A few months ago I wrote an essay for my English 201 class about John Lennon.
The assignment was to observe a literacy site and analyze its discourse. In other words, go to a public place, sit there for a couple hours and keep quiet, then write down all the crazy things you hear people say and embellish on your notes for six pages to prove to Dr. Brewer that you've been paying attention all semester. For my literacy site, I chose the Imagine memorial in Central Park West.
I spent a lot of time on this essay. It was my final grade for the course and I was determined to get an A. (Mostly in an attempt to raise my GPA, which had lowered quite a bit during my brief stint as a business major earlier in the academic year—but let's not talk about The Dark Age.) In the process of researching for the essay, I found myself watching an hour-long documentary on YouTube with a name like The Day John Lennon Died or The Man Who Shot John Lennon or something like that. Or maybe I watched two in one night. Who are you to judge?
Anyway, while watching the video(s?), I was overcome with a very distinct sense of grief. I began to miss someone I had never met. It was a strange concept, hard to describe, yet very real and very poignant. I was sincerely bitter for about a week that I missed the chance to live at the same time as John Lennon, and angry that this incredibly important artist passed away decades before he should have. I grew up listening to the Beatles, thanks to my parents, so I asked them what it was like when the news of Lennon’s death spread. I watched more YouTube videos. I read articles about Mark David Chapman. I tried to piece together feelings and emotions and facts in an attempt to tie myself to a decade I didn't live through. It was messy, emotional, and ultimately in vain.
Recently I've been feeling just as cheated as I did in May. I saw the documentary Amy—a retelling of Amy Winehouse's life and death by friends, family members, and a production team, of course—in a Manhattan movie theater a few weeks ago. Since then I've had her Back to Black album on repeat.
I haven't been blogging about any new releases lately, and you can blame that entirely on Amy Winehouse. I'm playing tracks 2 and 5 of Back to Black over and over again as I drive around my hometown in my high school car for the summer. Everyone knows her voice was incredible, but lately I keep stopping to think about just how incredible it was. I was only sixteen when Amy joined the 27 Club, and I was far too young at eleven years old to have appreciated her during the reign of Back to Black. She was a true model, an icon—and I am angry, in an admittedly self-absorbed way, that I was just a kid when she was around. And I’m angry that she left too soon, just like Lennon. I'm mad that I didn't have the chance to send her a wistful tweet with only the slightest hope of her responding, or to rush to Target during my lunch break to buy her album on release day, or take an LIRR train into the city to see her live on tour. I am learning to adjust to a different type of artist-fan relationship because all of these essential elements, all of these moments that I have had with other artists and albums that form the foundation of my imbalanced, ambiguous relationships with them, do not happen in situations like these.
So Amy's music has found me now, thanks to an okay documentary that sparked my admiration. I can't seem to get the hook of "You Know I'm No Good" or the first verse of "Back to Black" out of my head, hence my lack of up-to-date reviews on this blog that all (three of) you read regularly. (Hey, Kel!)
I am not a family member or close friend or even a first-generation fan of either of these artists, I am simply a millennial who—like all millennials, right?—feels entitled to something she didn’t earn.
I can't help but have the morbid curiosity of who the generation of my grandchildren will be bitter about missing out on. Will the legacy of Hannah Montana live on? Probably not. Will I live to tell the tale? I hope so. Will they ask me one day what it was like when Miley did that dance at the VMAs in 2013? I hope not.
Or perhaps it's more likely that this John Lennon phenomenon will end with me. Maybe I just have too many feelings about music. Is there such a thing?