I'm sorry. I know that there are lots of people all over the world preparing to celebrate what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday tomorrow, October 9th. Already there have been many news pieces written, events planned, and his solo recordings once again re-mastered and re-packaged and re-sold. A common theme I keep seeing in the things I've read are people imagining what Lennon would have been like at 70, had he not succumbed to illness like fellow Beatle George Harrison or died tripping over Sean's Atari game console or something. I guess it's natural to wonder how his life and career would have gone, if only etc., but for me there is such a conceit in the query and it bothers me.

John Lennon died when he was 40 years old. At the time, to the teenaged me, that seemed reasonably old, and I took the tiniest consolation in that he had at least filled all those many years with more experience than most people would find in a thousand lifetimes, and that most of his story was done. Now, thirty years later, I am older than he was then, and I know differently.

There is absolutely no way to know with any degree of certainty what those thirty years would have meant to him, what he would have done, what his musical or political views would have been, or what he would have become. 

I don't care who you are. No music scholar, no clever fiction writer, no psychologist, no close friend, no ex-Beatle, and yes, no Yoko Ono can make a prediction worth a damn. A man at 40 is just beginning the process of deciding who he is, who he isn't, and making some kind of peace with the incongruities of the world and the self. Men in their 20s are still toddlers with Ferraris, and in their 30s they are consumed by new responsibilities and social pressures. With hard work and luck, by age 40 they can set aside the expectations of others and start to figure out what kind of human being they want to be.

I don't even think about the variables here -- peace activist, pop musician, homebody, tabloid star, writer, crank, successful, a failure? -- because I just can't. It is only a useless and painful reminder that for thirty years now, John Lennon never got the chance to fully become himself, however that would have played out. Every birthday that is celebrated without him being there, for me, is hollow.

The things I received from John Lennon's years on the planet -- his deadly dry sense of humor, his playfulness with words, his style, his willingness to admit failure, his great rock n' roll voice, his brilliant songs, his ability to step back and make changes, his love of music -- those stay with me, inside, every day of every year I am here.