In a couple of days the world will mark John Lennon’s 70th birthday. As I was reflecting on our “Love and Marriage” sermon series, I thought of this song. I still remember the thrill of hearing it for the first time around Thanksgiving 1980 on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown—and loving it. (The song was a well-deserved hit before Lennon’s death would have made its success inevitable.)
I was already a McCartney fan at that point, having bought his number one single “Coming Up” in the summer of that year. It was my first 45 purchase. When Casem introduced the Lennon song, I was vaguely aware that its singer had been a partner in McCartney’s old band.
(Don’t laugh: There was a time in the ’70s, believe it or not, when kids like me were McCartney/Wings fans, independent of what he did in the Beatles. McCartney was not nostalgic at the time. He was doing his own thing, and he wasn’t looking back.)
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s difficult to hear “(Just Like) Starting Over” without being reminded of Lennon’s tragic death. I cried while listening to it just now. But inasmuch as any of us can set aside those feelings, let’s listen to the words with this bit of history in mind: Lennon and Yoko were separated from one another for a few years in the ’70s. Lennon’s life was a wreck. They reconciled in 1975, during which time Lennon retired from music and stayed home to raise his son. The song sounds deeply autobiographical. (Lennon was nothing if not a confessional songwriter.) In fact, the album from which the song comes, Double Fantasy, tells the story of marital reconciliation—at times in an uncomfortably honest way.
But this song rings true to me. Love within marriage can be renewed, reborn, and re-kindled. We should work to ensure that it will be. “We have grown,” the singer says up front. But personal growth doesn’t mean that couples have to grow apart—or if they do, that it’s permanent.