Remembering John Lennon
By John M. Borack
Author of John Lennon: Life is What Happens
It was a typical Monday evening which quickly turned atypical.
I was sitting in the kitchen of my parents' suburban California home on the evening of
December 8, 1980, working on a paper for a college sociology class with Monday
Night Football on the television in the background, when suddenly I was jarred by
sportscaster's Howard Cosell's words:
". . . John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York
City, the most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to
Roosevelt Hospital. . . dead on arrival."
Cosell's dramatic intoning of the words "dead on arrival" sent a shiver down my
spine. My heart sank. I dropped my pencil and stared at the small television
screen, anxiously awaiting more information on what I was sure had to be some sort of
horrible mistake. John Lennon dead? No! Why? His comeback album (a
joint release with wife Yoko Ono) after a self-imposed five-year recording hiatus, Double
Fantasy, had been released just a few weeks earlier, with the '50's - - flavored
single "(Just Like) Starting Over" already becoming a top 5 hit. Lennon
was clearly back and in fine form, and now. . . this.
For the next week or so I remained glued to the television and radio as the tragedy and
its aftermath unfolded. As a young and sensitive Beatles and John Lennon fan, I was
swept up in the waves of emotion, weeping at the drop of a hat as I listened to Lennon's
recordings for hours on end. Finally, it all became too much for my old-school
father, who had become an avid John Lennon hater after I had the audacity to play Lennon's
tune "God" one too many times on the family's car stereo . (This was about as
rebellious as my well behaved, 18-year-old conformist self would ever get.) The
lyric "I don't believe in Jesus" in particular raised the hairs on the back of
my dad's neck, so he had very little sympathy during my extended mourning period.
"Why the hell are you crying?" he'd ask me. "It's not like you knew
him or like he was a member of your family."
With all due respect to my father, he could not have been more wrong.
I first made John Lennon's acquaintance as a 5-year-old, ironically when my father
purchased me a copy of the Beatles' "All You Need is Love"/"Baby You're a
Rich Man" single. It was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with John
Lennon and the Beatles, one which continues to this day. Why? It's
simple, really; John Lennon was - and remains - a legend. Legendary not only for his
incredible singing and songwriting skills, but also because he was a true renaissance man
- author, artist, political activist, pop culture icon, peacenik and so much more.
Lennon and the Beatles were at the forefront of the cultural revolution of the '60s, with
an entire generation seemingly following their lead. Like millions of others, I
looked up to the man who always stood up for what he believed in, said what was on his
mind and did what he felt was right, consequences be damned.
And of course there were his songs. . . at turns wistful ("Imagine"), melancholy
("Julia"), angry ("Gimme Some Truth"), playful ("Whatever Gets
You Through the Night"), raw ("Working Class Hero"), controversial
("Woman is the Nigger of the World"), autobiographical ("Help") and
quite beautiful ("#9 Dream"). It is through these and countless other
timeless songs that I developed a personal connection with John Lennon. It was the
gift of his music - - music in which he often bared his soul to the world - - that allowed
me and millions of others to feel like he was close enough to be family.
Nearly 13 years after John Lennon's murder, I was visiting my father, who was very ill
with cancer. He was bedridden and by this time had mellowed considerably. I
was chatting with my mother in the kitchen when suddenly he called to me from his bed. I
walked into the bedroom and he pointed to the television set. "Who sings this
song," he asked. I turned to look at the TV and heard the strains of
"Imagine" coming from the set. "Dad, that's John Lennon," I
replied gently, unsure as to how he would react.
"John Lennon," he whispered. "I love that song. 'Imagine all the
people living life in peace.' That's nice." I walked over and sat next to
him on the bed and held his hand. "I love it too, dad."
A few months later, on August 19, 1993, my father passed away. To this day, every
time "Imagine" comes on the radio, I still find it difficult to listen without
tears welling up in my eyes, intertwined with memories of John F. Borack and John Lennon -
my two heroes.
© 2010 John M. Borack, author of John Lennon: Life is What Happens
John M. Borack, autho of John Lennon: Life is What Happens, is a
Beatles collector and a Southern California-based music journalist whose reviews, columns
and feature articles have appeared in periodicals such as Goldmine and Amplifier.
Borack has also contributed to The Trouser Press Guide to '90's Rock, and has
penned the extensive notes for Rhino Records' Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the
'80's, and has served as executive producer for the CD compilations Right to
Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited.
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