It was thirty years ago today that we lost John Lennon. I remember the day well. I was away at boarding school in Vermont. The daily trek up a steep field to campus was getting easier. Our dining hall was massive and barn-like, with post and beam exposed wood. Giant windows looked south toward campus, and on the north side, toward a stunning view of rolling hills and apple orchards. As I passed the double doors that led into the kitchen, I spotted the little chalk board at the opposite end of the room by the stove. One of the cook's must have heard the news on the radio. It was just a brief message that John had died. Was it a joke? Or maybe some kind of stunt? For a few seconds, I couldn't really accept the news. But then I heard that our classmate and friend, a nephew of Yoko's, had rushed away to be with family. I remember that all of us spent the day in a kind of shock, thinking of our friend's loss and trying to fathom the greater loss to the world.
Remember John today. What was your first encounter with John Lennon as artist or activist? Do you remember the first time you heard his voice? What was the song? The first record I ever owned (that wasn't a children's album), was The Beatles Help. A friend of my dad's passed it down to me. I'm sure I heard the Let it Be album before this, but my first real memory of listening to his songs is playing Help over and over as a 5 or 6 year old. I had the US soundtrack version with the "James Bond" intro to the title track. Maybe that single experience is responsible for both The Beatles and James Bond in my life now? I also recall my imagination being really sparked by the photography on the record jacket, and later by the music and fashion in the film. There was something about that mid-1960s period that caught my eye then, and it continues to seduce me. And of course, I've spent the rest of my life learning about John's work and ideas. His impact on people and culture around the globe is unmeasurable.
Rolling Stone has printed their last interview with John. The website has a digital companion page to the piece, where you can access additional content, including video and audio files. Yoko encourages us to do something positive today. She has also shared a nice memory of having tea and enjoying daily life with John on her website. She invites others to contribute. Yoko Ono site here. My sound/film collage tribute to John and my experimental film/re-mix for Yoko Ono on my Youtube channel here. Read Spy Vibe's article about the surreal/satire boom in 1960s UK (with John Lennon!) here. Portrait still from Help! from the Beatles Photo blog here.