Saturday, December 8, 2007
Monday, December 8, 1980
“This, we have to say it, is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses,” Cosell said. “An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous perhaps of all the Beatles, shot five times in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead ... on ... arrival.”
This was how millions of people, including my father, heard the news, late at night, during the Monday Night Football Game.
I woke up the next day for school and walked into my parents room to tell them I didn't feel well. My father told me what happened. I spent the entire day listening to the radio and watching the news reports and tributes.
For the first time in my life Walter Cronkite reported on something that I could relate to, the death of a man I never knew, but that meant something to me. I recorded Cronkite's words on a Sears tape recorder, holding the microphone to the TV. I knew that for the first time I was part of something that effected people like me - all over the world.
If the same thing were to happen today, how much more of a media frenzy would we see, and would that frenzy make the central event – the death of a famous and relatively young father, husband and musician – seem larger or smaller?
I don’t know the answers with any certainty, but I fear that the central fact – the story of the death – would become smaller than the story of the story. That’s something to chew on some other time, though.
When I look back, the events of December 8, 1980, just become sad. I, like all other Beatles fans, lost something that night. And I think it took some time – more than days, more than weeks, maybe more than months – for that to sink in.
Paul McCartney, confronted in the early morning with the news of Lennon’s death as he emerged, tired, from a recording session, could muster no more than, “It’s a drag, innit?” His seeming callousness brought bitter criticism. But think of this: How would any one of us react when told, at the end of a long workday and in the view of a phalanx of cameras, of the death of our childhood friend and long-time business partner? Would we have the words? Most likely not. It takes some time for the import of any life-changing event to sink in.
And when it sank in, over months, Paul did for his friend the best he could. I saw McCartney in concert in Tampa in 2005, and maybe midway through the show, he said he was going to perform a song he wrote “for my dear friend, John.” There was applause, and McCartney said, “Yeah, let’s hear it for John!” and the crowd erupted with one of the loudest and longest ovations I have ever heard.
And then McCartney took up his guitar and performed the song he wrote for his dear friend, John: “Here Today,” today’s download.
Paul McCartney – Here Today (1982)
3.46 MB mp3 at 192 kbps