It is December 8th, 2010, and the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death. Thirty years, twenty years, ten years, one week, one day...there hasn't been any increment of time that has given me any kind of a peaceful acceptance about why he is gone and how it happened. The best I can do on December 8th, for thirty years now, is try not to think too much about the details of that day. It doesn't ever help.

Why should it still matter so much to me, and so many others? Senseless tragedies happen everyday; bad things happen to good people, and the world pays brief attention and then moves on. I never met John Lennon and never was even in the same room or even the same city, never saw him play live. He was an image on the television and movie screen, a voice on the radio or my record player. Yet he was such a strong presence and influence in my life that he seemed like family: known, felt, loved. Why? Why him, and not some other celebrity?

There are a lot of reasons, but today in his piece for the New York Times perhaps Ray Davies caught the main one:

"I thought back to when I was a 17-year-old student in the recreation room at art college and heard John sing “Twist and Shout” on the record player, and how I was blown away by his directness. How his voice cut through all the nonsense and sent a message to me that said, “If I can do it then so can you, so get up off your backside and play some rock ’n’ roll,” as if to throw down a musical gauntlet." 

This was why Lennon and the Beatles were revolutionary, not for style or politics or peace or drugs, or even the music they played.

"If I can do it, so can you."

What "it" turned out to be wasn't as important as the message behind it -- that you could break away from what was expected of you and the class you were born into, be it posh or working-class or solidly middle, and do what you love to do. Your voice can be heard. 

There really isn't anything more empowering than this concept for any of us, and nothing more deeply felt.

The Beatles, "Twist and Shout"