Sunday, December 08, 2019


I woke up on Tuesday morning.

My sister was getting ready to work and had the radio on in her bedroom as I walked by.

The Beatles were coming out of the stereo. That, in itself, wasn't unusual. She -- probably more than anyone -- was responsible for hooking me on the Fabs when I was little. I loved when she would play things with their howling vocals, like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You."

I'd sing along, of course.

But on this Tuesday morning, the mood seemed somber.

She went on to tell me John Lennon was dead.

As I was 12, I missed the Monday Night Football announcement, when Howard Cosell told the world the horrible news.

Lennon had become a New Yorker and the rest of the week was a time of mourning like we've rarely seen. John had come to New York in 1964 with Paul, George, and Ringo for the first time. He quickly became enamored with the energy. He and Yoko would move to New York in the 70s.

The mourning of December 1980 concluded with a vigil near his department at The Dakota that stretched into Central Park.

The sadness went around the world, including his native England.

Death often elevates celebrities to heights of nostalgic popularity they never knew while alive (see: Prince), but celebrity essentially murdered John Lennon. Mark David Chapman, Lennon's assassin, came to New York expressly to kill John.

The one thing that can be safely assumed is that John did ascend to more popularity -- becoming nearly martyred. The music certainly became the star, and deservedly so. The activism, seen negatively by many in the 70s, became part of his charm. Largely forgotten was some of his more negative behavior, such as womanizing, and the "Long Weekend" that stretched between 1973-74 is now just part of the legend.

But it's the music that rightfully stays above everything.

With The Beatles, John created a legend that virtually any person could walk away from. His solo records could be considered uneven but certainly had glimpses of brilliance. "Imagine" is the secular hymn that we all need, while "Instant Karma" sits in the pantheon of the best post-Beatles singles.

That's only part of what made Dec 8, 1980 so awful. Lennon was only 40 and had just released his first album in five years. Fans -- me, included -- wanted to know what the 1980s would bring.

The Beatles individually would find middling levels of success in the decade, with Paul finding hits that some -- again, me -- cringed at. "Ebony and Ivory," anyone?

Ringo wouldn't chart much at all and George would come back big with both Cloud Nine in 1987 followed by the Travelling Wilbury's. We'd lose George to cancer in 2001.

But we'll never know anything about John. I've always suspected that The Beatles might have come back together for Live Aid, given their philanthropic ways and 60s search for peace.

But, we'll never know.

In fact, in an interview with Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, John actually suggests that The Beatles could work together again one day. Of course, there's also the fateful night when Lorne Michaels offered $3,000 for The Beatles to reunite on Saturday Night Live.

Lennon and McCartney were watching it together at The Dakota and, for a moment, thought about actually going.

Consider John and Paul rarely saw each other, the coincidence of the situation was startling.

So this is what we're left with. Yoko now represents John, along with son Sean. Paul lost Linda and has remarried twice. Olivia Harrison and son Dhani are there for George, and Ringo remains Ringo, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

John Lennon lost his life that night. We all lost a level of innocence that has since poured out in songs from Elton John ("Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)") to George Harrison ("All Those Years Ago") to Paul McCartney ("Here Today").

Next year will be 40 since he died.

Still, we all shine on.

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