I was reminded that today….actually tonight….was the day that John Lennon was murdered. And that reminded me of the actual event, since I was actually widely awake when it happened. My memory of the event is acute as it was the first rock star death that had a direct emotional impact on me.
Keep in mind, Lennon had just released a comeback album of sorts, after spending several years as nothing more than a Father. So for me, a young teenage boy in the 8th grade, my entire knowledge of Lennon’s doings was based on Rolling Stone and other rock mag articles. And the last read article that I recalled about Lennon were the “lost weekend” ones where John was drinking with Harry Nilsson and getting into bar fights.
I had heard about his semi-retirement and I knew that he had gotten back with Yoko and had a child. But as I lay in my bed listening to WLS on my clock radio that evening, the first response I had when the announcer read something of the news wire about Lennon being shot, the first thing I thought of was that he had fallen off the wagon or something. I imagined that John had gone out to celebrate (since he was coming back with a new album) had a little too much to drink, run his mouth off to the wrong person and then got popped. I swear to you, this is exactly what I was thinking when I heard about the shooting.
I went downstairs and told my parents, specifically my Dad (who I knew was a fan of Lennon), that the radio reporting that he had been shot. They didn’t know his condition at that time, so I wasn’t concerned about it.
When I returned to my bedroom, the announcer broke in again, but was now reporting that Lennon had died from his assailant. , I returned downstairs where my parents were now watching the Tonight show. The moment I uttered “John Lennon just died.” The news broke into the Tonight show with live coverage of the murder.
I went back to my room and cried until I went to sleep while Lennon and Beatles songs played on the clock radio. It was “Imagine” that finally got the waterworks going.
The next morning, I went to Middle school. Once there, I walked directly to the classroom of a 6th grade teacher who the music geeks thought was pretty cool. M.B. was a black man in his late 20’s that sported dreadlocks and a few rock albums in his classroom record collection. Me and a few other fellows met up in his room before the other students arrived. M.B. didn’t speak much, we all didn’t, because what can you say, really, about such a retarded thing like shooting John Lennon?
M.B. quietly took out his copy of The White Album and retrieved the Lennon photograph from the gatefold sleeve. Grabbing a thumbtack, he put the photo on the door facing the lockers while “Dear Prudence” played in the background. It was powerful. It was perfect.
Unfortunately, it was a eulogy for a (still) incomprehensible event.