Watching the Wheels (John Lennon). 40 Songs for 40 Years, 1981

As a huge Beatles fan, I was shocked by John Lennon’s murder, and it’s the first public tragedy I remember. The publicity surrounding it led me to ask for a copy of Double Fantasy, which had just been released.

I don’t know what—as a nine-year-old—I found so compelling about Watching the Wheels, a song about abandoning the quest for achievement. It would be several years before anxiety and ambition became a part of my life, and several more before I questioned whether they should be.

Now that I’m well into middle age, the fantasy of just letting things go is a lot more potent. John Lennon was about my age when he recorded this song, and I wonder how much of the melancholy in this song stems from knowing—at some level anyway—that his best work was behind him.