Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Imagine this: It was 30 years ago today...

Thirty years. (Yikes. Am I really that old??) December 8, 1980. I was a second-year arts student at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. It was evening, I think, after dinner, in my dorm room, and I was wrapping up essays and projects before heading home for Christmas break. A lot of my dorm mates had already departed.

I don't clearly recall, but I must have heard the news either on the radio or on my little black & white television set: John Lennon was dead. Shot & killed by a lone assassin outside his apartment building in New York City.

Shock. Utter disbelief. How could this be?

As I've written before on this blog, the Beatles had been a part of my life for almost as long as I could remember. I was a toddler when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show & changed music history. Some of my earliest clear memories were Beatle related: going to see "Help!" with my mother (& dreaming for years afterward about falling through trap doors into cellars with prowling tigers, and having Ringo's ruby ring stuck on my finger), watching the Beatles cartoon show & later bouncing on the bed at my grandmother's house with my cousin Catherine, singing "YEAH YEAH YEAH" at the tops of our lungs.

Ever since their breakup in 1970, fans had speculated and longed for the day when the Beatles might get back together again.

No more. Never again.

There's a story about how, in the early days of Saturday Night Live in the mid-70s, producer Lorne Michaels invited the Beatles to reunite on the show. This Wikipedia entry says that John & Paul were actually together in New York that day & joked about doing it, but never did. Some years later, when the "Anthology" series was broadcast on television, a greying George, Paul and Ringo did appear together on camera, reminscing about the old days, which totally choked me up.

For the next few days, I listened to the radio endlessly & watched the TV news reports, showing tearful crowds, gathered outside the Dakota and in Central Park, holding candles & singing "Give Peace a Chance," as if it were a dirge. There was no CNN in those days (at least, not where I lived) -- not the wall to wall, 24-hour coverage such an event would get now (and the Internet was still many years away).

But there was radio, and all the local pop & rock stations played Lennon's music & interviews nonstop. It reminded me of when Elvis had died a few years earlier. But Elvis had been in decline for some years. His death was a shock, but if you looked closely, you could have seen it coming -- the drugs, the excess weight. Lennon was just 40, in the prime of his life -- a life cut brutally short. He was on the comeback trail with a new album, "Double Fantasy," after spending several years at home, taking care of his son, Sean. He still had so much to give to the world. Ironically, the first single off the album was "Starting Over." It seemed like a cruel joke.

How different might music, the world, be today had he lived? He would be 70 (!) now.

(On a different but somewhat related note, it's also 28 years ago today that dh's mother passed away at the far-t00-young age of 53. I never met her -- but I know our lives today would be very different if she were still here too.)


  1. My mother was a huge Beatles fan and she used to play the Blue album in particular on an old battery-powered cassette player in our car when we went on long journeys. Everyone had their favourite Beatle - her's was George though! They are so much a part of my childhood and I can sing along to most of their songs. Don't know if anyone will match Lennon and McCartney as songwriters.

    So sorry your DH lost his mother so early - I know what you mean about how different things could be as my DH lost his Dad at almost exactly the same age and I wish I could have known him.

  2. Touching and thought evoking blog. Thanks for the post