It was 30 years ago today that Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon. Ironically, it was sportscaster Howard Cosell who broke the story on Monday Night Football while standing next to Dandy Don Meredith – who died earlier this week – in the MNF broadcast booth. The little clip of Cosell’s delivery of the news lets those of you who weren’t around back then know just how big this news was. . . .
Lennon’s death was one of those events that served as a marker during my life’s early years. As with most kids, many of my life’s markers were pop culture events, more proof that pop culture serves some powerful roles in our lives. I was only seven-years-old when the Beatles made it big. . . but I remember it. When they came to America for the first time in early 1964, we talked about it in school and in our neighborhood. It was huge. And I will never forget the morning that I was standing at the school bus stop a block from our home when John King showed up and told us that the Beatles had broken up. It was appropriate that John was the bearer of the shocking news as he and his younger brother both wore their hair like the Beatles, a fitting look for a couple of guys from the neighborhood who already had musical talent and a pretty good little band.
I wrote about John Lennon, his wife Yoko Ono, and markers in my book Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture. The strange, eccentric, and avant-garde duo left quite an impression on my young mind. In hindsight, their unusual antics and art marked the beginning of postmodernism’s obvious influence on pop culture. In 1968, the Rock & Roll Circus concert film was released. It featured some outrageous footage of Ono performing in an all-star band. Her performance included some shrill screaming and rolling around in a black sack. Interesting, or at the very least, weird. Then there was the week’s worth of broadcasts of The Mike Douglas Show featuring Lennon and Ono as cohosts.
Thanks to YouTube, this morning I was able to rewind back to that week and found a great little clip of Chuck Berry and John Lennon performing Berry’s famous song “Maybelline.” It was a great moment with two icons of Rock & Roll sharing the stage. And then comes Ono. . . . . It’s a clip you need to watch to not only get a sense of the times, but to get a good laugh.
As I watched, I realized that my opportunity to have a moment in rock and roll history had passed and I had missed it. Here, all along I’ve been thinking that I lacked the talent to make it in the music industry. But in this little clip, Ono proves my thinking wrong. After all, I can keep time with my hand on a drum, and I’m certainly at least OK when it comes to yacking away like a monkey.
Anybody got an opening in their band for a 54-year-old one-handed bongo drummer who can make funny noises????