We all remember where we were at certain particular points in time when tragedy hits. On the night that John Lennon was murdered I was sitting in my room listening to records. I was 19 years old at the time. My mother opened the door and looked at me and said “I have some bad news, John Lennon was murdered.” Like all of us who heard the news at first, there was this complete sense of shock and pain that was incredibly intense the first couple of minutes. In a somewhat selfish sense, my first thought was, ” that’s it, The Beatles are gone forever.” I don’t think I was the only one thinking that. It had only been about 10 years since The Beatles broke up. There were always constant rumors about a reunion that were usually shot down by John Lennon himself. We were always reading about multi million dollars offers for The Beatles to reunite for one concert for charity. Stuff like that was constantly in the news. There was still this very real feeling The Beatles would get back together again. The Beatles would record another album, go on tour, it would happen. So many of us believed that.
All of those hopes that The Beatles would get back together disappeared instantly the night John Lennon was murdered. Yes, of course, again those are selfish thoughts. In reality, a woman lost her husband and two sons lost their father. That’s the real tragedy. Losing your father is one of the most painful things anyone goes through in life. Many of us lose our fathers through sickness or old age. To have your father murdered at such a young age would cause anyone to lose all hope in humanity possibly forever. John and Yoko’s love affair was one for the ages. There are no words to describe the pain she must have endured and still does.
It’s amazing how the concepts of time changes as one ages. As someone approaching a 60th birthday, a span of ten years does not seem like a long time anymore. But that ten year span between the ages of ten and twenty, or even fifteen and twenty five can seem like a hundred years. It had been just about ten years since the Beatles had broken up when John Lennon was murdered in 1980, but it seemed so much longer than that when we were all growing up in the 1970s. The decade of the 1970s showcased many changes in music culture. The explosion of the soft rock scene in the early 70 juxtaposed against the heavy sounds of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the flourishing of progressive rock caught all of our attention deeply. So much happened musically between 1970 and 1975, it just seemed to stretch the time out. Of course the four ex-Beatles all released solo albums that fans waited for with eager anticipation. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr steered more towards the safe pop side while John Lennon and George Harrison both released albums and singles that resonated more with politics and social issues.
John Lennon’s solo work in the first half of the 1970s further enhanced his reputation as an artist with a voice who commanded more respect than any other. It was a respect earned from caring about peace and calling out social and political injustice. John Lennon became very powerful. Yet, it was a power meant to do good things through his music, his lyrics, and at times his statements. It had started with The Beatles and carried over heavily into his solo career. Songs like “Imagine,” and “Give Peace A Chance,” have become so much more than just songs. They are anthems that will last for generations. At least for those who have the social conscious that John Lennon was trying to raise.
John Lennon disappeared from the music business for the most part in the second half of the 1970s. Like many men who begin to reach their mid 30s, perspectives change. John Lennon became a family man focused on raising his son Sean. John Lennon left the spotlight and began living the family life on the Upper West side of Manhattan. Music completely changed in the second half of the 1970s. Disco, punk, new wave all dominated the clubs and the airwaves. Sean and Yoko dominated John Lennon’s life. It must have been exhilarating to live a simple life for a while after all that John Lennon had been through as A Beatle. On the might of December 8th 1980, the life that Lennon had found was taken away by as person as despicable as there ever was.
I don’t remember what album I was listening too when my mother told me the news that John Lennon was murdered. I remember sitting there frozen and thinking those thoughts I shared in the first paragraph. After a few minutes of thought, I needed to know more about what happened. I did what most people did in the 1970s when they wanted more news…. I turned on the radio. I tuned into WNEW FM in New York and heard Vin Scelsa’s voice talking about the murder. I never heard Vince Scelsa speak in the tone he was talking in. He said a few words and then played Bruce Springsteen’s “JungleLand.” I later found out that “JungleLand.” just happened to be the song that was on the turntable. But at that moment it sounded like it was the song that he picked to play. It was a haunting moment as I listened to those string sounds at the start of the song. I have heard that song hundreds of times, but in that moment, it sounded more real then ever, more important than I ever thought a song could be. It had nothing to do with Lennon’s murder lyrically, but in some sense of meaning beyond what I could understand at that age, it hit hard.
So many of us have wondered what life would have been like the past forty years if John Lennon had not been murdered in 1980 and was still alive in 2020. All those songs that he never got a chance to write as he aged. Its safe to say that he would have called out all of the BS we have had to deal with from pollical leaders that lie through their teeth. We all would have listened to Lennon, like we did in the 60s and 70s. We all would have tried to change the world like he tried, we all would have a least given it a chance……
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