Monday, December 8, 2014

We miss you, John

34 years ago today I was getting ready for work. At the time I worked in downtown Chicago for Time Life Books. My best friend Pat called to tell me that John Lennon had been assassinated in New York. I was 33 years old, preparing for our wedding, and suddenly felt like reality was a dream.

We were all 15 and 16 when the Beatles invaded America. There is little doubt it was indeed an invasion. The four mop top lads were everywhere, on television, in the newspapers, magazines, all over the radio. I think at one point they had 5 songs in the top 10 in Chicago. My friends and I were completely blown away, Beatlemaniacs to the core. I owned every album as soon as it was released, every single, and attended all 3 of the Chicago Beatle concerts.

It is hard to explain to someone who didn't live through that era what the 1960's were like, what we felt. As baby boomers, we grew up with the imminent threat of nuclear war, the turmoil of early civil rights conflicts, and the election of the first Roman Catholic president. We listened as adults discussed that Nixon had lost to Kennedy in the election because of the televised debates, where Richard Nixon refused make-up, and the tanned, vibrant John F Kennedy represented a new American image. We sat in school on that horrible November day while principals announced that the President was dead, saw our teachers openly weep, and ask for prayers for the young widow and children.

In December, 1964 the Chicago stations started to play "I Want To Hold Your Hand", which was a hit in Britain and rapidly caught fire in the US. Kids wanted to smile, wanted to dance, wanted to forget about the hell of politics and the escalating war in Vietnam. We wanted to have fun again. The Beatles provided the permission. And, as a generation, we listened.

John Lennon could be sarcastic, at times edging on cruel with his remarks, but honest. Always honest. His lyrics hit home immediately. Fans learned how to distinguish between the songs composed primarily by John vs. Paul. We devoured every grain of information about the Beatles as a group, and about our individual favorite.

When the Beatles split up as a group, I was an adult, in the working world, and not inclined to follow them as individuals. I didn't like Yoko. Still don't. Most Beatle fans feel the same way. But the four men were still in the world, still existing, and there was always a tiny hope that the band would unite to perform one more time. Just one. On December 8, 1980 all of that hope was destroyed. Who knows what would have happened, what dreams could have been fulfilled. What incredible music could have been created.

Paul McCartney recently spoke publicly, for the first time, calling Mark Chapman the "jerk of all jerks" for murdering John Lennon. May you rot, Mark Chapman. You didn't just murder a brilliant musician, husband, father, and friend, you murdered a portion of our youth.

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