Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Remembering John Lennon, Oct. 9, 2008
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Remembering John Lennon, Oct. 9, 2008

One of the great advantages of working for MediaNews Group Interactive is that our office, on the 9th floor of the same building that houses both the Denver Post, which we own, and the Rocky Mountain News, is that we have a terrific view. Located at the corner of Broadway St. And Colfax Ave., our building overlooks Civic Center Park, which is surrounded by us, the City and County Building, the Denver Art Museum and Denver Public Library complex, and the gold-topped Colorado State Capitol. Off in the distance to the west beyond the City and County Building rise the mellow foothillas and then the already-snow-dusted Rocky Mountains. With the sun shining and the air crisp with early fall — a rarity here, since fall is often skipped in the rush from summer to winter — it’s easy to remember why we love living in Colorado so much.

Today, the view off our 9th floor balcony of Civic Center Park showed some event going on. The summertime Farmers Markets had already stopped, and beside, they were held on Wednesdays and this was Thursday. You could hear the amplified sounds of music wafting up off street level, though, and a weird-looking tower was spitting out soap bubbles. There was a large, colorful peace sign drawn on the grass of the park, so I figured it must be an anti-war demonstration of some sort.

During lunch, I wandered downstairs and crossed the street to check it out. It turned out to be a peace-and-art event, and a celebration of the late musician-activist-Beatle John Lennon’s birthday. Lennon was born in Liverpool, England on Oct. 9, 1940.

It was a pleasant surprise. There were food and arts and crafts booths, a lot of hippie-like vibe in the air, kids running around and a live band playing nothing but John Lennon songs, culled from both his solo career — “Imagine” still gets me emotional, even though it’s long since become a cultural cliche — and his fab years with the Beatles.

The kids loved the bubble tower, and chased the soap bubbles around the park. The peace sign that I’d seen from the office balcony turned out to be a vendor selling those colorful ugly but very comfortable rubber sandals, Crocs. The footwear had been arranged on the grass in a giant peace sign… nice touch.

I heard I’d just missed Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s speech to the couple-hundred assembled audience, which looked to be a mix of community activists and downtown workers on lunch break. It was easy to tell the two apart, between the tie-dyed t-shirts, jeans and sneakers and the button-down but open-collar “office-casual” folks with semi-dress shoes. I was sorry to miss Hickenlooper; I woulda loved to hear his thoughts on Lennon’s legacy. A boomer and a music fan, Hizzoner has pretty a great, broad taste in music.

It’s hard for me to sum up Lennon’s impact on me. I was weaned on his msuci, and the music of the other Beatles. Like a lot of young people, I believed in many of the causes he believed in and promoted. I used to think, like most people, that Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles (she didn’t) but later was super impressed with her when I met and got to interview her. I cried and was devastated when Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980. Like a lot of people of my generation, I can remember vividly what I was doing when I heard the news (from sportscaster Howard Cosell, during Monday Night Football on TV), just like I can remember the deaths of other ’60s icons such as JFK, Martin Luther King and RFK.

I know now how imperfect Lennon was, but understand why people still celebrate his birthday and mark the anniversary of his death. Listening now to a recording of a radio report by my friend David Weinstein covering fans’ grief after Lennon’s murder, recorded just a couple of days later in Central Park, the same feelings of inconsolable loss are easily conjured up.

Because he was a pop music artist, Lennon’s canvas simply reached farther and was held more dearly by fans than a typical artist’s life. John Lennon’s music is his legacy, and much of it still rings with authority, and brashness of youth, brilliance and genius both conscious and accidental.

It’s cool to see and hear Lennon’s spirit celebrated, and his memory invoked, and his music enjoyed, by a new generation. I bought a burrito from Rosa Linda’s Mexican Cafe, which served up tasty fare from a booth at the birthday party, and listened to the band for a while before heading back to the office. Then I hung out on our balcony and listened some more.

Happy birthday, John Lennon.