A Posttrip Postscript


“Life is what happens to you
while you’re busy making other plans.”
—John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”

I recently watched John Lennon’s performance of “Mother” at the One-to-One concert. Forty years have passed since the Madison Square Garden concert. The show was captured on film, transferred to videotape at some point, and eventually digitized. I’ve seen it countless times. Tens of thousands of people were in the arena, but Lennon made you feel there was, in fact, a one-to-one connection between artist and listener. He had a way of doing that, of singing simple truths, addressing his lyrics to “my friends” and making it believable.

“You were seeing him the way a lot of people saw him,” Tex Gabriel told me, adding that during the actual performance Tex was too focused on his job—and perhaps a bit too young—to fully appreciate the moment. That came later.

Lennon is remembered by his fellow musicians as basically a good, decent guy. He was no saint, nor did he claim to be. He had a temper, one that sometimes flared up when he was trying to record a piece of music. He also apologized when he did lose his cool. If they’d wanted to, the Elephants, Bob Gruen, and Lennon’s other close friends had opportunities to tell tales about the sinner behind the martyred idol; they haven’t because—unlike those in search of Lennon’s dark side—they actually knew the man.

In many ways we all did. People know where they were on that night in December 1980 the way we recall tragedies we simply don’t understand, like the assassination of a president or terrorist attacks on a nation. I was too young for Beatlemania, but my generation—and those that followed—discovered the lads as we did other hot bands. They were better than most—if not all—of the newer musical acts. The Beatles’ music felt fresh, original, and filled with mysteries. Still does.

I was in suburban Detroit the night Lennon was killed, no longer a teenager and less than six months away from leaving my parents’ house. A picture of Lennon hung on my bedroom wall: one of four portraits packaged with the “White Album.” Somewhere around the time of Sgt. Pepper, album covers had become works of pop art with enough space—compared to a CD case or the nonexistent cover of a download—for images bizarre or beautiful; for lyrics printed large enough to read (or be read into); for cardboard sleeves to contain posters and other goodies. (Hall of fame honors to Cheech & Chong’s comedy album Big Bambú, which included an enormous rolling paper worthy of a joint large enough to challenge John Sinclair.)

We realized right away that night just how much we’d miss Lennon. The mythology around John Lennon grew over the years. He was not always known back then for the same things he is known for today. He was the “weird one” of the Beatles, the one who lost his mind to a woman and walked away from rock-and-roll fame to raise his kid: that wasn’t really considered cool back then.

What qualifies as “cool” changes from year to year. Lennon’s core principles didn’t: nonviolent, constructive activism was a constant, as was his opinion that love was better than hate, peace better than war. Maybe we’ve changed. A lot of people who thought they were right back in 1972 turned out to be wrong.

Some things take a little longer to understand.

• • •

Wayne Gabriel was far too young, he later realized, to appreciate the preciousness of his time with John Lennon: no one knew back then that Elephant’s Memory would be the last regular band to work with Lennon.

The association with Lennon opened doors, including the introduction to Chuck Berry, whose 1973 album Bio featured a rare guest instrumental: “I’m the only other guitar player he ever let solo on an album,” Gabriel says.

Gabriel saw Lennon a final time in the fall of 1980, an accidental encounter outside of the Dakota, two New Yorkers looking for a cab or late for an appointment. A shame, they agreed, that their musical journey a decade earlier came to an abrupt end.

“I went to New York to make it,” Gabriel says. “When I got with John Lennon that dream came true. Where could it go from there? Things didn’t work out the way I envisioned.”

They rarely do, I point out.

“No, they never do,” Gabriel sighs.

• • •

Our talks were somewhat frustrating from a reporter’s perspective: the conversations were too enjoyable and we often drifted to matters irrelevant to the story but far more important—family, friends, memories of common ground in New York or Detroit. We ended our last session with words and thoughts similar to what Lennon had said at the Madison Square Garden closing: no sweat, we’ll get it right next time.

Like too many other things, that time never came. Early in 2010 Wayne “Tex” Gabriel was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome, a degenerative disorder that took his life in May of the same year. He left behind a loving wife, Marisa LaTorre, children Ataia and Savion Gabriel from his first marriage to Sandra Fulton, stepchildren Sarah and David Goldfarb, and friends who miss him for reasons having nothing to do with guitar chords.

• • •

John Sinclair never compromised his values, a qualified admission.

