for his daddy to come home from the studio and tuck him into bed.

I truly hate thinking about John’s actual death. I’d much rather write about his life. But when it comes to this day, the murder is what I always feel confronted with. When I think of November 29 (the date of George Harrison’s passing), I feel sadness and loss, but I don’t immediately think of cancer. When I think of December 8, I do think of gun violence. And in many ways, I think it’s important to remember why and how John died.

As with all murders, there is an inherent unfairness to John’s death. It’s simply not right that he was not allowed to see his 5-year-old son become an adult, to grow old with his wife of 13 years, to make more music, or even, when his time had in fact come, to be able to say goodbye.

Instead, his life was taken suddenly when he was 40-years-old, by a man who had no right. (As a reminder: that man’s name is not welcome here.) And he was taken during what is believed to have been the happiest period of his life.

In some ways, this may have been a blessing; after all, few would argue that it is better to die miserable. And I’d hope that no one would ever argue that murder is less abhorrent when the victim is sad. But there is a unique if not greater brutality to killing someone when they are happiest to be alive. It always pains me to know that he didn’t die instantly, that for a few minutes he knew what was happening to him, and he tried to stop it. When the bullets probably should have caused him to collapse, he instead continued up the path to the building, somehow managed to climb several stairs, and asked for help before falling to the floor. There may be extremely little remarkable about this; the vast majority of us, given the chance, would fight for our lives. But the fact remains that the last thing John did was demonstrate that he wanted to live.

He wanted to live.

He had many reasons for that, beyond mere human instinct. He was in love, and married to his soul mate. After many years of failed attempts, they had a son together, Sean, and John spent 5 years staying at home and helping to raise him. He was working on his relationship with his older son, Julian. He was making music again after a 5 year hiatus, and that music was in fact very good. He was apparently planning his first tour since his days with the Beatles. And in interviews he spoke candidly with a sense of calm and self-assurance that had he had rarely displayed in his younger days. It seemed that after many years of personal pain and insecurity, he was at peace with himself. At least he got that.

Below is some of the work that John released in 1980, which talks about his life during that period.

Watching the Wheels

Woman (Video is NSFW, but utterly gorgeous and definitely worth your watch at home.)

Beautiful Boy (John Lennon Anthology alternate take)

My thoughts and best wishes today go out to Yoko, Sean, and Julian.

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{ 8 comments }

1 Paul December 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

Rest in Peace, John

I understand why you dont want MDC’s name used here – it’s the same reason the people of Dunblane don’t want their killer named in books etc – so he doesn’t overshadow his victim(s)

twenty-nine years on… doesnt seem that long and yet twenty-nine years before that was World War II and the Blitz

There are so many “what-if”s that run through my mind on this date

Thankfully the parole board will never release MDC

2 Val December 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I will never forget that day either…
I was a senior in HS, & our normally calm, cool, & collected English Literature teacher sat at her desk all day, weeping & playing Beatles & JL’s music. It was a day of mourning.

3 Lacey December 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Thank you for this post. It makes me want to learn more about John Lennon.

4 Sarah TX December 8, 2009 at 6:21 pm

I am sort of crazy about pictures of Lennon and Ono during that period of time. There is something so essentially human in their faces – it always gives me hope that everything will turn out alright in the end. The fact that, well, it doesn’t turn out all right at all just makes them all the more bittersweet.

5 Julian December 9, 2009 at 10:14 am

I just listened to a Beatles radio program recently which focused not on John, but on you know who. I decided not to post on John, in part knowing you would and I could come here and find someone who feels so similarly.

I have such mixed feelings about noting the date that someone was brutally killed, as an anniversary.

And regardless, I do clearly remember the very moment I heard the news. I remember staying up most of the night listening to two radio stations at once, trying to get all the latest information–maybe this wasn’t true?? I kept hoping it was all a mistake, or that John would life through it–and listening to all the Beatles and Plastic Ono Band work John had done.

I agree with the sentiments you express here, Cara.

And not because I share the name, but it really is quite tragic, especially, that as Julian and John were repairing a very rended relationship, John was taken out so violently, and permanently.

It was all so devastating and horrifying. It comes back to me as if it were last week, not almost thirty years ago.

I’m glad Yoko and Sean had one another, and that Julian had Cynthia.

And it is all still so sad.

6 Julian December 9, 2009 at 10:19 am

And I think Annie Leibovitz’s photo of Yoko and John, above, is one the most beautiful images of heterosexual love ever created.

(I’m sorry she’s moved in such a commercially misogynistic direction in more recent years, but that image is as feminist woman-loving as it gets, if portraying heterosexuality.)

7 Eric February 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

every coincidences made a legend, though some of them are about sadness…

even if john’s no longer stay with us, we still are drunk in the sea of his music.

sincerely wish john would be happy in the other side of the world…

8 C.R.U March 23, 2010 at 10:59 am

I wish so many things, but there is nothing I want more, than for John Lennon to be alive. I am only 12 years old, and I love him like he’s my own father. He was a man who loved life, and respected it. My dad told me that when it happened. He felt the whole world go quiet. As there was one less person in it. One less person that cared for everyone. Let John Lennon rest in Peace. And let his music live forever.

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