Remembering John Lennon: Fans Share Reflections, Favorite Songs with WNYC

Friday, October 08, 2010

Pop music legend and New Yorker John Lennon would have celebrated his 70th birthday this Saturday. To commemorate his birth, WNYC has gathered these thoughts and reflections from Lennon fans, including from some of WNYC's most favorite personalities.

Michael Epstein, director of the new PBS documentary, LENNONYC, says his favorite Lennon song is "I'm Losing You.": "For me, this song is everything I love about John Lennon. First, it's rocking...just great rock 'n' roll. But it is also an intimate, deeply personally song. At the time John wrote it, he felt neglected by Yoko—she was working all the time...nice role reversal. It's an expression of loss and insecurity. That John was always willing to let it all hang out, to be so raw...[it] is one of the reasons I love his music so much."

Alice Walker, author and poet, says she will miss Lennon always: "Not the him that he already gave to us so generously. But the him that he would have become even more intensely, delighting us afresh each decade with the John who emerged from whatever secret or not so secret adventures!"

Sasha Frere-Jones, musician and the pop-music critic for The New Yorker, says Lennon's death was the first time he ever cried about a famous person dying: "I was thirteen, and I had just gotten out of the shower. My dad knocked on the bathroom door. He was wearing a big red bathrobe. He told me and I started crying immediately. I wore a black arm band to school, which is kind of dopey, but I was genuinely sad. Even though I was a kid, and grown ups were obviously older, I understood that Lennon wasn't that old."

David Ross, the former director of The Whitney Museum of American Art and one of Lennon's friends, says there are too many good Lennon songs to choose just one: "But 'Imagine' is on more playlists than other Lennon or Lennon-McCartney songs. It is a great piece of music, and though it rarely fails to bring me to the verge of tears, it has an oddly joyous sense of possibility underlying its mournful pace and melodic structure. Also, I heard the song for the first time, sitting stoned on John's Bank Street bed, listening to the master recording fresh out of the studio, on a pair of studio headphones. So for me, the song retains a Proustian connection to the full experience of that memorable evening."

Sara Fishko, host of WNYC's Fishko Files, remembers just where she was the night Lennon was shot: "Just before it happened I had arrived home and turned on the radio. As soon as I heard the news, I tuned down the dial to Pacifica (WBAI), where they had a live overnight show, which immediately became a mournful, marathon call-in session. There was a lot of pain and disbelief and crying on the air. I listened all night as more details on the shooting emerged, and as devastated New Yorkers tried to make sense of it—which of course they couldn't."

Celeste Headlee, host of The Takeaway, was a child when Lennon died, but considers him irreplaceable: "John Lennon was brilliant and arrogant and fearless. He loved fiercely, sometimes rashly, and he was an intrepid creator. Lennon opened himself to inspiration and let it guide him where it would. He allowed himself to change, to be influenced by the people and events around him. Lennon was perhaps the ultimate pop star, who gave voice to a generation. Thirty years after his death, still irreplaceable."

Irene Trudel, WNYC engineer, was at her then boyfriend’s parents’ house when she heard the news: "I was in complete shock and spent the day in a daze, hoping to hear that the news wasn’t true. The day there was to be a moment of silence in his honor we drove to our favorite hillside near Morristown, New Jersey listening to a mix tape of favorite Lennon songs. We lit votive candles and sat in the car in teary silence."

Jeff Spurgeon, WQXR morning music host, says Lennon's music always sounds fresh: "I never walk past the Dakota apartment building without thinking of the awful way John was taken away. But Strawberry Fields, the little section of Central Park set aside in his memory just across the street from the Dakota, is a comforting spot and a sort of remedy for the sadness. John Lennon is among a big group of significant creative figures who didn't live into their 40s—Mozart, Schubert, and Chopin being just three classical composers on that list. Will Lennon's music resound as long as the music of those three? It doesn't matter.  What matters is that he speaks to us now, in our time."

Kerry Nolan, morning WNYC News host for WQXR, says John Lennon was a window into a world she hadn't known existed: "I watched the Ed Sullivan Show with my parents that first night, sitting on the floor as my mother put my hair in rag curls (ask your mother) for school the next day. I was fascinated by the harmonies, the thumping beat; the girls screaming in the audience. I saw the movie "A Hard Day's Night" 8 Saturday afternoons in a row, at 50 cents a clip. John was the instigator, the rebel. I wasn't into double digits yet, but I knew he was special."

Please share your reflections of John Lennon with us. What does Lennon mean to you? And to New York City? Where were you when you heard of his death? And tell us your favorite Lennon song.


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Comments [12]

Gerry Harper from Leeds, England , UK

I live in Leeds , England about 65 miles from Liverpool and I remember listening to BBC radio 1 on the night that John died. The Mike Reid show was on and hearing the terrible news, Mike was in tears when he made the announcement. I just sat down in disbelief and shock. I telephoned my friend who I was going to meet at a local pub to watch our favorite local band. We met and walked together to the Gig when we got there everyone was subdued and quiet. The band came on stage and we a mins silence was called for which turned into a five mins silence. Some people were crying , the atmosphere was one of shock and sadness. The Band said that they could not play as they were too upset. Instead the DJ at the pub played Johns and the Beatles songs for the rest of the night. I will never forget that night , it is etched on my mind and I will remember it forever. Rest In Peace John. " Love is real , Real is Love" x

Dec. 08 2010 05:44 AM
Steve from Fort Lee, New Jersey

10 years ago, when I was 16, my parents, my friend and I went down to Strawberry Fields. I loved the Beatles, and John, though I didn't know much of his solo work besides Imagine. But I went because I loved him. The profundity of the moment there just changed my life forever. It was a feeling of real grief, raw emotion, and love. And I remember going home and turning on the radio and listening to Imagine, and completely falling in love with music. I even wrote an article in my high school's music magazine titled "It was 20 years ago today", chronicling its significance, and to people of my generation. Strange how ten years go by so fast. Since then, I've soaked up all things Lennon, and I feel blessed to be living in a time when his influence still exists, when his music still resonates, and the love he embodied still affects things. He was the real deal. The bee's knees!