“I never sold out,” Sinclair says. “Nobody ever offered me anything.”

These days, an active Sinclair is as likely to be seen in the jazz clubs of New Orleans as he is in Detroit or Amsterdam, though he does get his share of questions about the good ol’ days of hippie revolution. Sinclair knows it sounds old-fashioned to look back with a sense of loss, but the world has changed considerably.

“We’ve got a void,” Sinclair says. “There will never be another Beatles. That’s why John Lennon and Yoko Ono were so important: they could reach the masses of people because of who he was. The billboards in Times Square, the bed-ins for peace: all that stuff was powerful because it rang everybody’s bell.”

Sinclair says that Lennon’s speech at the Crisler Arena about apathetic youth was more prophetic than anything, and holds true today.

“It was a call to action,” Sinclair says. “They don’t make singles like ‘Give Peace a Chance’ anymore. They don’t see the idea of developing something over a period of time. They want it to happen within the next news cycle.”

The Movement, Sinclair says, resurfaced in many ways with Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and revolutions launched online in similar spirit.

“We needed that,” Sinclair says. “If they’re lucky they’ll make it last. This is the best thing to happen to these kids. Who wants to just be a consumer? No matter how many groovy products they got, how many iPads can you have?”

• • •

Whether John Lennon “abandoned” the Movement out of self-preservation was a question for some; Rennie Davis thought so at the time. No grudges, of course; true activists always found different ways to protest.

“The thing that was cool about John was a quality I saw in many people who were deeply committed to the Movement,” Davis says. “People might disagree about tactics and approaches, but there is a deep level of commitment. That’s what I saw in John. He was the real deal; he really believed in what we were trying to do.”

Time mellows people in different ways. Davis was among those who sought new paths to similar goals. Meditation caught his fancy, one of many doors that Lennon and the Beatles opened for a generation. “People began talking about changing ourselves,” Davis says. “You’d be amazed how many people said yes to that.”

Davis did, becoming in 1973 an acolyte of Guru Maharaj Ji, the sixteen-year-old leader of the Divine Light Mission, which hosted a three-day meditation bash at the Houston Astrodome. World peace, they said, began with inner peace.

“John talked to me about it,” Davis says. “‘If you wanna change the world, Rennie, you’ve got to change yourself.’”

Davis says he’s had ample time to think about those days, to reconsider positions taken forty years earlier.

“When I look back at that time, I lean a little more toward saying that John may have been right,” Davis says. “The real thing that’s going on here is, we’ve got to change ourselves in order to change the outside world.”

• • •

Gary Van Scyoc thought he had one more chance to join John Lennon on tour, a conversation that hinted at renewed professional opportunities. After Elephant’s Memory dissolved, Van Scyoc continued a studio career behind Neil Sedaka, Paul Simon, Chuck Berry, and other artists, and in 2012 he and Adam Ippolito joined Birds of Paradox, a band that included Steve Holley and Laurence Juber, one-time members of Paul McCartney’s Wings. “Real incestuous,” Van Scyoc laughs at the Beatles connections.

Van Scyoc last spoke with Lennon in 1980 when he called to tell him about some new material he’d been working on. “John and I had no problems,” Van Scyoc said. “No airs between us. He loved my material and was very nice about it.”

Lennon was nearing the end of recording Double Fantasy, and told Van Scyoc he was planning a tour—again—and there might be room for another bassist. “He wasn’t sure; said maybe, possibly I could do it, but nothing ever came of that.”

Instead, Van Scyoc recalls the night of December 8; he and a friend were at a jazz club on the Upper West Side, “right across the street from the Dakota,” Van Scyoc says. “The set ended at eleven p.m., and we hit the street no more than five minutes after. There were two police cars with their lights on. I looked at my friend and said, ‘Oh my God, something happened to John.’ I don’t know why I knew that; but then, why was I chosen to play with a Beatle?”

Van Scyoc knew Lennon in ways the thousands of people that crowded around the corner of Seventy-Second Street and Central Park West didn’t, but they knew him just the same.

“There were so many people there,” Van Scyoc says. “It was just unbelievable the way the crowd grew; thousands of people were there within hours.”

