The year was 1980, I'd just met my future husband and I was young and in love. College had recently started for me, it was different from my high school years... parties, friends, late nights, and happy days. I was mostly carefree, wanted for little, feeling loved and cherished. The world at my feet, I was invincible. The world a magical place, mine to explore. Embracing it everyday.
Then one evening, as I lay on the carpeted floor, laughing at some sitcom, thinking I should be doing homework, and occasionally sharing kisses; there was a breaking news story that made my heart pound. John Lennon had just been shot outside of the Dakota, his New York apartment building, by an unknown person. My heart nearly stopped, this couldn't be happening, he was my parents' age, maybe younger. A virtual child in the eyes of my grandparents (though one of those hippie rock and rollers).
As I lay on the floor, scare to move, wondering what could have happened, why anyone would shoot someone who had dedicated their life to the peace movement, the unthinkable happened. A teary eyed announcer came back on the air saying John Lennon was dead, shot dead outside of the Dakota. Pictures followed of people crying, Yoko Ono leaving, massive candles and cards strewn on the pavement surrounding the Dakota.
My instant thought was this was cracked, everyone loves the Beatles, and who signifies the Beatles more than John Lennon? CNN was barely in it's infancy, not available to our local cable company, but it didn't matter, John Lennon's story was on every network, the audience stunned and shocked. Later, it was revealed that a crazed fan, Mark David Chapman, who not hours before Lennon had signed an autograph for, shot John Lennon out of some sick misguided need to right an imagined wrong. As with all insanity, reason had left this damaged mind long ago.
This was the day, for me, the music died. I lost a little bit of my innocence that day, as I lay in arms of my future husband, crying for a man I never knew and at the same time, loved. Though I had never met the man, he had influence my life. My views on war, the death penalty, human rights all had been influence by the generation this man, who the Nixon administration had tried for years to deport, represented. And then I thought, if only Nixon had succeeded, he'd still be alive.
Maybe I would have never known who the Beatles were. Rock and Roll didn't live at my home, Dad was strictly country western, Mom lived and breathed Elvis. It was only because of my Aunt Debbie that I even knew who the Beatles were. She played every Beatles's scratchy 45 on a tinny turntable.
Dancing and singing into a microphone hairbrush, I laughed with her, joining in her dances, afterall I was only two or three, but I could do the Jerk, the Twist, fling my body to the beat. Until the day she packed her knapsack, slung her wine flask over her shoulder, with holey bell bottom jeans and a tie-dye tee shirt made in my grandmother's sink in a pair of sandals that had seen better days, she kissed us goodbye and left. Following the rockers she'd loved so much, it broke my dad's heart a little to see her leave, but there was no stopping Debbie when she was on a roll, the proverbially flower child.
Next time a saw her, she was with a huge hunk of an Alaskan man, warning me not to touch her doobie resting in the van's ashtray. This was years later, I was a teen, but I'll always wonder what Debbie's reaction was to the news, because she didn't come home again, her life was elsewhere.
It doesn't matter where you were, or even if you were alive at the time of John Lennon's death. It doesn't matter if you hate the Beatles. They are an icon in our society. My own children love the Beatles, know all their songs, know their faces, have all their albums. They were sadden with me when George Harrison passed away on November 29, 2001.
I often wonder what John Lennon would make of our society today, aside from our current wars, lack of health care, and inability to provide for the poor; I pretty sure I know his thoughts on those. But, look at the world of music today; iPods, iTunes, Rock Band where anyone with a TV and a game player can pretend to be a rock star.
Life amazes me, it always has. I was just a youngster when John Lennon left, and I hope he's still making music somewhere else with Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison, as well as many others. His legacy continues in all those his music influenced, in all those who enjoy listening to his music, and in his own children.
"If there's a rock n' roll heaven, well you know they've got a hell of a band." (The Righteous Brothers, 1974).