Of all the rock stars who died tragically before their time (including the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Elliott Smith), the one that still seems to cut the deepest is John Lennon, who was killed by Mark David Chapman 30 years ago today. Lennon was 40 years old when he died, which made him slightly older than a lot of musicians who have an early exit, but in a way that makes it all the more heartbreaking. Lennon was right on the cusp of huge musical and personal transitions, and his death robbed the world of what could have been an amazing twilight to his career.
Though it’s impossible to know exactly what would have become of Lennon’s work and art, there are some inklings about what it probably wouldn’t have been. The latter day Lennon probably wouldn’t have ended up like Paul McCartney, making trifles of albums and trotting out old tunes for tours every few years. Nor would he have ended up like bandmate Ringo Starr, who puts together wacky revues with his All Starr Band. Considering his commitment to charity and his esoteric latter-day music, George Harrison probably would have ended up being a reasonable model for Lennon’s life.
However, Lennon would have almost certainly been a singularity. His music likely would have been a mix of folk and the experimental art-noise preferred by wife Yoko Ono, and he almost certainly would have put politics and charity before any type of music project (he probably would have been Bono before Bono was Bono). Sadly, this is all just speculation, as we were robbed of a great talent and an inspirational figure far too early. In memory of a great artist and a great man, check out this video for “Nobody Told Me” (from Lennon’s posthumous 1984 album Milk and Honey). It’s a loving tribute that brings together everything that Lennon was: An artist, an activist, a cut-up, a lover and an all-around inspiration to millions.