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Lennon: It Was 25 Years Ago

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No death of any public figure in my lifetime made me sadder than John Lennon’s. I cried. I called friends. I sat up all night. I felt part of a blasted, bereft community.

I was too young to be affected by the deaths of JFK, RFK or MLK. But Lennon’s death broke my heart.

Heck, he lived only ten blocks away from me. I was sure I’d run into him sometime, perhaps in Central Park. Maybe we’d smoke a joint together.

He had a personal meaning for me: he was the arty, intellectual Beatle. The bolshie one: the rebel. Everything I wanted for my own identity.

I think the Plastic Ono album he made, the one after leaving the Beatles, was the best Beatles album. Stripped-down, raw, personal (more personal than the other guy who had personal meaning for me, Dylan): perhaps the most personal statement by any artist ever. Songs like “Mother” and “God.” Primal screams straight from the heart, guts, and marrow of the soul.

Christ, what we lost. The music he would’ve made. What would he have done about rap? His reaction would’ve been something else, because I’m sure he would’ve reacted to that music’s rawness. What would he have said about Bush?

NPR calls him “the late music legend and peace activist.” There is no other rock ‘n’ roller who’d be called something more than just something musical. That’s why he was different from all others, and why he still matters.

(ENJOYED this? More stuff like it on my irreverent blog at Adam Ash.)

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  • Nice piece, Adam. As a New Yorker, I always felt honored that John chose to adopt my city. That’s what New York has always been about: people coming here from all over and becoming us, and yet in some amazing way we all become them too.

    I think John was taken by NYC on his first visit as a Beatle (that night at the Playboy Club didn’t hurt). As the years passed, NYC became everything that he enjoyed and we in turn were lucky enough to have him amongst us.

    Over all the years, I only saw him once in person. What amazed me was that he was just walking down the street (no body guards or handlers or anything). Just John in T-shirt and jeans buying a paper and ambling down the block.

    I must say I was too shy (at 16) too approach him. I also didn’t want to seem like an idiot /groupie /nutcase.

    In some odd way I shared a few brief seconds with John in my home city. I mean, we even bought a newspaper from the same guy with no teeth. How much better can it get than that?

  • such such a tragedy. i don’t think anyone will forget where they were the day Lennon died. I certainly won’t. I remember every detail like it was yesterday and i remember going to my friend Suzie’s house and listening to Beatle’s records for hours and my mother telling me it was not “my generation” and why was i upset at all ~~~ such a blind view i thought and no understanding of how Lennon transcended and still transcends generation and genre.

  • uao

    One thing I remember, after the deejay on WPLJ (New York City) interrupted a Doors tribute with the news, was how, after about an hour of stunned silence, I flipped through the stereo and every station– the rock ones, the pop ones, the classical ones, the jazz ones, the college ones, even talk radio ones were playing Beatles or Lennon songs.

    It was eerie, turning the dial and hearing another Beatles song in a horrible new context, some on farawy stations; ghostly strains of “Norwegian Wood” crackling in from a distant, but also grieving universe.

    The shock and mourning the next day among the common folk in the street was heavy-duty; in my lofetime, only the day after the Challenger explosion or 9/12 compares.

    I didn’t have Double Fantasy yet, I’m ashamed to admit; I had every Beatle album and almost a complete Lennon colection, but “Starting Over” wasn’t what I had hoped for, and I was kind of disappointed by it, so I had put off buying the album. So the other 6 Double Fantasy songs from Lennon I heard for the first time on the night of 12/8-12/9/1980, posthumously, on countless radio stations across the dial.

    I bought the first posthumous copy of Double Fantasy in New York City at 8AM on 12/9, when J&R Music World opened, instead of going to school. By 12/10, any bin remotely connected to the Beatles in any way was cleaned out bare. Even Ringo’s solo albums. Even the cheapo “interview” albums. Even Paul McCartney’s cheapo interview album, released on, af all days, Dec. 7th, 1980.

    I was among the fans in Central Park, and outside of the Dakota that day, and at the memorial held in the park the following Saturday.

    That winter was later renowned for its cold.