December 8, 2010

"An unspeakable tragedy..."

30 years ago....

68 comments:

rdkraus said...

Heard this clip on the radio today (and when it first aired too). They also played the discussion in the booth during commercial about whether it was proper to discuss "during a football game." Surprisingly, I think it was Tarkenton and Gifford who said yes, and Cosell at first said no. But they convinced him and he made the call

Scott M said...

I was a little too young to understand the impact of what had happened and my folks were John Denver/Neil Diamond types. I only came to understand it a little later through relatives that were bigger Beatles fans.

I'd say the greater tragedy is that Yoko Ono actually has a CD box set in her catalog.

Ann Althouse said...

Anticipating that some of you would like to take a shot at me about Elizabeth Edwards in this thread, I've put up a separate post as a place for you to do that. Anything on that subject in this comments thread will be deleted.

This thread must be restricted to memorializing John Lennon and reflecting on the event that took place 30 years ago.

MadisonMan said...

If it was unspeakable, then we couldn't talk about, could we?

chickelit said...

It was a Sunday night right? I was working at a small grocery store in Madison on State St. when I first heard it on the radio.

No matter how whacked out and predictable the guy's politics were, his effect on music and other artists was profound. I enjoyed reading Keith Richards' memories of him.

Marshal said...

"This thread must be restricted to memorializing John Lennon and reflecting on the event that took place 30 years ago."

Can we reflect on the misplaced priorities in which a singer is lionized the day after the Pearl Harbor anniversary was ignored as long as we don't mention she who must not be named?

SteveR said...

I was watching the gane and remember it like you do certain events, where you were, what you were doing in great detail.

I had the unrealistic thought of a reunion, which ended, and I suppose some other things ended as well.

AllenS said...

Marshal,

The Althouse Woman doesn't do military, unless it has something to do with gays not being accepted.

I wasn't surprised when Lennon was shot. There are a lot of crazies walking around, and having been to New York a couple of times, there's more there than anywhere. Lennon led an overly risky lifestyle. It was bound to happen.

shoutingthomas said...

Yes, it was a terrible tragedy. Nobody has the right to take a life of another.

And, yet, I'm going to speak the obvious and unspeakable about Lennon.

He couldn't shut up about his ambitions to be a martyr, although it was never very clear what he wanted to be a martyr for. World peace? What in the hell is that?

On his own, Lennon was a terrible musician, a self-pitying screecher. Without McCartney and Harrison, he was free to unleash his worst side. His psychotherapeutic albums are some of the worst crap ever recorded. He was a self-indulgent baby.

And, he kept on yapping about how he was going to save the world and get crucified.

This is an incredibly stupid thing for a public figure to do. It's like throwing out raw meat for every crazy dog on the earth to chase down.

So, yeah, it's a terrible tragedy for the same reason any loss of life to violence is a tragedy.

It's also a good lesson for anybody in the public eye. If you keep yapping about being Jesus Christ, and wishing that somebody would martyr you, you can bet that some lunatic is going to take you literally and grant you your wish.

No, I'm not saying Lennon asked for it. But, if you ever find yourself in the eye of the public, I'd suggest that you don't behave like John Lennon.

john said...

I wasn't alive then, but my father described the horror of that day to me. It was a warm-for-December afternoon, he recalled, and he and my mom, just married, were moving boxes into their new house when a neighbor, just hearing the news on the radio, ran outside screaming to the whole neighborhood.

Very soon afterward my dad was conscripted into the Army, and fought those bastards for 3 years in the Pacific campaign.

Opps, that wasn't the "Unspeakable tragedy" of this thread. I guess I should have clicked on the link

Chad said...

Agree with Shoutingthomas, he was a leftist goon who got what he was asking for. I am going to dance on his grave as soon as I am done with EE.

chickelit said...

AllenS said...

The Althouse Woman doesn't do military, unless it has something to do with gays not being accepted.

That was concise but accurate.

c3 said...

It was a Sunday night right?

No it was Monday night (as the clip would suggest)

I was a senior in Med School, learned of the murder the next day on my way to my senior Internal Medicine sub internship at Evanston Hospital.

I had enjoyed Lennon's last album (Double Fantasy I believe)but in general didn't enjoy his solo material as much as his Beatles work. Whereas Paul had gone to commercial and saccharin, John had gone to self-absorbed and ?experimental.

