Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sad to behold, sad to recall

Recently I watched this clip of a news report about the death of John Lennon, in which grown New Yorkers are seen standing in the street and weeping. And I wondered (not to be morbid): the death of which pop star today would result in Americans standing in the street and weeping? I'm at a loss to think of even one.

So what was it about Lennon? I think it was not only that he had the qualities we expect in our pop stars today -- sexiness, a tendency to public antics -- but also that he seemed truly intelligent, and vulnerable and honest ("Help!"), and that resonated profoundly with his fans. Also resonant, perhaps, was Lennon's apparent lack of calculatedness, which makes him different from, for example, Bono. The U2 singer seems intelligent and honest, too, but a little slick.

I suppose there was a political component as well. For many fans Lennon embodied the hopefulness that was part of the ethos of the 1960s. (Nihilism was another part.) So perhaps for some -- and here I lapse into cliche -- the death of Lennon was the death of hope.

In my lifetime, the nearest analog to those crying Lennon fans I can think of is the aftermath of the murder of the pop star Selena, in 1995. There was a paroxysm of anguish that spanned a hemisphere, if memory serves.

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