Remembering John Lennon
NOTE: As he was to most people of my generation, John Lennon was an influential and inspirational person in my life. His death hit us all. Hard. This is an article I wrote for our partner station WABX two years ago today on the thirtieth anniversary of John's death. If you enjoy it, I hope you'll click the "LIKE" button underneath the headline and pass it on. Thanks, Rick
December 8, 1980.
I know all too well what that date signifies. I don't have to depend on news reports and tributes to remember John Lennon's life and death. It's not history to me. It's part of who I am. And that, in essence, is the legacy of the Beatles. They were part of who we were. Especially John. The web is awash in memories of his death. I want to remember his life.
As I so often say, I am a dinosaur. I'm one of the oldest occupants of The Hill. That point has been to my advantage this week. People give me a look of awe when they realize that I was a teenager when The Beatles broke up, By the time John Lennon was gunned down thirty years ago today, I was married with a family. So I don't write from research or supposition. I write from the heart.
To speak of the Beatles is to speak about things done for the first time. Yes, anybody could have done a lot of the things they did. But if it were so damn simple, somebody would have done it before them. Bottom line is, '"anybody" didn't do it, and '"somebody" didn't do it. The Beatles did it. As the years pass, that achievement diminishes.
One of the "firsts" -- probably the main one -- was that we knew them all. Before them, rock bands usually had one dominant member, and a company of secondary players. Frankie Valli was the face of The Four Seasons. It was Bill Haley and The Comets, Cliff Richard and The Shadows. With the Beatles, you got four distinct personalities. Paul was the handsome charmer. George was the moody, talented innovator, Ringo was the playful court jester, and John was the outspoken rebel who found joy in tweaking the status quo.
John spoke for the band. Hey, John Lennon spoke for the generation. Sometimes he shot his mouth off without thinking, like we all did. Somtimes he was led astray by people with agendas. Sometimes he was briliant. Sometimes he f---ed up beyond all sense of comprehension. But John was always someone we knew.
As much admiration and respect for The Beatles as I had, my feelings were eclipsed by those of my wife Roxanne. Long time listeners know that she was often a part of my show. Her role was not so much as a participant, but as a subject of my observations on music, entertainment, and how married men always wind up getting screwed (and not in the way we'd like.) This would have been such a painful week for Roxanne. All the shock and horror of December 8, 1980 would have come rushing back. In all the tributes this week, it's impossibile not to focus on her, because we each grieved in our own way at the news of John's death. We both were heartsick that a man who sang of of peace and love had been taken in such a violent and heartless way.
I was a Beatles fan, but not a fanatic. Roxanne, on the other hand, had been one of the millions of young girls caught up in Beatlemania. She had not only seen them live, but actually met them. I'm not sure if she ever settled down from that experience. I have every confidence, as I wrote in my personal blog, LIFE 4.0, that one of her first priorities in the hereafter was to seek out John Lennon and George Harrison. In the months of mourning her, the Beatles brought me comfort, through their music, and through the memory of our spirited discussions.
We had this Beatles divide... Fab Four vs. Hippies. Roxanne was a devotee of the moptop era. Me, I began appreciating the Beatles about the time they stopped being the loveable pop stars and began exploring the boundaries of music, and of social behavior. My fandom started with "Rubber Soul." I bought every Beatles album from then on. She felt they got weird after they quit touring. There are songs on the White album she thought were a waste. I was fascinated with the White album as a student of music.
We could spend hours debating questions such as whether "Rocky Raccoon" was a work of art. Finally, I learned how to tell when she'd had enough.
Me: "Rocky Raccoon? Hell, yes, colorful characters; tells a story of lost love, vengance of the heart, and eventually, redemption. Classic structure of drama."
Her: "What do you know? You're a dumb s---, and you can't go five minutes without doing something grotesque. I'll bet you could fart on command."
Married men (except for those few who actually can fart on command) know this is one of those inescapable arguments. Knowing when it's time to stop is an art in itself.
For my generation, the death of John Lennon took away our innocence. The Beatles had sprung on America, bringing an excitement never before seen. For young people, they were the perfect way to escape the depression from the assassination of President Kennedy. They sang of happiness, of love, of peace. Their place in society far eclipsed anything ever seen by musicians. World leaders courted their favor, trend-setters hinged on their every move. The death of John Lennon -- and the absurd, pointless way he died -- made us old
Like many Americans, we heard about John's death on Monday Night Football. It's ironic that it would fall to Howard Cosell to be the first person to report the story. First, though Cosell became a star reporting sports, he was a lawyer who considered himself a serious journalist. In his mind's eye, be felt he would eventually become a news anchor. Second, in 1974, John had been a guest in the booth on MNF and had been interviewed by Cosell. The backstory of how his death was discovered, and the decision to broadcast the news is a fascinating one. This is the ESPN "Outside The Lines" feature on how that news got on-air in the era before cable news, before cell phones. Long clip, but fascinating. From ESPN's "Outside The Lines" series.
You'll also find that video in the Dead Rockers Lounge on my Club Dead blog. In addition, there is coverage from ABC's Nightline program, including a report from Geraldo Rivera, whom Lennon counted among his friends. Also, from WNBC-TV, you'll see reaction from New Yorkers on John's death and the arraigment of his killer
LINK: Dead Rockers Lounge on Steven's CLUB DEAD blog CLICK HERE
Finally, something personal. Real life. Mine. For more about my Roxanne, and my attempt to come to grips with life without her, please visit my personal blog, LIFE 4.0. It's gritty and honest. As it should be.
LINK: LIFE 4.0 About my strange new life and the art of making it up as I go. CLICK HERE
Peace and blessings,