• • •

Jerry Rubin, once called out by a group of fellow activists and hippies for “b.o. and other hygiene habits,” followed the fashions of the so-called “Me Decade” 1970s, embracing movements such as EST, meditation, acupuncture, bioenergetics, and holistic therapies. A hit with the late-1970s Studio 54 cocaine-and-disco crowd, Rubin embraced competitive capitalism in 1980 and became a stockbroker with Wall Street’s John Muir & Co. By the early 1990s, Rubin was soaking in Southern California sunshine and selling a powdered drink mix; the company was hit with a 1992 class action lawsuit as a pyramid scheme.

Rubin died in November 1994 when he was hit by a car while jaywalking in Hollywood. Fellow Chicago Seven alum Tom Hayden told the Los Angeles Times Rubin was “a great life force,” adding, “his willingness to defy authority for constructive purposes will be missed. Up to the end he was defying authority.”

• • •

Old hippies don’t always fade away, and many took the skills they learned in the Movement and applied them in other ways when the Movement subsided. Tariq Ali applied the same passion that published Red Mole into his work as an author, filmmaker, historian, and novelist—never surrendering the activist title or role in life.

John Lennon didn’t shy away from the revolution, Ali points out, and all evidence indicates that his views would remain consistent over time.

“He did back off from some of those people,” Ali says of Lennon distancing himself from Rubin and the Yippies. “But I don’t think he backed off politically. I have absolutely no doubt that had he been with us he would have been against the Iraq war. Even Mick Jagger wrote songs about the Iraq war.”

When discussing the explosive topics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ali still gets “lots of questions all over the world about that period, and especially about John Lennon.” Some of the songs are still put forth in the same manner as in 1972, Ali says, recalling an Occupy protest where the crowd sang “Power to the People.”

“So certain things remain. They don’t have the same impact that they did in the sixties and seventies,” Ali says. “But they remain as extremely important echoes in the world in which we live.”

• • •

Adam Ippolito never saw John Lennon again, although he had encounters both pleasant and not so warm with Yoko Ono. Ippolito returned to California in the late 1970s for recording and performance work including the Joffrey Ballet and joining the disco-funk Kool and the Gang (“Celebration”).

In 1986 Capitol Records and Yoko Ono Lennon released the One-to-One concert, John Lennon Live in New York City, portions of which were included in a 1988 documentary, Imagine: John Lennon.

Ippolito was in a difficult position. His keyboard work at Madison Square Garden seemed at times to be matched with video of Yoko seated at a piano. Elephant’s Memory as a whole filed suit—Ippolito was lead plaintiff—that the video made unauthorized use of their names and images, and that Yoko “only pretended to” play. There were disagreements over which of the two performances was used for the audio tracks and video images. As described by the New York Law Journal, “the credit given Ono Lennon constituted a ‘palming off’ of Ippolito’s performance.” The individual case, however, had no legal backing: the original concert credits simply listed musicians and instruments played, including Yoko on keyboard; specific songs were not identified.

The video itself also faced new arguments about technology and copyright. New York trial court Judge Harold Baer Jr. said the band members were correct: consent to the use of their names for the 1972 show and original broadcast on television did not mean permission was given “to all uses for all time.” Future sales of the VHS edition of the show were halted, although it would be frequently aired on nonprofit public television. Images of the band and their performance in the broader Imagine documentary were, at best, “visual footnotes.”

Time passed and memories faded. Ippolito says that he and his wife met Yoko backstage at a New York event, long after the lawsuit and decades after the crazy year when they shared a roller-coaster ride of rock and revolution. It was nice, Ippolito says, old friends catching up on the things that really matter. The strength of peaceful, loving memories far outlasted any momentary disputes.

Ippolito subsequently played on more successful “hit” records than he did with Lennon, and before larger audiences, but those seem like just another day at the office compared to their time together.

“I’ve played bigger venues,” Ippolito says, “but [playing with John Lennon] was the biggest gig of my life, I would have to say.”

• • •

David Peel defined “underground legend” as the New York hippie who said the pope smoked pot and—for a brief, shining moment—his association with John Lennon. Arguably one of pop culture’s most famous footnotes, Peel took his guitar to New York’s Zuccotti Park in April 2012 and joined an Occupy Wall Street encampment.

The New York Times took note that, at sixty-eight, Peel “still has his guitar, his three chords, and his festive, irreverent marijuana shout-music.” The kids likely didn’t know the legend of Peel, but one Village “old-timer” perked up at the name: “The marijuana song, right?”

