Paulelmo's Blog

When it’s more than just a football game; remembering the tragic death of John Lennon

100+ John Lennon, 1970's ideas | john lennon, lennon, the beatles

I haven’t watched an NFL football game in quite some time, probably three years or more, but it seemed to matter to me to watch the Cowboys and Ravens game last night. That isn’t because I really cared who won or that I thought watching it would be all that enjoyable to me; rather, last night was the 40th anniversary of another game that I watched when I was a boy.

Forty years ago last night I was watching the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Being a Buffalo Bills fan at the time–my relationship with that team would end when my favorite former Bill, OJ Simpson, led police on that white Bronco chase a few years later–I stayed up for the whole game, as both of those teams were in my team’s division. Otherwise, I would have possibly been asleep when Howard Cosell announced that John Lennon had been murdered outside his apartment in New York.

Despite not realizing just how significant a death it was in the rock and roll world, I knew enough to know that it was a death of more than average importance. My mother had the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today 8-track when we were kids, and I knew a lot of other Beatles songs from the radio. I also knew the significance of “John, Paul, George, and Ringo,” but I never delineated them in such a way that would lead me to have a favorite Beatle.

What hit home for me was that it was the first rock and roll death of significance for me. I recalled the day when Elvis died, but Elvis was old people music to me; John Lennon was a Beatle, and it mattered.

Over these 40 years, I have, of course, grown to know how big of a blow that night was to the music world, and even if it didn’t matter as much to me then as it did to others, it has come to mean more to me. For that, I’m glad that I can recall where I was when the news broke. It was sad news, yes, but I’d rather have learned about it like that than not.

Over the years, my appreciation of John Lennon and the Beatles has indeed grown, and, while I wish I’d known more of their work earlier and that John had been around to produce more, I’m thankful for the gifts they gave us.

Here are just a few of the songs that John Lennon gave to this world, which have made a big impression on me. A deranged man’s bullets could take his life, but they couldn’t erase what he had done while he was here, and, for that, we can be grateful.

“Starting Over,” the first single off the album Double Fantasy, was Lennon’s current hit on the radio when he was murdered in 1980. I loved then as much as I do now.
“Watching the Wheels,” the third single off Double Fantasy, was released a couple months after John’s death. I wonder if the significance of his death made me like it even more than I did. I imagine it had to have done so, given how sad it is that the man who is singing these words has been taking out of the game. Still, it’s such an exquisite song that I was bound to love it no matter what.
I can’t imagine any song that is a more quintessential 60s pop-rock tune than “Help.” You just jump on and enjoy the ride. This playful video really highlights the run of the tune plus the band, as they were no longer the four innocent lads Americans had seen on Ed Sullivan. It’s such an excellent piece of who we were in the 20th Century.
Some people might find this an odd choice, but I’ll tell you, few Beatles songs hit me as hard as this one did the first time I heard it. It will always be one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, and on some days it’s my favorite. It’s one of those songs that I never skip when it comes up on the shuffle, nor do I think I ever will.
Yes, some will find me remiss for sharing five John Lennon songs and not including “Imagine.” I’ll suffer the backlash. I figure “Imagine” has been played and heard plenty lately. Plus, while I’ll also get some backlash for saying it, I don’t think “Imagine” is the quintessential Lennon song. I think this is. Read the lyrics included here; the message is simpler and more direct than that of “Imagine,” but it’s no less deep and poignant.

***

So, there you have it, friends. Just a little offering from a man who was taken from us too soon. It would have been nice to see what all greatness John would have had in store if he’d lived longer, but, since he didn’t, how blessed we are to have what he did do while he was here.

Thanks for reading and listening, my friends. I hope this little bit of sharing has uplifted you as much as it has me.

I hope to see you back here sometime soon. Until then, wear your masks, and be kind to one another.

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