I very much doubt that it could have escaped anyone’s attention that tomorrow marks the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death at the hands of crazed fan, Mark Chapman. He was 40 years old.
Naturally, I’d be interested to learn of your fondest memories of John Lennon and help recall the most memorable moments from a life lived in the relentless glare of every real and imagined spotlight, it seemed; such as those we shared for his fellow Beatle, George Harrison, just last week.
In addition, and as an aside, I’d also care for your views on Yoko Ono, specifically her handling of such a very public loss. I’m curious after re-reading an article – this one – first printed last year concerning what I thought at the time and still consider to be a very crass and tasteless exhibition of the blood-stained clothes worn by her husband on that fateful day in New York in 1980. You never fail to impress me with your consideration, wit and all-round decency, so I’ll say no more.
Just one sentence more, then. Last night the thought hit me for the first time, watching Sean Lennon talking about the impending anniversary of his father’s passing, that this poor woman has received nothing near the levels of sympathy usually granted to a grieving widow of a public figure so loved. What do you think?
If you care not for anything other than honouring the man’s memory by enjoying the bounty that he left, perhaps you’d also like to take a moment to remember those other musical talents whose lives ended abruptly and all too soon. Outside the realms of Rap and Reggae, where my knowledge fails me dismally I must confess, I can’t think of too many murders. In 1964, Sam Cooke, aged 33, was shot dead by the manager of a motel in which he was staying, allegedly in self-defence. The events leading up to the fatal shooting smack of controversy.
Marvin Gaye was also shot dead, it is claimed in self-defence, by his own father – in 1984. He was 44. Again, I’m technically incorrect in labelling it ‘murder’, seeing as Marvin Gaye, Sr. pleaded no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter and in turn received a six-year suspended sentence with five years’ probation.
Similarly exasperating is the sentence handed down to the man responsible for the death of bassist Jaco Pastorius in 1987. Felled by a nightclub bouncer at the age of 35, the sentence awarded was just two years (for involuntary manslaughter), less than eight months of which were spent behind bars, with five years’ probation.
Murder? Apparently not in the 1966 case of Bobby Fuller; found bruised in his car, reportedly doused in petrol, aged 22. Suicide, my arse.
There has been many a tragedy (Beach Boy Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983, aged 39; Steve Marriott of the Small Faces and Humble Pie perished in a house fire in 1991, aged 44), a great number of them occurring, somewhat predictably, on the road (drummer Cozy Powell, aged 50, in 1998; Metallica’s Cliff Burton in 1986, just 25; Duane Allman, aged 24, in 1971). Music history lists plenty of suicides (Del Shannon, in 1990, aged 55) and even more examples of artists overcome by their excess of choice. (In one of those you-couldn’t make-it-up stories that stuns you every once in a while, The Byrds’ Gram Parsons’ body was stolen by well-meaning friends following his death from an overdose in 1973, and a subsequent cremation attempt botched with horrible results. He was 26. Look it up if you dare.)
We cannot overlook the suspiciously swollen membership of the 27 Club, either.
But back to the enigmatic Lennon; all opportune gurning, slapstick tomfoolery and pardonable mischievousness, noble Flower Power pronouncements and the most beautiful idealism most obviously exemplified in the song that everyone is going to hear at least stray snippets of several times over tomorrow (so once more here to get you in the mood is not going to hurt).
Who can forget his cheeky request that the well-to-do, at the 1963 Royal Variety Performance, rattle their jewellery while those in the cheap seats clap their hands, before launching into a rasping rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’? This is my favourite Lennon moment. For all the controversy and sniping he generated, both in life and in death, and stepping aside from the merciless anger still directed at the one culpable for an unnecessary and premature loss, as with the memory of George Harrison, I will remember John Lennon with a smile. I hope you do, too.
The chatroom will be open tomorrow, by the way, from 2pm (UK).