Today on Blogcritics
Home » The Night John Lennon Died

The Night John Lennon Died

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

It is inconceivable to me that it has been 30 years since a maniac came out of the night and assassinated John Lennon. What’s worse is it happened in my city. This was the place where John and the Beatles first broke into the American consciousness, and now in this his adopted city he was taken much too soon. I still can’t even believe that he is gone, but his enormous contribution to music and his amazing spirit certainly live on and on.

The night before John died I had what I’ve always thought was a foreshadowing of his death. I was on the phone with my friend Ralph. He was in the Air Force and home on leave. We were talking about how we were going to get together the next night to celebrate his return, and I was sitting on my sofa looking up at the shelf on my wall, where I had the four individual pictures of the Beatles that came with the White Album in frames. As I was talking with Ralph, the frame with John’s picture in it toppled off the shelf. Nothing precipitated this event: no rumble of the subway below, no bus going by outside, no helicopter flying low overhead. It just fell.

At the time I thought it was weird but nothing else. When I got off the phone I got up and put the picture back in place, staring briefly at John’s face and remembering when I saw him in Manhattan a couple of years before. It was only the second time I had ever seen him in person (the first being when he walked on stage during an Elton John concert at Madison Square Garden). He had been walking down the street, hands in pockets, rather nonchalant and happy. When I saw him he looked at me, and he knew I recognized him even in his sunglasses and hat pulled down a bit. He gave me a little smirk and something like a nod, and I wanted to say something, but my tongue was infinitely tied in knots, and it is best I did not blurt out something stupid. John kept walking and so did I, my hands shaking for blocks. I had just seen John Lennon.

The next night Ralph and I met some friends in a bar in Queens in the shadow of Shea Stadium, where John and his mates once rocked the house. We were there to ostensibly watch Monday Night Football, but the bar was filled with people and music. It was decorated for Christmas, and there was a jovial mood filling the place.

We all talked and talked. Ralph told us about life in the Air Force. He was stationed in Greenland and he couldn’t talk about this and that. We started talking about high school and various teachers, and the night went by very quickly. As it started getting late, our friends who had to work the next morning left. Ralph was on leave and I was in college and had no classes on Tuesday mornings, so we sat at the bar and started watching the football game.

Only a few minutes had gone by when a special news bulletin broke into the program. The announcer spoke stiltedly as she said that there was word that John Lennon had been shot outside the Dakota Building. He was being rushed to the hospital. Ralph and I just looked up at the screen, and everyone in the bar stopped and stared at the screen with us.

The game came back on for a time. Someone pulled the plug out of the jukebox, and the patrons all crowded around the bar and watched the TV waiting to hear an update. I don’t know how long it was until the next news bulletin came on, but the grim face of the news anchor Kaity Tong told it all. Before she spoke, the room was so quiet, I could hear the taps dripping behind the bar.

She confirmed that John Lennon had died at St. Luke’s Hospital. I felt myself shaking, worse than when I had seen John on the street; I felt like I was convulsing. Ralph hung his head and stared at his hands. Behind me I could hear some of the girls crying, the men too, and the bartender who looked like a professional wrestler complete with bald head and tattoos kept wiping the tears from his eyes.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com Tom Degan

    When a celebrated person passes on, we may pause and reflect for a moment on his or her life and career, but then we move on. We may watch with appreciation the brilliant performance of a long dead James Dean in the film Giant and think not a thing about his absence from our lives. That’s not the case in this instance.

    I sure do miss John Lennon.

    It is ironic, and maybe even fitting, that our final vision of him is not as the sweet old curmudgeon we always knew he would turn out to be – but as the Lennon of 1980: Forever young, eternally whimsical, steadfastly defiant, deadly serious, and hopelessly silly – all of the paradoxes that were combined in this one incredible, enigmatic persona.

    I’ll say it again. I sure do miss John Lennon.

    I won’t recap the events of that horrible moment thirty years ago tonight. It’s too painful a memory. I’ll close by saying that those of us who are old enough to remember are fortunate to have lived during the period that John Lennon thrived. On this, the seventieth anniversary of his birth, it’s best not to dwell on the manner in which he died, or on all that might have been. I think it’s best that we reflect on a wonderful life, nobly lived – and the music – that beautiful, timeless music. Dream. Dream away. Magic’s in the air….

    Tom Degan

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Beautiful tribute, Vic.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thank you, for your comments, Tom and Jon. They’re appreciated.

  • Gino De Lucia

    Victor: Just a few lines to let you know that I enjoyed & appreciated this awesome and inspiring article on John; and that like you~ I choose to celebrate his life and not his death. Thank you!