Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon

My earliest musical memory is of riding somewhere with my father in our big tailfinned car. It is the era of tailfins. I'm sitting in the front seat. I must be two or three. My father has the car radio turned on, and he's singing along with the music. I can still hear my father's deep bass voice singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas." I do believe this song hit #1 on the charts back in those days? Looking back today, I find that hard to credit, like some far distant memory of an alternate reality.

Because when I was in grade school, reality began to shift. I remember seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. I remember listening to the Beatles on the radio.

I've never been a super Beatles fan, as a cousin of mine later became. I was no whiz on Beatles trivia, and to this day I'm sure there are Beatles songs I've never heard. But the Beatles and their music were a fixture in my world, as I was going through grade school and junior high. I knew something was shifting and changing in the culture around me, and I knew that somehow, music was an important part of it. To a kid entering seventh grade in 1968, it's not clear just what's happening, or how, or why. I never was that big on music, period. But if you'd asked me in those years, I'd have said that the Beatles were my favorite group. No question.

Fast forward now to December 1980. I'm in graduate school in math at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I've been out studying at the library. Finally, late into the evening, I head home. To the apartment building, a block or two off State Street. Up to the fourth floor, to the apartment I'm sharing with my brother.

I shut the apartment door behind me and lock it. I walk through the tiny kitchenette into the living room. I let my backpack drop from my shoulder onto the desk. I turn around to the right, not quite 180°.

My brother Steven calls to me from the bathroom: "Hey, did you hear? Some guy shot and killed John Lennon."

I stand there in the living room, beside the desk. Frozen. "Oh, shit."

I just stand there in the living room. Turned not quite 180°. Frozen. Staring off into blank space, defocused, staring off into the corner of the room.

Twenty-five years ago today.



Post a Comment

<< Home