It was thirty years ago today that any hope that Sgt. Peppers band would play again ended with the murder of John Winston Ono Lennon outside his home at the Dakota Building just off Central Park in New York City. He left England in 1971 and never went back again, never went back again due to his immigrant status and the attempts by the U. S. Government to deport him mainly by the paranoid Nixon Administration, who gave him way more credit than he deserved.
I missed hearing about Lennon’s death by minutes that night of December 8, 1980, as I went to bed just before Howard Cossell announced it on Monday Night Football. The next morning I stopped at Theodore Guynn’s on my way to Surry Community College and Theodore told me John Lennon was dead.
I first met John Lennon in Augusta, Georgia, when my cousin Ann Green, a Beatlemaniac, exposed me to the music of the Beatles in the 1960s. She loved John the best and I spent many happy times with her listening to Lennon’s nasally voice. I remember particularly liked Hard Days Night. Today, she if fighting cancer and loathes any talk of her misspent youth with the Fab Four, but then she did. She later bought me a Lennon-McCartney Songbook when I started playing the guitar at age thirteen that I still have sitting on the piano right now. Every once in a while I will open it and sing to myself horribly off key some tunes such Nowhere Man by Lennon or another his tunes such as Day Tripper.
While Paul McCartney is my favorite Beatle, I listened to Lennon and his solo work. I particularly liked Mind Games and Walls and Bridges. Imagine is a great album and Double Fantasy, his last album, yes I had the vinyl, and to paraphrase Lennon I was it spinning “round and round” many times before I heard of his death that bleak December day.
I had just turned twenty only a month before and was into my second year at Surry Community College, where I had my eye on a Yadkin County gal that I would soon start dating and fall head over heels in love with. I made her “Love Tapes” that had John Lennon songs on them. Out the Blue from Mind Games comes to mind along with Woman and Starting Over from Double Fantasy.
Many programs and movies are out about his life and earlier this year I watched two films about the Cretan who killed him. Everyone from PBS to Fox News has aired documentaries and even a few dramas since what would have been Lennon’s seventieth birthday. Hard to believe he would have been that old, but Julian, his oldest son by his first wife Cynthia is my age and Sean his son with Yoko Ono is 35.
John’s politics were I think a bit naïve and he seldom really knew what he was talking about like many celebrities. Paul continues to stick his foot in his mouth as he did insulting George W. Bush’s lack of reading when the former President’s wife and mother were involved in literacy programs and I don’t think you get out of Yale and Harvard Business School without reading, but that is another blog.
John Lennon had a gift when it came to writing a song and he went from the amazing studio effects of I Am The Walrus to the stripped down sound of Watching The Wheels. It is fun to IMAGINE what might have been. No doubt many of us would have seen a Lennon-McCartney World Tour before THE END came. Paul McCartney, who I have seen numerous times in concert over the last ten years always sings a song he wrote about Lennon after his death called Here Today and I have seen him get choked up doing it. He also sings songs such as Help, but not as the Beatles did it, but as John first played it for him a slow piano ballad. He will end these songs with Give Peace A Chance even if John was naïve; it is not such a bad idea to hope for.
When a man who sang about peace lost his life due to violence when he was the happiest he had been in years it is a lesson from Lennon we should all learn. “Some are dead and some are living. In my life I’ve loved them all.”