Damn this date. Every Dec 8th I can’t help but think of where I was when I heard. Last year the release of Get Back only heightened the anger and confusion over what happened. I post this post every year on this terrible date and will continue. I have updated it each time and I’ve almost rewritten it since I posted it first back in 2018…and if it’s too long now I apologize. I STILL feel what I felt on that date. Although to be accurate it was on December 9th that I found out…the next morning getting ready for school.
When I watched the news clips I felt like an interloper because all of these fans that were sobbing grew up with Lennon in real-time…I was this 13-year-old kid who was late to the party…a decade late.
It’s odd to think the Beatles had only been broken up for 10 years when this happened…to a 13-year-old at the time…that was a lifetime but in reality, it’s nothing. To put it in perspective… it’s now 2022 and 10 years ago was 2012…that doesn’t seem that long ago. I was only 2 years old when the Beatles broke up so I had no clue.
Since second grade (1975), I’ve been listening to the Beatles. While a lot of kids I knew listened and talked about modern music …I just couldn’t relate as much. By the time I was ten I had read every book about The Beatles I could get my hands on. In a small middle TN town…it wasn’t too many. I was after their generation but I knew the importance of what they did…plus just great music. The more I got into them the more I learned about the Who, Stones, and the Kinks. I wanted to get my hands on every book about the music of the 1960s. Just listening to the music wasn’t enough…I wanted to know the history.
I spent that Monday night playing albums in my room. Monday night I didn’t turn the radio on…I’m glad I didn’t…The next morning I got up to go to school and the CBS morning news was on. The sound was turned down but the news was showing Beatle video clips. I was wondering why they were showing them but didn’t think much of it.
Curious, I turned the television on and found out that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I was very angry and shocked. The bus ride to school was quiet… at school, it was quiet as well. Some teachers were affected because John was their generation. Some of my friends were shocked but some didn’t get the significance at the time and some didn’t care. A few but not many acted almost gleeful which pissed me off…It was apparent their parents were talking through them. I never said swore words as a kid…it would have embarrassed me…I knew all the words but I never would have except for one particular kid on the bus…after he seemed to be happy about it he got a F**k yourself from yours truly. Not my finest moment as a child but the first time I swore in anger…no regrets here.
I went out and bought the White Album, Abbey Road, and Double Fantasy in late December of 1980…I can’t believe I didn’t have the two Beatles albums already…now whenever I hear any song from those albums they remind me of the winter of 80-81. I remember the call-in shows on the radio then…pre-internet… people calling to share their feelings for John or hatred for the killer.
The next few weeks I saw footage of the Beatles on specials that I had never seen before. Famous and non-famous people pouring their hearts out over the grief. Planned tributes from bands and everyone asking the same question…why?
My young mind could not process why a person would want to do this to a musician. A politician yea…I could see that…not that it’s right but this? A musician? Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and JFK were before my time. By the mid-1970s John had pretty much dropped out of sight…John and Yoko released Double Fantasy on November 17, 1980, and suddenly they were everywhere…Less than a month later John was murdered. The catchwords were Catcher in the Rye, Hawaii, handgun, and insane. The next day we were duly informed who killed John in the First, Middle, and Last name format they assign to murderers. I won’t mention his name.
I didn’t want to know his name, his career, his wife’s name, his childhood…I just wanted to know why… he says now…” attention”
I noticed a change happened after that Monday night. John Lennon was instantly turned into a saint, something he would have said was preposterous. Paul suddenly became the square and the uncool one and George and Ringo turned into just mere sidemen. Death has a way of elevating you in life. After the Anthology came out in the 90s that started to change back a little.
I called my dad a few days after it happened and he said that people were more concerned that The Beatles would never play again than the fact a man, father, and husband was shot and killed. He was right and I was among those people until he said that. Dad was never a fan…he was more Elvis, Little Richard, and country music… but he made his point. When my father passed in 2005 I thought about this conversation and knew he was teaching me again.
It was odd being into the Beatles at such a young age and after their time so to speak. While my peers were talking about all the contemporary artists at the time…all I talked about were John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I would end up comparing all the new music I heard to theirs…and that wasn’t fair at all. I would think to myself…well this song (any new song at the time) wasn’t as good as Strawberry Fields and so on. I, fortunately, grew out of that but it took a while.
Below is a video of James Taylor telling on how he met the killer a day before Lennon was murdered. Also Howard Sterns broadcast the day after.