The Times piece was a sad bit of nostalgia. Peel did compose a ditty called “Up Against the Wall Street” for a stab at relevance, yet he seemed resigned to his legacy, having once been featured in Lennon’s place on an FBI poster. Peel still, the Times said, wears Lennon-style sunglasses, lives in the same Avenue B apartment, and “survives on modest royalties, small gig fees and the sale of old and current records.”

The Times reminded people that Lennon was quoted as saying that Peel “writes beautiful songs,” in spite of criticism that Peel “can’t sing, or he really can’t play.”

• • •

More than a dozen players came and went since Stan Bronstein and Rick Frank—who met while providing the music in Manhattan strip clubs—formed Elephant’s Memory. Only a few albums carried the band’s name during their run; a final LP, Our Island Music, was credited to Stan Bronstein and the Elephant’s Memory Band. The “island” was Manhattan, which remained their home long after parting ways with John Lennon. Bronstein recorded a final record, Living on the Avenue, in 1976, and continued work as a studio player on both saxophone and clarinet. Frank passed away in 2003.

In 2011, Bronstein battled lung and brain cancer. The Sweet Relief Musician’s Fund rallied to help, a cause quickly embraced by Yoko, who recalled Bronstein as “a passionate and uniquely talented musician . . . he is also good hearted and makes his band follow his lead with spirit of fun and joy. His reliable presence affected the performance of both John and I as well. We both loved and respected him.”

In August 2012 Bronstein was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame at Kenny’s Castaways, a Bleecker Street staple since 1967 that closed after forty-five years.

• • •

In his book I’ll Be Right Back, talk show host Mike Douglas recalled the network panic at the thought of Jerry Rubin—let alone a card-carrying Black Panther—being broadcast to millions of housewives.

“Rather than regret what happened, I appreciate it,” Douglas wrote. “It was great confrontational television, a harsh exchange of ideas. But there were no chairs thrown, no noses broken, not a single word bleeped out. It was emotional but not offensive, with the added bonus of allowing people to see what a genuinely nice fellow John Lennon was.”

Douglas said Lennon had promised to revisit the program, and when word got out that he was recording again in 1980, Douglas invited Lennon to join him for a week. Work on Double Fantasy took longer than expected, and Douglas accepted Lennon’s request to postpone the appearance, which had been planned for early December: “I can recall the exact moment when a grim staffer gave me the tragic news that John Lennon had been shot and killed. It was the day of his scheduled appearance. There was no sense to be made of it. All I know is, we lost one of the most creative forces in music that day, and an exceptional man.”

• • •

Peace Corps director Joseph Blatchford—“one leg in each generation”—had mixed feelings about his former boss, but was all too familiar with the attitudes of Nixon’s inner circle. Protests were considered not just unpatriotic but dangerous; Martin Luther King was equated with the riots of Detroit or Watts. Fundamental ideas protected under the US constitution attracted suspicions.

“The peace symbol mainly stood for the war in Vietnam,” Blatchford says. “It was a symbol of the antiwar movement, and it was considered very divisive.”

Blatchford was surprised he didn’t see more of that spirit forty years later when America was again engaged in conflict. Perhaps, Blatchford says, because there was no draft for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there wasn’t the same spark as in the 1960s. There were some protests, though, and Blatchford took note of those standing for peace.

“I was in San Francisco when the war began, and there was a gathering of a lot of people,” Blatchford says. “They all had gray hair: I think I remembered a couple of them from the Berkeley riots.”

Saying “peace” in wartime—then and now—can be viewed as sincere hope or treason. Lennon, Blatchford says, saw it as more than just a slogan.

“I think with him it was broader than that. All I remember is the wonderful music and his songwriting,” Blatchford says. “I don’t remember anything about the radicalism. He and his wife were very idealistic in their desires for peace. I don’t think it was antiestablishment in his mouth, I think it was genuinely . . . peace. You know? Lennon, to me, is connected more with a desire for peace and hands across the sea and goodwill and that kind of thing as opposed to the internal divisions within our own society over the war.”

• • •

Attorney Leon Wildes never again claimed to be unfamiliar with John Lennon; the legal challenge they waged together remained a personal and professional highlight. An expert in immigration law, Wildes teaches at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, lectures, and has testified before Congress on the subject. Besides being among a handful of New Yorkers to call John and Yoko true friends, Wildes says their court battle was, in its own way, as influential as Lennon’s artistic achievements.