Looking back, his post-Beatles years were emblematic of that generation, my generation, drug-addled, self-absorbent and living off past glory and accomplishments.

shoutingthomas said...

And this God song...

What an awful piece of shit.

Lennon at his self-indulgent, whining Baby Boomer worst.

Lennon also has the honor of writing the worst piece of treacle ever penned in popular music: "Imagine."

Clyde said...

I've been listening to a lot of Gram Parsons lately, and I feel the same way about John Lennon's untimely death as I do about Parsons': As a music fan, I wonder what wonderful music we would have gotten to hear if they had lived longer? For their families and friends, it's a personal loss; for those of us who only knew them from television and concerts and records, it's not a personal thing, but we still may feel the loss in a personal way.

shoutingthomas said...

And, as an aside, I might ask:

Ann, you seem to be looking for religion everywhere except for religion.

Instead of looking to the Prophet Dylan and the Prophet Lennon, how about going to a nice church?

It's beneath your dignity?

rdkraus said...

Agree with Steve that one of my first thoughts was ... now there could never be a reunion.

I also agree with st that Lennon wasn't much musically without the Beatles, surely he was less than McCartney and Harrison. But the three of them were, I think, all essential to the Beatles. Ringo, not so much

dbp said...

I was a junior in high school when John Lennon was shot.

The next day, the young humanities teachers--all women, were sad, damp-eyed and delicate. The science and math teachers--all men, seemed unmoved or perhaps unaware that anything momentous had occurred.

One would have to have a heart of stone not to see the humor in that. The different reactions of the teachers, that is. A murder is never funny.

Sheepman said...

He got a better deal than most human beings. He had 2 beautiful children, none of whom whom died young. He was smart and good looking. He had a nice, beautiful wife with a tight vagina, though he left her for Yoko. He was greatly admired, excelled doing what he loved and was wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

I'd say he came out ahead in the end. The real loss was for his family, friends and fans.

bagoh20 said...

I absolutely love the Beatles and have since I was 4 years old, but the death of this perfectly fine (but not wise) man has always been over-hyped. People seem to get all emotional and they can't really tell you why. It's one of those cultural phenomenons that makes us seem a little childish and silly.

bagoh20 said...

Think of the relative impacts of Lennon's death versus Pearl Harbor. It spans nearly the entire spectrum of importance from none to all. Everyone on earth is still affected today by the day of infamy. One of the very few events in history that actually changed the entire world and not in a subtle way.

c3 said...

Will this help sales on iTunes?

(PS Sheepman, ouch!!)

DBrooks17 said...

I was never a big Beatles fan. I happened to be watching Monday Night Football that night, and was surprised that my reaction was so emotional. A lot of it has to do with mourning the passing of your own life experience, as well as a normal reaction to an unnecessary death. Plus, so many strive to imbue their lives with meaning--meaning they find lacking in their day-to-day existence. That leads to glorifying pop musicians, and their like. Did anyone else notice that the first "Hitler" in the video is GWB. That's a nice touch from our "All you need is love" friends.

EDH said...

Did the video maker really need to include the Bush=Hitler picture @1:59 as the first image of Hitler?

I think Lennon would take offense at that.

Despite Lennon's politics, did he ever demonize Nixon, for instance, who really was out to get him?

I think there was a basic practicality and fairness that Lennon could discern that allowed him to cut through the ideology.

As I recall, Lennon even called-out Jerry Rubin on his extremism on the the Mike Douglas Show while Lennon co-hosted for a week in 1972.

edutcher said...

He was murdered. That is the beginning and end of any tragedy regarding him.

As a song writer, his best days were behind him and he was coasting on his Beatles glory.

And he never really had nothing that brilliant to say.

Clyde said...

But to play Devil's Advocate: Sometimes it's better for your career to die in a tragic, untimely manner. Look at JFK: In a recent poll of job approval of ex-presidents, JFK had an 85% approval rating, tops among all presidentds in the poll. Artists like Michael Jackson, Elvis, Kurt Cobain, etc., sold even more albums after they died. And if you die young, you can't embarrass yourself by trying to hang on too long. You don't get old and fat and bald. Then again, some artists do some of their best work at the end; Johnny Cash, for example.

