December 08, 2013

Remembering John Lennon and a gun crazed America

John Lennon died December 8, 1980. He was shot to death in the city he loved, in the city that adopted him as one of its own.

I was living in south-east Saskatchewan in 1980 and it was a cold winter's night on the prairie. ABC's Monday Night Football was on television, but I was listening to the radio. KSTP from Minneapolis/St. Paul was blasting in like a furnace that night. At its height, KSTP was a powerhouse rock station, and as they liked to say, "one of America's most imitated radio stations," not unlike WLS in Chicago or CKLW in Windsor/Detroit. The hits never stopped. Literally.

I recall there being a brief announcement by the radio deejay, something about Lennon and a shooting outside the Dakota in NYC. It was made over top a song, and there was a quiver in the announcers voice. Reports were sketchy. KSTP had ABC network news at the top of the hour, when John's murder were announced.

And then the music stopped.

All across the US and Canada, radio stations opened their phone lines to listeners. Music stations aired news reports where before that would have been considered a tune out factor. The music stopped that night.

I think I phoned a dozen friends, in town and around the country. I listened to the phone calls on radio through the night and into the morning. We shared our shock and grief. And anger.

The morning after John's murder, Yoko Ono issued a statement: There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him. Love, Yoko and Sean.

At first I think we looked for some sort of higher reason for Lennon's murder. It seemed impossible to believe that one crazed individual could be responsible for this act of violence. Yet we knew it was just one crazy guy with a gun. And in all the years since 1980, America has done nothing about gun control. Of course they didn't do anything before that either, and a president was shot, a presidential candidate was killed, a civil rights leader was murdered, and who knows how many others. One might think after all the carnage, some sort of effort to control the sale of guns in the US might have happened by now, but if anything the culture of guns is today even more firmly entrenched. It's one thing to have a nut case shoot at a politician or kill a rock star. It's quite another to have school children slaughtered in their classrooms. Yet nothing seems to change. Only in America. The music has stopped all too often since 1980.

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