Friday, February 5, 2021

Andy Young: John Lennon -- Dead as long as alive

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

If it seems like a lifetime since the songwriter/vocalist/guitarist who co-founded the Beatles was killed by a deranged gunman outside his Manhattan apartment, well, that’s because it has been. Specifically, his lifetime. On Feb. 6, John Lennon will have been dead for 14,671 days. That’s the precise number of days he lived.

When Lennon was gunned down on Dec. 8, 1980, 56-year-old Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States, albeit a lame duck one. The concrete barrier which cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany was still standing. The seven-year-old Twin Towers that constituted the World Trade Center, considered eyesores by many New Yorkers ("an example of the purposeless giantism and technological exhibitionism that are now eviscerating the living tissue of every great city,” one contemporary critic wrote), dominated the city’s skyline. And in San Mateo, California, it had been just over four months since Thomas Edward Brady Jr., aided by his parents and his three older sisters, had celebrated his third birthday.

Today, a full Lennon’s lifetime after Lennon’s lifetime, the 96-year-old Carter is the longest-lived ex-president in American history, the Berlin Wall and the Twin Towers are both long gone, and the Brady lad, now the winningest quarterback in American football history, is preparing to play in his 10th Super Bowl.

There was justifiable grief over Lennon’s premature demise, particularly given the relative brevity of his life. But he was allotted more Earthly days than Martin Luther King, Jr. was. He lived longer than Sylvia Plath, Christa McAuliffe, Yuri Gagarin, Che Guevara, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Davis, or Lou Gehrig. His lifespan was longer than the combined ones of Anne Frank and Nathan Hale. Samantha Smith, the precocious and legendary Maine peace activist, got just 4805 days. Her life was less than a third as long as Lennon’s.

The length of one’s life has a direct bearing on when an individual has been dead for as long as they were alive (DALAA). That explains how the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell (born 1847) and singer/songwriter Janis Joplin (born 1943) could achieve DALAA status in the same calendar year (1998). There are similar unlikely examples: Harry Truman and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant will both become DALAA in the year 2061. That’s an even more stark incongruity, given that basketball didn’t exist when America’s 33rd president was born in 1884, and Truman had been dead for over half a decade by the time Bryant was born in 1978. In 2024 singer Aaliyah, who died at age 22 in a 2001 plane crash, will become DALAA three months before Orville Wright, the co-inventor of the mode of transportation that brought about her premature demise, even though he was born more than a century before she was.

Lennon isn’t the only noted musician who’s becoming dead for as long as he was alive in 2021. Kurt Cobain (May 19), Tupac Shakur (Dec. 12), and Biggie Smalls (Dec. 26) will all attain that less-than-coveted status later this year.

Researching the chronological lengths of various notable lifespans turns up some odd coincidences. Who knew Marilyn Monroe’s 13,213-day lifespan was just three days longer than Princess Diana’s? Or that Walt Disney will turn DALAA on Christmas Day, 2031? Or that the previously mentioned Aaliyah and comedian Freddie Prinze lived the exact same number of days (8,257)?

There’s nothing terribly exceptional about being deceased for as long as one was breathing. Not only can anyone do it, we all will do it. However, barring remarkable scientific advances, none among us will be able to personally observe this particular milestone. <

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