Famous Original Mike said...

Noone deserves to be shot, and it's a sad thing that he was. But "Imagine" is still one of the most idiotic songs ever written.

kent said...

"An Unspeakable Tragedy..."

Not nearly as awful as Unfinished Music 1: Two Virgins, however. So, there's that, at any rate.

Lem said...

I like this song better by another John..

Believe - Elton John

kent said...

"An Unspeakable Tragedy..."

"I'll take 'What Is the Solo Musical Career of Yoko Ono?' for $500, Alex."

rsb said...

RIP John - 30 years go by so fast-I was in Tokyo at the time and heard it over the phone from an airman in DC - I will never forget it.
He was a great artist.

madAsHell said...

....and how long could you tolerate being married to Yoko??

ndspinelli said...

I read Lennon had a "big cock".

I also read several sources that he was a down to earth, nice man, and good father.

kent said...

I read Lennon had a "big cock".

In true Beatles tradition, however: half of it was McCartney's.

jamboree said...

On any political site there are always a few malcontents that strive to be different by saying the rude thing about the dead guy a lot of ppl loved.

On this site, it's the whole damn commentariat. Worse than ldot. Yawn.

I don't feel badly on Lennon's behalf in that regard, however, since he was that type himself - saying rude things about Elvis Presley's death, for example.

I was a kid. IIRC, my mom picked me up from somewhere and it was on the news PST. One of the two long-haired, 30ish, (male) teachers called in sick the next day. The other looked miserable.

I love his voice and his interviews which I probably never would have heard if he hadn't been shot. They were played continuously on the local radio stations for years after that.

I still love to listen to them - but if I'm honest, I probably liked him more than I would if he were alive. Not because I buy into the treacly "Imagine" image, but because if he were alive he'd probably be busy doing annoying hypocritical modern celebrity things- be in and out of rehab, divorces, 12-yr-old girlfriends, abandoned kids, moving his money into tax havens whilst lecturing about debt forgiveness a la Bono, etc.

Since I never knew of him in his celebrity years, it's easier for me to like him. I was too young for his peace years. By the time he was killed, he'd been "retired" for nearly half my life.

It's easier to like dead people some times, and I include my own family in that. It doesn't make the feelings insincere - their negative side is just less in your face.

PS: I think he looks both scummy and kind of hot in that video you posted. Go figure.

Oligonicella said...

Never cared for Lennon, his music or outlooks. Even then, I thought his beliefs were just juvenile. Too bad he was murdered (as with anyone else), but that's it.

HDHouse said...

Like the music a great deal from the first of it in the middle 60s. He was a fine craftsman when you get right down to it and most professional classical musicians that I know have a pretty high regard for his way of things.

.....Lennon........

Mitch H. said...

To be honest, the murder wasn't about Lennon, he had precious little to do with it other than getting randomly shot. This post made me think about Chapman, really. Why was he there, what was he, why wasn't he in a mental hospital?

Chapman's story is more peculiar and eccentric than Lennon, who was kind of an open book. Pretty much any prominent hypocrite could have taken Lennon's place in Chapman's passion play.

Why was Chapman able to do what he did? Was the terminal incivility and disorder of post-Wagner Manhattan to blame for Chapman being outside the Dakota with a loaded gun? It doesn't really sound like it, although the apparent tolerance of small crowds of Lennon fans hanging around the entrance of the Dakota certainly provided the opportunity for Chapman to blend in.

I can't imagine why anyone would believe the crazed conspiracy theories about Chapman being a CIA hitman. His life was too disordered and marginal for there to be any room for government training. It's more alarming how much time he spent in the employ of psychiatric hospitals and as a security guard.

The question isn't "why was Mark Chapman able to kill a famous person", it's "what keeps Mark Chapmans from killing the prominent on every other weekend?" If you say "gun control", try and remember that the State of New York was, and is, an absolutist gun-control regime. If you say "religion", try and remember that Mark Chapman was a fervent Jesus Freak who had fixated on Lennon in part because of his militant atheism.

HDHouse said...

shoutingthomas spewed...
"Lennon also has the honor of writing the worst piece of treacle ever penned in popular music: "Imagine." &
"Instead of looking to the Prophet Dylan and the Prophet Lennon, how about going to a nice church?"

