Short Attention Span Theater…The Day The Poetry Died.
It was December 8th, 1980.
The Day The Poetry Died.
There were no cell phones...
There was no internet...
There was no twitter...
Facebook nor Myspace did not yet exist.
There was barely even cable tv, let alone CNN, MSNBC or Fox News. Back in 1980, we had to rely on an old school medium called network tv to get our news and those only came on at 5, 6 and 11 pm.
I heard the news while watching Monday Night Football. The Miami Dolphins were playing the New England Patriots; two teams I had little or no interest in. But as kicker John Smith prepared to try his third field goal of the night, the news came across the wire, delivered by Howard Cosell, that would change my life...
John Lennon had been shot and killed on the street outside his New York City apartment.
To me Lennon was more than a recording artist. He was a poet of the people, who's words cut beyond class or color or religion. There were many who believed that he was anti-religion, or anti-success or anti-this or anti-that. The only thing Lennon was anti-, was anti-class separation. He believed that all people were equal, no matter their lot in life. That all people deserved the same respect, no matter how far up or down the ladder their wrung rested. His music struck a chord with a youngster that had just picked up his first guitar and began to break down the chord structure of Sgt Peppers and Hey Jude. He was proof that a kid from a working class background could become whatever he wanted based on the talent he was given.
I was stunned. I could not leave my house for three days afterwards. My parents, for the most part, understood. My mother, who was the predominate influence in my early life, had been a huge Elvis fan and had felt a similar shock and loss when "The King" died on his throne. And my father, who was influenced by Buddy Holly, had too felt the loss when his musical hero passed tragically.
Lennon had just recently returned to the public eye after 7 years, which he referred to as his "lost weekend" in interviews. He had released his first new album in that time, Double Fantasy only a month earlier and had excitedly returned to the studio to begin work on a follow-up. All the music that could have been, was silenced. The musical poetry that might have helped mold minds yet to listen would be forever gone, silenced by the acts of a man that have still, to this day yet to be explained.
Minutes later, Mark David Chapman, a lone gunman, was arrested by police and charged with Lennon's murder. Lennon had been returning home with wife Yoko Ono after a recording session when he was approached by Chapman and shots rang out. The singer had been rushed to New York's Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:07 EST of multiple gunshot wounds.
The music was gone. The poetry was dead.