Bob Dylan's Ode to John Lennon
This weekend marked the 36th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination outside the Dakota at the age of 40. Had he lived, he would have turned 76 in October. And who can say what else he would have gifted to his family, his friends, and to the world in those decades he never got.
The memory of hearing the news will take you back to precisely where you were the way news of JFK's death seared those in my parents' generation. I was still up and working on a homework assignment in my childhood kitchen. Part of the report entailed baking Danish cookies. And there I was cramming to get it done when the news came in over the radio. I was stunned and remember processing it with my mother and siblings at the counter. The next day at school, Aisling, a sophisticated classmate -- who struck me as someone who thought for herself -- was devastated. It wasn't until then that I fully realized this was a cataclysm.
Since I moved to New York in 1988, I've never passed the Dakota without thinking of Lennon. His ashes were scattered in Central Park after all.
Fast forward to 2012. On yet another post-Time-Out-of-Mind masterpiece of an album entitled "Tempest," Bob Dylan eulogized Lennon. The two men, of course, went back a long way in a mutually admiring and honestly competitive friendship. And if Dylan's elegiac song "Roll on John" is an indication, Bob still feels the loss deeply: "You burned so bright...roll on, John."
This weekend, of course, also marked the attribution of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan. A gorgeous rationale laid out by the Swedish Academy set wagging, naysaying tongues to rest; and the decision -- to award it to Dylan -- "that seemed daring only beforehand...already seem[ed] obvious" by the time all was said, done and sung on Saturday in Stockholm.
Excerpt from "Roll on John"
by Bob Dylan from Tempest (2012)
I heard the news today, oh boy
They hauled your ship
up on the shore
Now the city gone dark,
there is no more joy
They tore the heart right out
and cut him to the core
Shine your light
You burned so bright
Roll on, John
I felt inspired to write today in memory of one genius who chose the Upper West Side as his home leaving an eternal mark on our city. And I had to stop and contemplate another one-time New Yorker who burns bright still.
Roll on and on and on, boys.