Dec. 08 2010 12:40 AM
Jim McDowell from Rudyard, Mi

I was 16. My radio woke me up to go to school with the horrible news. When I was yonger my brothers and sisters and I would dance like crazy to to Beatle music. I especially remember going crazy to Day Tripper. Like John said just before he died. It was the first head banging song.

Since then I come to understand me in a much more profound way and my admiration grows exponential. He makes me want to get beneath the froth of life and really discover myself. I even visited Strawberry field and the Dakota. Love you John.

Oct. 11 2010 11:59 AM
Terence O'Neill

I am 54, and on up into my 30's, I favored Paul over Joh. As I grew older, I started to realize that John had more depth, and was much more honest in his music. I love or like everything Paul has writted, even when aware how maudlin or silly a particular song of his might be. And there are songs of John that I just don't care for. But his willingness to put it all on the line, and his involvement in the world around him sets him apart and above. I forget how much I love " #9 Dream", and "Instant Karma" sometimes."Across the Universe" is superb. For a lesser known nugget, try this: "I Know {I Know)", from "Mind Games". May God continue to bless Yoko, Julian, Sean, Cynthia, Paul, and Ringo. I might add that despite my affinity for Paul, I was always, even in my younger days, a defender of Yoko, not a basher. Take care, all, and give peace a chance

Oct. 09 2010 10:18 AM
Wilson from NYC

As a child ,I loved the Beatles. I made my parents buy me the white album and I still have it almost 40yrs later. He is sorely missed by all his fans.Looking forward to the fullfilment of Rev 21:4-He will wipe every tear from your eyes and death will be no more. New world trans of scriptures.

Oct. 09 2010 08:21 AM
Greg D from Brooklyn, NY

For me, John Lennon is the foundation of my songwriting. He is the one responsible for opening me up to that special feeling you get from a great song. My older brother had played The Beatles records when they were originally released. So as a 2-year old i marveled at the artwork of Sgt Pepper and the magical sounds that came out of the record player's speakers. When John Lennon was killed in 1980, i was 15. His death signified my immersion into Beatles' music & all things Lennon. I started writing songs a year later and haven't stopped since. John, i am grateful that i was able to have been alive at a time when you were still walking this earth and playing your wonderful songs! Your music will be accompanying others for thousands & thousands of years to come..i'm certain of it.

Oct. 09 2010 08:17 AM
Mike Love from Washington State, USA

On that fateful night I was picking up my friend's wife, who just got off work, and taking her home. As we were listening to the car radio, the breaking news came that John Lennon was shot and killed by an assassin. As we were driving to her home, we couldn't help but ball our eyes out. Once we arrived at her home, my friend (her husband) had been watching Monday Night Football when Howard Cossell had shared that John Lennon had been shot and died a few minutes later. We all cried together that night...

Oct. 08 2010 11:24 PM
Daniel from Westchester

I was in Mendoza, Argentina, when the news erupted abruptly…….. We were rebels, teenaged kids crying for the lost of a genuine Rock & Roll hero and the most eloquent egalitarian voice, with a unique bravery to publicly stand up for freedom and equal rights. Most of us who still appreciate his art and courage miss him till today.

Oct. 08 2010 01:14 PM
Kate Perry from Brooklyn

I grew up in England when the Beatles hit- it was a great time to be in London. I just participated in the singalong for Give Peace A Chance which was both homage and a hoot. The reason I chose the 4th verse was because I loved Tommy Cooper, a British comedian whose shtick was to be a bad magician. He wore a fez and came out on stage waving his wand around saying 'ahoohaha'. It has to be heard. Check You Tube
He was beloved. I went to a restaurant one night with my boyfriend and Tommy Cooper was there with his wife and realising that most people had recognised him he got up and made his wife do a little waltz around the restaurant for us punters.
A magic moment :)
Kate (Thanks Brian)

Oct. 08 2010 12:12 PM
Amy from Brooklyn, NY

I spent my summers in the UP of Michigan in a log cabin - no TV, no movies, just an old record player, my best friend Fran, and every Beatles record - I know every song by heart. My time in the UP with The Beatles is one of my favorite memories.

Oct. 08 2010 12:02 PM
Michael Porter from Brooklyn

John Lennon died on my 10th birthday. Like every other morning I walked down the driveway of our suburban Philadelphia home to get the paper. I remember standing outside and reading the headline. He was a hero of mine, and I was crushed.

Oct. 08 2010 11:43 AM
zach from west palm beach, fl

We were musician kids in Queens. Lennon and the Beatles is probably the reason I grew up to become a professional musician and recording producer.

Since 1980, sadness is a major part of Beatles memories.

Oct. 08 2010 09:27 AM

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