No music in your church Thomas? Or does it all sound alike to you? Or does it fall on deaf ears? and who is going to pick Ann's church for her so she can "find religion"?

if it is at the same one that shaped your sorry soul, I think we will all pass.

shoutingthomas said...

if it is at the same one that shaped your sorry soul, I think we will all pass.

No spewing there! That's for sure.

When did you become a "we," HenHouse?

Quaestor said...

John wrote: I wasn't alive then, but my father described the horror of that day to me. It was a warm-for-December afternoon...

Very clever, John. The second paragraph was below the fold, speak to speak, and given the topic my stream of consciousness flowed directly to the subtext of this whole business -- the shallowness.

The shallowness of the event, John Lennon, husband and father, was murdered by a madman with a gun, but he wasn't martyred. Lennon didn't offer his life to something greater than himself. His death by psychotic violence had no more intrinsic significance than any other senseless slaying. Nothing was upheld, nothing was affirmed.

The shallowness of the mourners, they poured into the streets, weeping and chanting, waving their banners and their candles for a man none of them knew as one knows a friend. Their mourning was a display, a rite, a piece of theater staged by themselves for themselves. The generation of the Beatles proclaimed itself the generation of love. But it was love without an object. It drifted from cause to cause, from savior to savior and finally settled where it had always been, within itself and of itself.

The shallowness of the man, Lennon was a primordial figure, the prototype for a generation. The manner and form was followed like a pattern card in a loom. If Lennon wore it, they would wear it. If Lennon said it they would proclaim it. If Lennon honored it they would adore it. If Lennon disdained it they would revile it. Yet he never led his followers to a place better than the last place, he was a tour guide through an empty landscape.

The song featured in the video link contains a revealing piece of poetry. Lennon titled the song God, but the lyrics have little to do with the title. It's about Lennon's view of himself in the universe, his testament. God is not very impressive, philosophically speaking, one would think a man of forty years would be more profound. It is as if Lennon took a survey course in Western philosophy and dropped out after Decartes. Lennon only knows he exists and doubts all externals as unknowables, then, unaccountably, adds one external as a known -- Yoko. He dismisses his artistic achievement as just more vainglory, which is an encouraging move toward a better appreciation of the self in the cosmos. But on the other hand it might just be a slap at his fandom. The point is moot, significant art or mere popular diversion the Lennon corpus still generates mountains of cash.

Footnote
Methinks the real Love Generation lies mostly buried in serried ranks under simple monuments.

chickelit said...

Quaestor said...

His death by psychotic violence had no more intrinsic significance than any other senseless slaying. Nothing was upheld, nothing was affirmed.

I think that's exactly right. Lennon was murdered not martyred. Anyone who thinks otherwise should at least admit their...worship.

Quaestor said...

BTW, Did anyone notice the "George W. Bush as Hitler" piece of the montage? Is that revealing, or what?

Scott M said...

As an X'r, I simply don't get the "worship" part. Layne Staley's death meant more to me, personally, than Lennon's.

jr565 said...

Ann Althouse wrote:
This thread must be restricted to memorializing John Lennon and reflecting on the event that took place 30 years ago.

I love the Beatles and I love John Lennon. But to take your Edwards lack of sympathy argument and apply it to John Lennon I'll just say who gives a shit that he died? He cheated on his first wife, he ignored his first son. He talked about Imagining a world without possessions while living in a multimillion dollar house. And his wife keeps coming out with remastered versions of his songs, and milking that corpse long after his death. And why should we have sympathy for him? How many people are shot on the street who aren't former Beatles and aren't multimillionaires? he was a fraud and a hypocrite.
Yet here we are 25 years after his death still memorilaizing that creep simply because he wrote catchy songs. Waste your sypmathy on people who are getting shot who aren't rich. And did I mention that he had a big cock? And fucked plenty of women with it? He lived long enough, and lived a life that most men would kill to have. So no sympathy or memorializing for this charlatan.
Why does

sunsong said...

John Lennon - Rock & Roll Music

fivewheels said...

Obnoxious Gen-Xers such as myself who grew up finding Baby Boomers annoying as hell tend to see John Lennon as the ultimate emblem of that brand of narcissism. I always thought he was a pure media creation.

