Senseless killing in the street
Yoko screamin’, her husband at her feet.
Killer was a fan who lost his head (yeah, yeah, yeah)
gunned down his hero – stood in the rain and read.
Johnny was a victim… JS 12/82
Today, December 8, marks the 34th anniversary of the tragic death of Beatle John Lennon who was slain by a deranged fan outside his home at the Dakota Apartments in New York City in 1980. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone so long. Lennon, renowned musician, artist and peace activist, was returning home late that night from a recording studio where he and Yoko had been putting finishing touches on their new album “Double fantasy” his first new release in nearly five years. His death was a tragic loss for us all.
His death like that of John Kennedy is one of those moments in time where you remember exactly where and what you were doing when you heard the news. I was at home that fateful Monday night, 12/8/1980, watching the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, when Howard Cosell suddenly interrupted the play by play regular broadcast and somberly informed viewers of Lennon’s death. Ironically on another Monday night six years before, Lennon surprised Cosell by joining him in the broadcast booth where they engaged in an impromptu interview. It was a very fun-filled exchange. This time however what Cosell had to say was tragically shocking.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I remember thinking that they had to be wrong, John couldn’t be dead, and frantically began changing channels looking for more news on Lennon. I soon found a special report with live coverage from New York. A large crowd had already gathered outside the Dakota and was growing by the minute. Stunned fans stood in the chilly night air, some were singing Lennon songs others simply huddled together, stunned in disbelief, tears flowed freely. At home I too was stunned and crying as well.
The next day the airwaves were deluged with coverage of Lennon’s death. I still couldn’t believe it. Lennon was and still is my favorite Beatle. I loved his irreverent attitude when being interviewed, always the wise guy, the grand cut-up. His music with the Beatles and in his solo career had a profound influence on my life. As a young man many of my views and beliefs about love and life were a result of his music. His final album, ‘Double Fantasy” was Lennon reborn, It was a work of art, filled with songs about hope, truth, love and respect. I can’t help but wonder what direction his music would have taken had he been given the opportunity. Always a visionary Lennon appeared to be on a new life path. Sadly that life, cut short by a crazed gunman, depriving the world of a much needed ray of light in a dark and dreary world.
The response to Lennon’s death was incredible, a shot heard round the world. I remember hearing the reactions of George and Ringo and was touched by their response. Later in the day I was thoroughly disgusted when I saw a very brief interview with Paul McCartney, in London. Reporters had caught up with him outside Abbey Road Studios and asked for his reaction on the death of his friend and Beatles writing collaborator. Mc Cartney, looking a bit bored or perhaps stoned, made an off-handed remarked to the reporter while chomping his gum, and disappeared quickly into the studio. I can still hear his crude statement as if he said it only a moment ago. “Yeah, it’s a drag isn’t it.” A drag? That’s it? John Lennon gunned down on the streets of New York and it’s a drag? Yep good old Sir Paul, what an ass! He was always my least favorite Beatle, a little too cutesy for my liking. Yeah his reaction really sealed the deal.
Years later my attitude towards him changed when I learned that he had been in the studio for hours after the shooting, distressed and in tears. The offhand comment to reporters was not a true indication of the pain he was experiencing at the loss of his long time friend. Although I still don’t believe the caliber of his music is on the same level as Lennon’s and can sometimes be trite, I have come to respect Paul and even saw him in concert several years ago in Las Vegas. Something I had long said I’d never do. The truth be told I’d always said I would never pay to see McCartney and I didn’t. The tickets were a gift from a friend.
Of course I attended the Las Vegas show wearing a tee-shirt with a large likeness of Lennon on both front and back as a tribute to John and perhaps an affront to McCartney fans. But by the end of the night I was quite impressed with Sir Paul’ performance and comments between songs, particularly his stirring tribute to John. And you know perhaps Paul was right all along because 33 years after John’s death it’s still ” a drag isn’t it?” A tragic drag for us all…
“Favorite Lennon Story”
My son John was only two when Lennon was killed. By the time he was six he’d been inundated with Beatles and John Lennon music. He knew all about the Beatles.
One afternoon in the summer of 84, my son and I were driving in my VW to my parent’s home in Azusa when I spotted Tim Ryan, a friend of mine, walking along the highway. I quickly pulled over and offered him a ride. We drove him to a friend’s house in Azusa. The entire time John sat in the backseat listening to us talk and didn’t say a word which was quite unusual for John. Yeah he just sat there staring at Tim.
After we dropped him off and were driving away, John Michael, in awe, said to me,” I didn’t know John Lennon was your friend.” I thought about it for a moment and realized that Tim, with his long hair, round, wire rim glasses and hawk nose did sorta, kinda, bear a resemblance to John Lennon. And my son actually thought he was really Lennon. I remember telling him “Yep, John Lennon and I are good friends.”
And I hadn’t lied to him. Although I never met John Lennon I knew him just the same. Through his lyrics and everything I ever read about him (and believe me I read a lot) I knew him well. Lennon was indeed a good friend and saw me through some very troubled times. For several years John Michael would tell the story about the time we gave my good friend John Lennon a ride in my VW. It was priceless…