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Today marks 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death

The 'Imagine' marble mosaic in Strawberry Fieldsis seen on December 6, 2010 in New York's Central Park.
The 'Imagine' marble mosaic in Strawberry Fieldsis seen on December 6, 2010 in New York's Central Park.
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Today marks 30 years since the death of John Lennon. For every Beatles fan, the pain of that day endures. KPCC's Nick Roman spoke with a musician, a professor and a rock music historian who've held onto something more positive.

If you're a certain age, you know exactly where you were 30 years ago when you found out John Lennon was gone. But for some, he's still here.

"My name is Nick Sherwin, and I'm in a band called Suburban Skies, which is a tribute band, and we do a lot of post-Beatle era Fab Four music."

Which means a lot of John Lennon's solo work, and Nick Sherwin likes that. "He was just such a different figure. He commanded a presence and he was obviously the leader of that band. Y'know, here all these years later, I'm always the leader of the bands that I'm in, so maybe that was something that I saw in John that kind of attracted me."

Nick Sherwin, when he's not singing post-Beatles rock songs, teaches marketing at La Mirada's Biola University. That's a Christian college. John Lennon sang “I don't believe in Jesus,” but Nick – who does – sees no conflict.

"For me, I listen to it like, 'What was that guy at that time, what was he thinking? Why was he so, y'know, why did he feel so alone, like there was no God?' So, when I, when I hear those things, it doesn't, it's no compromise of faith to listen to it. It's just so interesting to me to look at how deep this guy was and where he was and that he would put his, his whole heart out there for the world to see."

Nick Sherwin with Suburban Skies figures he'll spend part of today in his home studio – recording a Lennon song or two.

"I'm Jon Wiener, and all we are saying is give peace a chance."

John Lennon said that. UCI history professor Jon Wiener knows a lot about what John Lennon said – and a lot about what the FBI said about John Lennon. Back in 1980, Wiener was an aspiring journalist – curious to know whether the FBI had a John Lennon file.

"I filed the Freedom of Information request a couple of weeks after Lennon was shot, and really didn't know whether I would find anything or not. And of course, they told me they had 300 pages of documents and it turned out to be almost all political surveillance of Lennon's anti-war activity in 1972."

Jon Wiener talked to Yoko Ono about the early '70s days – and he says Lennon was puzzled why anyone would follow him.

"In fact he said on, I think it was, 'The Dick Cavett Show' on TV that sometimes he wondered if they – if they – were tapping his phones because there were too many who were coming to fix the phones in his basement when he was living on Bank Street in Greenwich Village in New York City. But he also said, 'Why would they be interested in me? I'm not important enough.'"

But UCI professor Jon Wiener says remember the cause – ending the Vietnam War – and remember the president – Richard Nixon.

"Lennon's cause did earn him a deportation order from the Nixon Administration. And he had to spend the next two or three years in and out of court fighting that deportation order. He was under a 60-day order to leave the country for all of '72, '73 and much of '74. It kinda ruined his life. So Lennon took bigger risks in pursuit of his political ideals and he paid a bigger price."

Jon Wiener will listen to some Beatles music today – and talk about John Lennon on his afternoon radio show on KPFK.

Bob Santelli will spend the day in New York. "Well, how about this? I'm about 200 yards from the Dakota right now."

The Dakota was John Lennon's New York apartment building. Usually, Bob Santelli is in L.A. – he's the executive director of the Grammy Museum – and with Yoko Ono, he chose the writing, artwork and other items for the museum's exhibit on John Lennon the songwriter.

"Lennon looked at lyrics, he looked at the themes of his music, and spelled it out in sometimes glaring detail – almost giving away too much, y'know? So that when I revisited a lot of Lennon's music, I realized John used his music, first and foremost I think, as a form of therapy."

Bob Santelli says come by the Grammy Museum and share your thoughts about John Lennon on a giant guitar covered with messages of peace and hope.

"Yoko was the first one to write something. And since then hundreds, maybe thousands now have written messages. And we'll have all of those out for people to look at."

Can't imagine a better thing to do today.