Lennon worship is a very sheeplike thing, in the realm of buying flawed, overpriced Apple products because the cool people do.

There's no Beatles on my non-iPod mp3 player. Lots of Stevie Ray Vaughan though.

Ankur said...

It is interesting that people juxtapose Pearl Harbor day with John Lennon's death.

I think its a generational thing - people who were alive at that time are much older now, and, as time passes, have a smaller and smaller voice in the sociocultural melee. Also, Pearl Harbor was followed by the much longer event - World War 2, which I suspect diluted some of the initial emotional shock of Pearl Harbor by drawing it out over time (not diluted in a good way, of course).

Singular events that stand alone are usually harder to erase from memory. But, still, I suspect, in another 30 or so years, bloggers in the year 2031 will probably not be blogging about John Lennon either.

Scott M said...

Obnoxious Gen-Xers such as myself who grew up finding Baby Boomers annoying as hell tend to see John Lennon as the ultimate emblem of that brand of narcissism. I always thought he was a pure media creation.

Well said and I agree, except for the last sentence. The guy was obviously remarkably talented.

fivewheels said...

On the generational point, I think part of it is the idea that some Boomers seem to evince: That change stopped with them. They didn't care about Perry Como or Benny Goodman or whoever, but the kids that followed them surely must mourn John Lennon and hold candlelight vigils.

They wanted to feel brave and pioneering for rejecting their parents' past, but never saw that they themselves were already the past for so many of us.

I'd bet a lot of people emoting about John Lennon (not necessarily our hostess) feel smugly superior to people with, say, Tupac tattoos.

D. B. Light said...

I'm one of those who never understood what all the fuss was about regarding Lennon or Michael Jackson or any pop singer/writer. They're just entertainers, that's all. Can our lives be so empty, so barren that we invest ourselves emotionally in these people? Sadly, for many the answer is "yes".

Methadras said...

The projections of cult like qualities put on this man are akin to the Elvis idiots who make their pilgrimage to Graceland yearly like Muslims at the Haj. Except, if you asked any of these morons outside of where he was killed they would just give you a blank stare like the one if you asked them why they admire John Lennon so much. John Lennon is dead. Yawn.

BTW, I used to live, for a short time, not to far away from the Dakota apartments. I lived at 81st and Columbus.

jamboree said...

@ Quaestor

Actually he was about 30 when he wrote that one, but who's counting?


I don't actually consider Lennon a typical boomer even though I place him and Dylan as Boomer Ground Zero in a cultural/generational sense. (I'm a upper half X'er if that helps place me.)

But he comes off as...well... smarter than his fans. If you listen to his interviews, as I have, he generally had a far more multi-dimensional take on things than they did. Same with Dylan by the way - who comes off as leaps and bounds more intelligent and cynical about many of the pitfalls into which the boomers fell.

Ann Althouse said...

"Waste your sypmathy on people who are getting shot who aren't rich. And did I mention that he had a big cock? And fucked plenty of women with it? He lived long enough, and lived a life that most men would kill to have. So no sympathy or memorializing for this charlatan."

I'll just to point to Eric Bogosian: "And I'm thinking what the fuck is the tragedy of John Lennon?... Guy was rich, he was famous, people thought he was God, he was a Beatle for crying out loud. Went around the world about 900 times, had sex with everybody he wanted to have sex with, did more drugs than you can carry in an aircraft carrier, he did it all."

Anthony said...

I have to admit that it impacted me not at all. Oh, yes, I had sympathy for the loss of a fellow human being, but other than that, I didn't care too much. I was never much of a Beatles fan, and Lennon's peacenicky songs were just too trite. "Ooooooo, he said we should all live in peace. Wow, no one ever thought of that before! Gosh, I'm glad we have a. . . .musician here to tell us how the world should work!"

So, eh, whatever. I mourned Stevie Ray Vaughn far more. He didn't play himself up as the Second Coming.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

Steel your hearts of stone, my fellow cons! Carry not too much love, lest it be given away unselfishly! (What a sin.) Worship dead people who gave their lives in violent causes, not someone who was unafraid to speak of what moved him and so many others in life! And dismiss the tension that Lennon and other great artists contribute, because the last thing McCartney's Englebert-Humperdinck stuff needed was a good hook every now and then for his mate to throw into it.