“There were a number of significant legal accomplishments in that case,” Wildes says, having penned five Law Review articles on the subject, three of which dealt with the nonpriority provision. “Today that’s the hottest item in immigration law,” Wildes says.

In hindsight, Wildes notes that the FBI’s often inept “investigation” of Lennon indicated that it really was a low-priority matter. It’s impossible to believe that any agent worth a badge couldn’t find a photo of John Lennon.

“I don’t think they assigned their top people,” Wildes says. “Maybe they just didn’t take people off important investigations to follow these artists around for political reasons. Some of the people assigned to the case were probably second rate.”

It wasn’t, however, a laughing matter at the time. Wildes said that Nixon and his administration considered dissidents and immigrants equally as enemies of the state.

“Nixon took off after illegal aliens,” Wildes says. “He was running a kind of Mafia operation. He assumed that if the president did it, it must be legal, but he knew damn well it couldn’t be legal.”

Wildes has his own wistful wish that Lennon were still with us today; his voice on immigration would be welcome in the twenty-first century.

“Lennon would have been outraged by the treatment of illegal aliens and how they’re used as political footballs,” Wildes says. “The press would have eaten it up. Lennon had a way of expressing himself that appealed to the way the average person feels about unfairness in the system. John was brilliant. It’s a tragedy that we don’t have him around to speak up respectfully against the injustices of immigration law or the way’s it’s carried out. He had that gift.”

• • •

Cigarette manufacturer Phillip Morris introduced its Virginia Slims brand in 1968 to a target audience of young, professional women who considered themselves “liberated” while they smoked. The catch phrase was: You’ve come a long way, baby. The slogan was featured in print ads and television commercials; cigarettes were advertised on TV until 1971, something that surprises younger people today as much as the idea of a sexist marketing campaign designed to attract feminists.

The women’s movement has come a long way, Gloria Steinem says, in spite of the bias of commercial marketing. It just took a while.

“From a historical point of view, the suffragist and abolitionist movements gained for women of all races and black men a legal identity as human beings,” Steinem says. “Before suffrage and abolition it was possible to own women and to own black men, literally, as objects.”

Steinem recalls Lennon for reasons separate from music. Years before it was en vogue for men to accept the role of “house husband” or embrace raising a baby, Steinem says Lennon had what it took. He never did worry about the masculinity of appreciating art or respectfully deferring to his wife. Lennon wrote about it in Skywriting by Word of Mouth, a collection of essays from his “retirement” years. When the press described him as a recluse who would never “work again,” Lennon posed a question long asked by women: “If bringing up a child isn’t work, what is?”

Lennon defied gender conventions as easily as he did musical inspirations and racial attitudes. “He had an equal partnership with Yoko,” Steinem says. “The fact that he stayed home to raise his son and was a real parent had a huge impact, almost as much impact as his songs.”

• • •

It’s not an urban legend: Richard Nixon had an “enemies list” that documented the presidential paranoia. Lennon’s name was included, and not as “favorite Beatle.”

Making the list was easy for Ron Dellums: all thirteen founders of the Congressional Black Caucus were included.

“I wore that like a badge,” Dellums notes. He says the bottom line was “this incredible force of national security apparatus overreacting to people who were expressing their legitimate rights to organize, assemble, and express themselves.”

Dellums retained his congressional seat until 1998. In the twenty-first century Dellums served two terms as mayor of Oakland, California, and says that in spite of the advancements made, some still needed to learn the lessons of the era. In 2007 tensions rose after a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer shot and killed a young African American. The officer was put on trial. Awaiting the verdict, Dellums says he was approached by a young man planning a vigil of sorts. Dellums was asked to join the crowd to confirm, he was told, “their right to be there.” The young man indicated that his group would not be allowed to hold a vigil without the mayor’s presence.

They didn’t need him for that, Dellums pointed out, but perhaps a recent-history lesson was in order.

“I told them we fought that fight fifty years ago,” Dellums says. “If you need someone to validate your right to be at Fourteenth and Broadway, then we wasted fifty years.”

As long as they did it peacefully: violent civil conflicts—whether bomb-throwing dissidents or soldiers and cops shooting at will—had been tried: “We don’t have to reinvent the barricades; we did that. People died in that. You wanna run around in a ski mask lighting up a car? Come on, man. We went down that road.”

