Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. The legendary artist was killed by a lone gunman the night of December 8th, 1980 at the age of 40. His murder was an outrage – and ironic – the one who spoke so loudly against societal violence became a victim of senseless tragedy. A dozen years after the death of Kennedy and King, a new generation faced a loss, so unnecessary, but so American.
Lennon’s death became one of those “Do you remember where you were when you heard the news?” moments. I was a college freshman living on the 12th floor of Warren Towers on the Boston University campus. I recall many students displayed candles in the windows of the tower in his memory. There were a lot of windows in the three-tower dormitory.
For many, the breaking news came via Monday Night Football – back when there was only one night game a week. The Patriots were playing Miami and the Pats didn’t get the “game of the week” much in the 70’s and 80’s. The story went viral as quickly as any in its day, well before the internet and social media took hold of our daily lives.
There was a sense of collective mourning throughout the campus and the nation. No one criticized the deceased. His excesses, those provocative opinions, and his well-known mistreatment of women were off-limits to the media.
Lennon had just released Double Fantasy, an album that celebrated his life with Yoko Ono and son Sean. The release was initially panned by critics, many of whom softened their tone after his death. It eventually won a Grammy Award and has since ranked among his best recordings.
It’s often hard to find meaning in Lennon’s death; his loss still overpowers. He wouldn’t have been able to solve all of our problems, though he’d certainly be an important voice in the mix. I sense his Twitter feed would be quite active. It’s cliché to use the anniversary of his death to aspire to his vision, but we’ll do it anyway.
I’ll be playing songs from Lennon, the Beatles, and covers by other artists tonight on a special episode of my weekly radio show, The Kingston Coffeehouse on WRIU 90.3FM. Tune in for memories and more from 6-9PM. Click here or call it up on tunein.com.