As he said about the Maker of All Things in the song he called “God,” which was really about himself, John Lennon is a concept by which we measure our pain. Lennon made a great many things both miraculous and ungodly during his foreshortened and intensely public life, and much of what he did brought us grief, in the multiple meanings of the word, or granted us the effect of grief’s denial: ecstasy. Lennon and the three mates for whom he served as semi- official leader came to America just in time to provide gleeful relief from our famous post-Kennedy malaise. He proceeded to outrage conservative Christians who were protective of the bigness of Jesus; he vexed aesthetic fundamentalists who were reluctant to accept rock and roll as art; he infuriated rock traditionalists who were even more reluctant to accept the conceptual avant- garde; he irritated Paul fans; he conferred upon us the irrepressibly unpleasant Yoko and released “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”; and then he abandoned us, withdrawing from public life for nearly five years. Finally, through his death at the hands of a crazed fan in 1980, he made us face the darkest potential of the mixed-up, out-of-control feelings of love and fury that he had stirred and refracted with a smirk.

more from TNR here.