Dellums’s message remained consistent as a community activist, congressman, and big-city mayor. The core values, he says, were staying true to a cause and getting involved.

“I think John Lennon was faithful,” Dellums says. “He showed up for the fight.”

Those who shared the battles of the sixties, the civil rights, antiwar, and pro–social justice battles, have been proven to be on the right side of most issues over time.

“We were exonerated by history,” Dellums reflects. “Our generation, that time in America, we changed things. Are there struggles that need to be waged and principals to be embraced? Absolutely yes. We did change the world, but we didn’t make it perfect.”

• • •

The Movement wasn’t dead after Nixon’s reelection, Paul Krassner says, it simply evolved. Krassner too sees parallels between the sixties protests and twenty-first-century developments like Occupy and the Arab Spring; he admits he was surprised that the Internet and social media evolved into a forum for those very movements: “I’m old enough to remember when media was a plural noun and somehow became singular. I make fun of Facebook and YouTube—you can spend all day watching cats play the piano and never see the same cat twice—but they have changed the world in the sense of communicating a revolution from different countries, influencing them.”

Ever the realist, Krassner expresses amusement at the accidental nature of how social networks became a forum for online revolution. “It’s not something [Mark] Zuckerberg thought of,” Krassner says. “He thought it was a way to meet girls. It’s encouraging to see how young people get their information from social networks rather than the mainstream media. Or maybe they’re just allergic to paper.”

Taking a lesson from the era, Krassner points out that “the spirit lived on,” and the issues outlived the fashions. Krassner says that Lennon was an inspiration, more than willing to try new ideas and embrace different causes: he also knew that there was a limit to what pop culture heroes could do.

“I think he was very savvy,” Krassner says. “It seemed naïve to think it would make a difference if he and Yoko got in bed in Canada to end the war. I don’t know if he was taken advantage of; everybody wanted something from him. They consciously made the decision to use their celebrity to make a better world.”

• • •

We know what happened to John Lennon, as we felt we knew the man himself. Forty-plus years after the Beatles ended their run, three and a half decades after a senseless murder, there remains a desire to revisit that friendship. Maybe we’re trying to get to know ourselves a little better, our generation(s), and just what the hell happened back then.

John Lennon’s years of revolution were born in the sixties and took a rowdy ride deep into the 1970s. There was, he said, a price to pay for doing what he believed, a cost that couldn’t be covered even by the resources of a millionaire rock star. John and Yoko’s search for Kyoko Cox remained an unfinished quest long after his death—Lennon never did see his wife reunited with her daughter. Tony Cox successfully kept the girl from Yoko in spite of the Texas court rulings: months became years, the girl became an adult. But family ties are strong, and in 1997 Kyoko Cox reached out for a reunion so that Yoko could meet her granddaughter, Emi, and not for the last time.

John and Yoko remained true New Yorkers until his death and found, against so many odds, inner peace and perspective on the past. Such things take time, Lennon knew.

“People said the Beatles were the Movement, but we were only part of the Movement,” Lennon said. With the same idea shared by kindred souls throughout history who had “leadership” thrust upon them, Lennon said—as he told Rennie Davis about finding peace within yourself—that looking elsewhere for answers doesn’t work: “Leaders and father figures are the mistake of all the generations before us. All of us rely on Nixon or Jesus or whoever we rely on; it’s a lack of responsibility that you expect somebody else to do it. I won’t be a leader. Everybody is a leader. People thought the Beatles were leaders, but they weren’t, and now people are finding that out.”

Actually, they were, only not in the way they might have thought. Rarely a day goes by without encountering a reference to the Beatles or John Lennon; a song, an idea, a message bearing their image.

The spirit of John Lennon long outlived the decade, inspiring thoughts of peace, activism, honesty, and the best traits of kinder, gentler hippie-dom. At the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics in London, audiences were stunned, many moved to tears, by a video performance of Lennon singing “Imagine.”

His life and music still inspire, and so does his senseless death. In March 2013, on what would have been their anniversary, Yoko Ono tweeted a photo of Lennon’s blood-stained glasses with a note as to how many Americans have been killed by gun violence since that terrible December day. President Barack Obama retweeted the posting.

The tragedy was understood immediately, the legacy needed a little time. Maybe it takes longer to recognize peace, as a global wish or inside ourselves. First you have to imagine it’s possible.

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