Tuesday, December 08, 2015


Yesterday we marked the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

I wasn’t around for it, but The War brought about my existence, as my father – who joined the Navy shortly after December 7th – met my mother while he was stationed in downtown Chicago for the last couple of years of the war. Don’t laugh. Someone had to keep Navy Pier safe. And, as my father used to say, you went where Uncle Sam sent you. In his infinite wisdom, Uncle Sam sent my father to Norfolk, Virginia; Trinidad; and beautiful downtown Chicago.

Today we observe an inventory of far different weight and importance: 35 years ago, John Lennon was killed in front of the building where he and Yoko lived, The Dakota.

I was in business school at the time, and went through one of those “I heard to news today, oh boy” moments when I heard that Lennon had been shot.

By the time Lennon was killed, I wasn’t a particular fan one way or the other.And in high school – little snob that I was – I was reluctant, late-comer Beatles fan. I liked Bob Dylan. I liked Tom Rush. I liked Simon and Garfunkel – they were “deep.”

But the Beatles were fun, and after a period of initial stand-offish-ness, I jumped on board and became at least a moderate fan.

No, I didn’t jump up and down screaming at the thought of them, but I watched them on Ed Sullivan. I went to see Hard Day’s Night and Help. And, if you put the (metaphorical) needle down on any (metaphorical) album, I’ll pretty much be able to sing it through without missing a word.Not to mention that I went out and bought John Lennon’s books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.

It probably goes without saying that John – the brainy one – was my Beatle. Paul was the cute one, George the sensitive one, and Ringo was the goofball. Process of elimination, I was a John fan. (On an earlier front, my Cartwright brother of choice on the cornball Western, Bonanza, was Adam. Adam was the brooding, brainy one. Little Joe was the cutie, and Hoss was the goofball. The guy who played Adam took the brooding, brainy part to heart and quit the show because he considered it a cartoon.)

I didn’t figure out until years later that John was also the mean and nasty one. I found him brilliant and witty.

In any case, I felt terrible that John Lennon was killed.

I can’t remember if we knew that night that he was dead.

There was no 24 hour news cycle to tune into. You heard things on the radio, watched the standard news shows at their regular times, and picked up the newspaper the next morning.

Having started the year before during the Iran hostage crisis,Ted Koppel’s Nightline was on at 11:30, and I was a pretty regular watcher for years. So I probably pulled myself away from the books – it was end of semester time at Sloan and I was studying and/or working on papers – to watch Nightline, and I suspect that, on December 8th, the topic was
John Lennon.

If cable news was around, I didn’t get it on my tiny black and white TV.

Thirty-five years ago…

I never saw the Beatles in concert, but I did see John Lennon on stage at one of the marches on Washington to protest the War in Vietnam. He sang – and we (all half million of us) sang along with him – “All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace a Chance.”

John Lennon may have been a nasty a-hole, but he didn’t deserve to get gunned down in cold blood. And he sure did have a lot to say that still rings true.

Thirty-five years ago…Imagine that.

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