Imagine… It’s Easy If You Try

I always try to find a silver lining to every cloud and trust me, I had to look really hard today because there are a lot of dark clouds hovering over December 8th.

On this day back in either 1982 or 1984 (conflicting dates!), Onika Tanya Maraj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago.  We know her today as rapper Nicki Minaj and she’s a great performer.  I saw her in July 2011 when she opened for Britney Spears in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Nicki Minaj

That is the silver lining because on December 8, 1941,  America was entering World War II after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the day before.  This date in history is also marked by other depressing events:  Right-wing nut job Ann Coulter was born in 1961, a 1963 plane crash in Maryland killed 81 people, another plane crash in 1972 at Chicago’s Midway Airport left 45 dead, and the 1987 Alianza Lima Air Disaster in Peru left 43 dead.  There were several war deaths on this date and violent political attacks that left many dead.

And, as a 16-year-old in Mayfield, Kentucky, getting ready for bed after the local news, I remember the networks breaking into television programming on December 8, 1980, to announce that John Lennon, of the Beatles, had been shot and killed outside his apartment, The Dakota, in New York City, as he and his wife, Yoko Ono, were returning home.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

40-year-old Lennon was enjoying a quieter life in New York City with his wife and their son, Sean, after dominating the international music scene in the 1960s, with the Beatles, and as a solo recording star in the 1970s.

John Lennon released his first single in 1969 without the Beatles even as the super group was still topping the charts with “Come Together” (1969), “Let It Be” (1970), and “The Long And Winding Road” (1970).

“Let It Be” is still my favorite Beatles’ song.

Peace

John Lennon left the Beatles in the fall of 1969, just as his first single, “Give Peace A Chance” with Ono was climbing the charts.  It would peak at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and become an anthem for anti-war demonstrations in the 1970s.

Lennon would have two more hits in America, “Cold Turkey” (#30), which documented the withdrawal symptoms he experienced from a heroin addiction, and “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” (#3), before he released his first solo album, “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”.  Although the album went “gold” (shipments of 500,000) in the U.S., it spawned no hits.

Everything would change for John Lennon in the fall of 1971 with the release of the album, “Imagine” and the title track as the first single.

john-lennon-imagine

The album would hit #1 in the United States and move two million copies.  The single, “Imagine”, reached #3 here, but it topped the charts in Australia, Canada, Italy, and in England.  It’s by far the best John Lennon song.

From his first hit, “Give Peace A Chance” in 1969 to his #20 song in 1975, “Stand By Me”, John Lennon charted with nine Top 40 singles (four reached the Top Ten).  His only #1 hit during this period was “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” in 1974.  His other Top Ten hit in the 1970s was “#9 Dream” in 1975, and that one peaked at, you guessed it, #9, in the U.S.!

His remake of “Stand By Me” in 1975 would be the last single he released for five years so he could spend time with his newborn son, Sean.  Then, in the fall of 1980, he was ready to return to radio and music with the release of  the first single, “(Just Like) Starting Over”, from his upcoming album, “Double Fantasy”.

JohnLennon-albums-doublefantasy

The single, “(Just Like) Starting Over”, was released on October 24, 1980, and by early December, it had climbed to #3.  However, the “Double Fantasy” album wasn’t doing very well on the charts and was pretty much being panned by critics.  One even called it, “a self-obsessed disaster”.  Nevertheless, just as John Lennon was starting over in music, it would all come to an end.

John and Yoko had a 2 p.m. photo shoot on December 8, 1980, with Annie Leibovitz for a “Rolling Stone” article about Lennon’s return to music, which would produce this iconic photo.

John Yoko for Rolling Stone

After a radio interview, Lennon and Yoko left their apartment around 5:30 p.m. and he said hello to fans that had gathered outside.  John autographed his “Double Fantasy” album for one, Mark David Chapman.

