I nearly forgot this to post this.
Today is December 8th. Today, 31 years ago, some stupid man came along with a gun and shot another man in the back of the head, for no exceptionally good reason. The name of the man who was shot was John Lennon. You might have heard of him, he was a member of a rock group called The Beatles.
Lennon is an odd standout in my list of personal heroes. All of the rest are filmmakers (Stanley Kubrick, The Coen Brothers, David Lynch) or writers (Neil Gaiman, Hunter Thompson). Lennon is a musician, a field I've never even briefly considered getting into, no matter how much I might love playing Guitar Hero 3. Sure I love The Beatles, but I love a lot of musicians, not all of them make it onto my list of heroes. I suppose I admire his rise from nothing story, his defiant attitude, his desire to stick to his principles, such as they were. Sure, there were things he did that he might have been less than proud of, but that just proves that he was human. Don't we all have things that we did that we wish we hadn't. Part of what makes him admirable, what makes him a personal hero of mine, is that he rose above those flaws to make himself a great and important artist. Love him or hate him, he and his compatriots changed the face of rock 'n roll and music forever. And, in my opinion, for the better.
I'm going to recommend three things. The first is a documentary called The US vs. John Lennon, (no, I still haven't seen Nowhere Boy) chronicling the...let's call it run in, Lennon had with the government during the Nixon Administration. The second is an Elton John song, called Empty Garden. Yes, I know Elton John's best known tribute song is Candle in the Wind, or whatever it's called, but Empty Garden always felt much more heartfelt to me, more personal. This is backed up by the fact that he rarely performs it live, as he was friends Lennon and finds the memories he gets when playing it too painful. Give it a listen.
The final thing is a Lennon album that I don't think gets enough love: Double Fantasy. Sandwiched between his more famous Power to the People (Right On) and Imagine, I've always maintained Double Fantasy was the best album of his all too short solo career. So if you have some money on your iTunes or Amazon, give it a listen. It's some of the best things he did on his own (with, it must be said, Yoko at his side.)
I said it on his birthday, and I'll say it again. We miss you John.