For how long did you rock-like formations stare at Medusa? Reading what goes on here is like looking at bizarre cardboard cut-outs of people, rather than observing the real thing.

This place is like reading politics and social commentary made for Rain Man. Have an emotion every now and then. It won't kill you. It might make you go insane, but, you'll soon learn to deal with it. Hopefully.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

And Harrison was only about 20% of what made the Beatles the Beatles. Ringo even less, but they were all important and made the right contribution to an overwhelmingly successful dynamic. Chemistry matters, not that rugged pretend-individualists would understand how that is.

c3 said...

BGTDOY;
Steel your hearts of stone, my fellow cons! Carry not too much love, lest it be given away unselfishly! (What a sin.) ...
.......................................
This place is like reading politics and social commentary made for Rain Man.


What the hell did any of that mean!?

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

If you're not sure, c3, did you want me to provide it in the form of a diagram or a flow chart?

I'll try the possibility that some of you consider yourself cultured and fans of Western civilization for a different angle. Are you familiar with the classical virtue of humanitas?

My point is that the extremely qualified to antipathetic words toward Lennon here reek of a sense of contempt for the man's own acute sense of humanity, the modern equivalent of humanitas.

It is this sort of contempt for human pathos that makes me wonder just how uncomfortable some people are with basic human emotion, human experience and generosity of the soul. Lennon seemed to have that in spades and many more people identified with that than with the reprimands for it that he somehow elicits here.

I'm familiar with clinical examples of this sort of behavior and reaction, and they tend to fall within the autism spectrum of disorders. I wonder if the contempt shown for Lennon's humanity and pathos is a subclinical variety.

Good artists push boundaries. At least, they do in a society that already has everything. How else do you get people to see something in a different way? That is what art is about and if in a society that has everything you can't call attention to complacency itself as a lack of something more important, you're not relevant to modern culture.

Lennon understood this. I'm not sure if many conservatives do. Perhaps that is why so many of you have mixed to negative feelings about the man and the things that affected him most deeply.

chickelit said...

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

...Chemistry matters, not that rugged pretend-individualists would understand how that is.

I'll buy that...at face value. :)

The Crack Emcee said...

How can this be an unspeakable tragedy?

He was rich. He sold us on his love for Yoko - when he slept with another woman while he and Yoko attended a party. She assisted in the charade of their love.

The hypocrisy is galling.

kent said...

It is this sort of contempt for human pathos that makes me wonder just how uncomfortable some people are with basic human emotion, human experience and generosity of the soul.

... says the filth who gleefully scorned Sarah Palin's "retarded children" (plural, no less!) in another thread, this very same day.

My dog is more qualified to discourse on "generosity of the soul" than you.

Roux said...

Someone asked me about the event yesterday. They said they remember that their mother was crying when she heard the news.

I don't recall much about it at all but I was never much of a beetles fan and have never been enamored with celebrity.

jr565 said...

I remember the day he died. I was a real youngun at the time and cried for a week. So despite my calling him a charlatan earlier in the discussion, I don't actually ascribe to the Eric Bogosian view. I was just showing that it's a pretty heartless one. Who cares if he was succesful,or a flawed human being. He was also shot and killed, and we should have some sympathy for that.
You could just as easily withhold sympathy for the little people who get shot and killed. They were mean to their wives, they cheated on their taxes, they were lazy at work. Screw that. Be respectful of people who died and show a little sypmathy for the fact that their life ended badly. Don't be assholes (Ann).

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't actually ascribe to the Eric Bogosian view. I was just showing that it's a pretty heartless one."

To be fair to Bogosian, it's a character. He's supposed to be saying some surprising and outrageous things. But he does have a point. Lennon got to do amazing things and had a great life, which one day, suddenly ended. It's far from the worst life.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

Kent, I apologize for ruining your fantasy of Sarah Palin performing fellatio on you. If you asked your dog, I'm sure he'd agree that you're better off performing it on yourself anyway. It would be a more likely scenario than any that or any other one, to say the least.

kent said...

ME: My dog is more qualified to discourse on "generosity of the soul" than you.

BGT: [::defecates noisily::]

Point proven. Thank you.