Lennon Chapman

Upon returning home that night around 10:50, Chapman was still waiting.  As Yoko walked ahead of Lennon, Chapman calls out, “Mr. Lennon” and he dropped into a “combat stance” and fired five shots.  The first one missed the superstar, but the next four hit him — two in the left side of the back and two in the left shoulder.  John Lennon stumbled inside the Dakota exclaiming, “I’m shot.  I’m shot”.

He was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.  The cause of death was listed as “hypovolemic shock”.  Lennon had lost more than 80% of the blood in his body.

mark-david-chapman

After firing the five shots, the Dakota’s doorman, ex-CIA agent, Jose Sanjenis Perdomo, wrestled the gun from Chapman and he said, “Do you know what you’ve done?”  And, Chapman calmly replied, “Yes, I just shot John Lennon.”

Chapman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.  He’s still locked away and has been denied parole seven times.  His next chance for parole will come in 2014.

*This version of  “(Just Like) Starting Over” is NSFW*

Two weeks after John Lennon’s death, “(Just Like) Starting Over” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for five weeks.  The album, “Double Fantasy”, which had been released three weeks before the murder bolted to #1 and shipped more than three million copies.

In January 1981, the follow-up single, “Woman”, reached #2, and the album would produce one more hit, “Watching The Wheels”, (#10).

“Double Fantasy” won “Album of the Year” at the 1982 Grammy Awards and Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon accepted the award.

yoko-1982

John Lennon would have one more hit on the charts more than three years after his death.  The album, “Milk and Honey”, which was recorded in the last few months of his life produced the #5 Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Nobody Told Me”  in 1984.  It would become his third Top Ten American hit posthumously.

John Lennon NYC

On the day after John Lennon was murdered, Yoko Ono said, “There is no funeral for John…John loved and prayed for the human race.  Please pray the same for him.”

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Yoko, Sean, and Julian, I shed tears that fateful night back in 1980, as a teenager, and I’ll smile today as I remember the joy that your husband and father, John Lennon, brought to the world.  We can all “Imagine” what the world really should be like:   “Imagine all the people living life in peace/You, you may say/I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one/I hope some day you’ll join us/And the world will be as one.”

Peace! ☮

Anthony

P.S.  Without Yoko Ono, John Lennon might not have achieved his post-Beatles legacy that we know today and I want to pay tribute to that wonderful woman.

Last month, Ono told the “Advocate”, “I’m really saddened that fair treatment is not given to gays. Why can’t they get married, if they wanted to?”  When asked if would John have supported marriage equality, she said, “Definitely. John hated any injustice.”

Yoko Ono

What many of you don’t know is that she released her first dance single less than a month after John died.  “Walking On Thin Ice” would reach #13 on the Billboard Dance chart in 1981. She would have four more dance hits over the years.

However, in 2003, when the reissued, remixed “Walking On Thin Ice” hit #1 on the dance chart, it would be the start of Ono dominating the dance club charts.  She now has nine #1 Billboard Dance Hits.  Of those, from 2007-2011, seven of them were consecutive #1 hits!  What an amazing feat for an incredible woman who will turn 80-years-old in February 2013!  Happy birthday early Ono!

This was her last #1 hit, in 2011 and I’ll leave you with a quote:  “I think it’s better to dance than to march through life.  Love, Yoko”

oko Ono, thank you!

Anthony

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Constance on December 8, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I love John Lennon, my favorite is “Across The Universe”. I love him and the Beatles! I read the story of how he fell in love with Yoko after going to one of her Art Exhibits…..there was a ladder straight up to the ceiling, and when you looked up it was the word “yes” painted there. Very beautiful. Wonderful tribute Anthony, thank you!

    Reply

  2. Posted by krisann Kelly Smith on December 8, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Sad day indeed…I cried too! Thanks for all the songs

    Reply

  3. Posted by susan meador on December 19, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Love John lennon n this blog..my daughter Betsy was born dec.8 1985.i remember where i was at that day the horrible news arrived on tv too.god bless n a merry christmas~~

    Reply

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