Friday, December 8, 2006

It Was 26 Years Ago Today...

It is strange sometimes the days that human beings choose to observe. A nation's government can declare a day a "national holiday" and, yet, no one will celebrate it (for example, Columbus Day). At the same time, however, there are traditional holidays that nearly everyone celebrates and, yet, somehow they have never been granted them the status of national holidays (for example, Halloween and Valentine's Day). And then there are those days we choose to observe as individuals ourselves. These are days when something important occurred in our lives--when someone was born, when someone died, when someone got married, and so on. This is one of those days for me. The difference is that today it was not someone I knew personally who died, yet someone who had an enormous impact on my life regardless.

It was 26 years ago today that John Lennon was murdered in front of the Dakota in New York City. Every year I observe the day by listening to several Beatles songs and John Lennon songs, and usually watching one of The Beatles movies (this year it will probably be Yellow Submarine). If I could, I would probably even take the day off from work. And I'm not the only one who observes this day. Every year in New York City, Lennon fans gather in the area of Central Park known as Strawberry Fields. Music is banned there all year around with the exception of one day--the day of Lennon's death. On this day every year fans will be allowed to sing and play Lennon's songs there. I'm sure that there are mass observances elsewhere, particularly in his hometown of Liverpool. Neither the United Kingdom nor the United States have ever declared the day of Lennon's death a national holiday. I doubt it will ever be declared a day of mass mourning. And yet I suspect many, many more people observe it than Labour Day.

The reasons for this are very simple. Often times nations will arbitrarily decide to declare a holiday in the name of an idea. An example of this is Labour Day. Unfortunately, what governments don't realise is that people simply aren't that thrilled about celebrating ideas. Other times they will declare a national holiday in honour of some event or someone who actually had little impact on people's lives and hence seems distant and important to them. An example of this is Columbus Day. Given that people already lived in the Americas, the idea that Columbus "discovered" the Americas is debatable. For that matter, he was never even close to North America and Leif Ericson crossed the Atlantic long before Columbus. But the day of John Lennon's death is different. Lennon had an enormous impact on individual's lives. His music is still popular after over forty years. Arguably, of all the composers of the 20th century, Lennon and McCartney may well have had the biggest influence on popular music, more so than even Berlin, the Gershwins, and Porter. It is for that reason that over 5000 people gathered outside the Dakota the day of his death to mourn him. And for that reason that people still mourn him. And while I doubt the day of his death will ever be declared a national holiday, it really won't matter. People will still be observing the day of his death a century from now.

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