Thirty five years ago at 11:06pm the phone rang. I heard my mother tell the caller “he’s asleep”. I knew it was for me.
That entire day felt odd to me. Something weighed upon me. I was sad though I knew not why. I was depressed for no obvious reason. I was worried. I called a local radio station to request they play “I’m Losing You” from the just released Double Fantasy album. They didn’t have it, but offered to play the single (Just like) Starting Over. As I listened I heard something I hadn’t noticed before in all my listens. Well, I’d heard it, but paid no attention to it. There’s a fade out of sorts near the end of the song, then a drum fill brings the music back in. There’s a muffled voice at this point in the background. A muffled voice that I heard say “Why did they kill my baby?” It does not say that. In fact, its an announcement in an airport. But, I heard what I heard.
I walked into my mothers dark room to announce I was awake, picking up the phone sitting atop the television. Through a sleepy hello, I recognized the voice on the other end as my brother-by-choice Paolo.
Paolo and I had been, and still are to this day, friends since we were in diapers; literally in diapers. There was no one I loved more; no better friend; no one I was closer to. I introduced him to Star Trek. He introduced me to The Beatles. He forced two words for me: John’s dead.
They were meaningless words to me, so I asked him who was dead.
“John Lennon is dead.”
Still, the words meaningless, incomprehensible to me. I told him it was probably just a rumor. It could not be true. But, I heard his tears through the phone.
Double Fantasy was the first new album from John Lennon I’d ever experienced having found his solo work after he “retired” in 1975. This new album would surely produce a tour. I could actually see John Lennon live singing solo songs like Imagine, or Starting Over ,of course, Woman, most likely, Give Peace a Chance, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, or who knows what but please please please play Instant Karma, and maybe, just maybe some Beatles songs like I Wanna Hold Your Hand, probably not, but maybe Revolution, or In My Life, or Come Together. My wish list was already well developed.
I turned on the television. Anchor Jim Gardner’s words destroyed me.
“The big story tonight on Action News, the world mourns the tragic and senseless death of John Lennon, the former Beatle shot dead outside his Dakota home in New York. Howard Cosell interrupted Monday night football …”
I fell back onto my mothers bed. I have no idea if she offered me some words. I have no idea if she hugged me. I don’t remember. There was nothing else in that moment but Paolo and I in silent shock with our shared tears. At some point, we hung up.
The music of The Beatles inspired me to play guitar. I wanted to sing and write like John Lennon and play bass like Paul McCartney. His solo music like Imagine, Gimme Some Truth, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Woman is the N* of the World, Bring on the Lucie, Only People, along with his interviews helped shape my view of the world. John Lennon wasn’t a celebrity to me. Ok, he was, but he was more a mentor. I am who I am and think like I think today partly because of John Lennon.
I still remember the day when the news couldn’t be true, but was. I still remember people saying the heartbreak would pass, but hasn’t.
Remembering John Lennon, still.