It was once commonplace for people to recall where they were when they heard that John Kennedy was shot. It became almost cliche.
Well, that wasn’t my generation. I was one year old and not even living in the States at that point. For my generation the question revolved around a night 29 years ago today, when John Lennon was shot outside the Dakota while returning home from the recording studio.
Not in the same category as Kennedy? Perhaps not. But the funny thing is that I’ve always remembered when I heard the news.
I was in my first year of college, and working at a supermarket in Elmsford. We worked the late shift, and got off work at midnight. Prior to that we were in a news dead zone — too busy working to pay attention to headlines or listen to the radio. I was pulling out of the parking lot to head home when the news came on the radio.
The next day in school — I was at Westchester Community College at the time — the classes were half empty, and people were in tears all over the place. Many of us went down to the Dakota for a vigil. Others gathered in Central Park.
So, why the big deal?
Hard to explain. Lennon was in many ways a leftover for my generation. He was a former Beatle who embraced the concept of world peace and love. All of us were too young to have been hippies in the ’60s, but the message resonated with us in some way. And Lennon seemed to have continued to embrace those notions, even as we had become a more materialistic generation.
So it was the end of something. We all grew up on the Beatles, and heard Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Wings on the radio as we came into our teen years. To us, Lennon was the rebellious Beatle, and the one who stuck by his ideals. And it was as if we inherited Lennon and the individual Beatles from our older siblings: They had the Fab Four, we had the individual parts.
Then it just ended. I remember wishing I had paid more attention and appreciated his final album, Double Fantasy, more than I did. I didn’t particulalry like the album and thought it showed a mellower, less rebellious Lennon. I didn’t like that.
But it’s human nature to appreciate something a tad more when it’s gone. The funny thing is that every time Dec. 8 comes around I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was in my hand-me-down ’69 Dodge Dart, listening to the AM radio and pulling onto Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford.
Lennon would’ve been 69 now. Lord knows what his catalog of music would’ve been by this point. Imagine.
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