This is re-published from my old blog two years ago, with a couple of minor editorial changes, and a new closing comment.
threefive years ago, I woke up and my life was changed. I didn't realize it at the time, and in fact it was almost a decade before I even began to suspect the significance of the day, but it eventually became clear to me that this was the turning point. My life was headed in one direction before, and in another direction after I woke up and heard that John Lennon had been murdered.
This is extraordinarily difficult to explain. I grew up in a home where classical music always provided the background, and although the Ed Sullivan Show was definitely a weekly event in the house, I was quite late in developing any appreciation of rock 'n roll in general and the Beatles in particular. Although by 1980 I was a DJ for my college radio station, and pretty thoroughly caught up with a lot of the popular culture that I had ignored as a youngster, I still wasn't a big John Lennon fan. In fact, of the four Beatles, he was the one I had paid the least attention to over the years. I was affected by his death, however, far more than I knew, and far more than I ever would have anticipated.
It has nothing to do with music, really. Despite the fact that I was involved in college radio, and despite the fact that I had taken up guitar in my teens, I had no illusions of making any sort of career in the music business. Prior to that day, in fact, my intention had been to go to law school. After that day I wasn't at all sure what I was going to do, but deep down I knew that I wasn't going to do what I had previously thought I was going to do. There was no "Eureka" moment, and my eventual entry into the computer business didn't become inevitable until more than two years later. I never sat down and told myself "Well, John is dead, so it's time to set a new direction in your life." I was sad, as many other people were, and shocked as I think just about everyone was, but that's all. Or so I thought for a long time.
I'm not going to start publicly psycho-analyzing myself to try to explain all this. There's a narcissistic element to every blog, I think, but I don't really want to end this post with it being about me. You might be able to guess some of underlying truth, and it's fine by me if you do. If I provoke you to think a bit about some of the unexpected and possibly unsuspected events that changed the course of your life, that's even better. But my purpose in taking notice here of the effect that John Lennon's death had on my life is to remember John... a good, creative, and altogether extraordinary man. He touched many a life in his time, and after his time, in ways that he undoubtedly knew, and in ways that he couldn't possibly know. He probably never expected it, but he undoubtedly accepted it.
My memory of that day is extraordinarily clear and extraordinarily cloudy all at the same time. It was exam period, but I was not taking classes that semester. I had pulled an all-night radio shift the night of the Dec. 7th into the morning of the 8th, providing music for kids cramming for their finals the next day. I was supposed to set up and DJ an end-of-semester dance at my fraternity house the night of the 8th, so I decided not to crash during the day. I got everthing set up, got the dance started, but then turned the DJing over to a friend and went to bed early. I was sound asleep when it actually happened, but I woke up sometime in the very early morning, briefly, and heard a report on the radio. It didn't really register, though, and I was back asleep a minute later. Then I slept late into the morning, and woke up just knowing that something was wrong in the world, having a very vague memory of having heard something on the radio. Somebody had died, somebody significant... but I didn't know who. It was a very weird feeling. Then again, I soon found out who it was, and it's fair to say that the rest of the day was a series of all sorts of weird feelings. The sound system was still set up in the basement from the dance the night before. Nobody had bothered to take it down. I didn't have a radio shift scheduled that day, so I sat down there alone at the mixer and spun Beatles and John Lennon records for a long time, through the morning and well into the afternoon. A few people wandered through from time to time, but I was playing them for myself, and really for the first time thinking about all that John Lennon stood for, what he intended his music to mean and what it meant to so many people, and what his life -- and death -- meant.
It is very, very hard to believe that it was 25 years ago.
1. Stan Rogers12/08/2005 01:39:28 AM
I heard the breaking news bulletin. John Lennon was one of those people who was so well-known for so many reasons that it wouldn't have occurred to anybody at the network to explain further. There were no details at that point.
I was more than a bit of a fan -- I'd just that day completed a collection of Beatles records. Not collectables, for the most part, just playable vinyl. I was a bit more hot and cold about his post-Beatles work, but I had and listened to enough of it. I was holding a copy of that new Double Fantasy album and the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab half-speed-mastered pressing of Abbey Road (I couldn't find a "normal" copy anywhere) under my arm -- I'd just gotten home after an evening out.
I heard the news, and understood every word of what the announcer said.
"Somebody had died, somebody significant... but I didn't know who. It was a very weird feeling."
I heard the name. I knew who John Lennon was. Everyone knew who John Lennon was. But I didn't know who that John Lennon was. The guy the announcer was talking about. He had to be important -- my parents blanched at the news. My mind would not allow me to put the name and the man together.
2. Gregg Eldred12/08/2005 11:14:14 PM
Rich, yours is a much better, more thoughtful remembrance than my pathetic post:
Are we really getting that old?
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