Tag Archives: John Lennon

Still missing this iconic musician after all these years

I am one of the few Americans who was not watching “Monday Night Football” the night we all got the shocking news.

Howard Cosell, a friend of John Lennon, told the world that a gunman shot John “twice in the back,” that he was “rushed to Roosevelt Hospital … dead on arrival.”

I was watching an NBC show that night 39 years ago. They, too, broke in and stunned the world.

Oh, how I still miss this man. He was just 40 years of age when his comeback from a five-year hiatus from public view came to its tragic end. I am left to wonder, as are all fans of John Lennon’s enormous talent, what kind of legacy would he have built had he been allowed to live.

The man who essentially founded The Beatles led this band of musicians into the cultural stratosphere. Sure, he had plenty talent playing alongside. The careers of Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the late George Harrison all flourished after the band ended its professional existence in 1970. The three surviving members of the band collaborated in 1995 to finish a couple of songs that John had written; they released them that year with “Free As a Bird” being named the top single of the year. I remember the Grammy award presenter declaring, “I can’t believe this: 25 years after they broke up … the winner is The Beatles!

George, too, is now gone.

John Lennon’s legacy already is rich. We are left only now with the memory of what he was able to accomplish as a musician, a songwriter and an advocate for peace, and ponder what might have happened had fate not intervened that night in New York City.

As for the gunman who took him from us, well … may he continue to rot in prison.

What if John Lennon had lived?

I am acutely aware that today would have been John Lennon’s birthday. He would have turned 79. He didn’t make it nearly that far into his life.

A gunman ended it all for John in December 1980. He died at 40.

I want to take the opportunity today while marking John Lennon’s birthday to take stock of what might have transpired had this genius been allowed to live. We, of course, cannot know with any certainty.

I’ll let my heart speak for a brief moment.

My ticker tells me John Lennon would have continued to make memorable music. He would have written lyrics that stand the test of time. He would have built on his already priceless body of work, most of it of course in tandem with his songwriting partner, Sir Paul McCartney. Might they have reconciled enough to re-form their partnership? Oh, one only can hope they might.

Hey, it’s also quite possible that John Lennon would have been knighted just as Sir Paul and Sir Richard Starkey — aka Ringo Starr — have been honored by their queen. I only can imagine the statement a Sir John Lennon would have issued upon getting this honor from the crown. I’ll add as well that George Harrison, who died in 2001, deserved to be knighted. Alas, it won’t happen.

John Lennon was my favorite Beatle. It might be only because we shared the same name. In reality, I was drawn by his quirkiness, his snarky approach to celebrity and his biting wit.

The boy could sing, too.

All of this is my way of wishing fate had dealt John Lennon a better than what he was forced to play.

I will miss this genius forever. Happy birthday, John.

‘Abbey Road’ back to No. 1 … imagine that

This bit of news really doesn’t surprise me, but then again it is still quite astonishing.

“Abbey Road,” The Beatles’ iconic final album, was remastered and reissued recently to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the album’s initial release.

Then we hear that it shot to No. 1 on the United Kingdom record charts — a mere 49 years and 252 days after it hit the top of the charts the first time.

Wow! What does this say? Well, it tells me that the super group’s music still holds up. It remains relevant for so many generations of music lovers.

Two members of the group — John Lennon and George Harrison — are deceased. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are making new music to this day. Sir Paul is still performing before huge crowds with a show that blows one away; I know, having attended a concert recently at Globe-Life Park down the road in Arlington, Texas.

Still, The Beatles appeal to many millions of young people and, oh yeah, old folks like me.

Rock on, fellas!

Happy birthday, Sir Paul; may you keep on making music

I don’t normally use this blog to comment on people’s birthdays, other than perhaps members of my immediate family.

I’ll do so briefly here by noting that Sir Paul McCartney is turning 77 years young today.

I am mentioning Sir Paul mainly because I was among the 40,000 or so fans who cheered him on Friday night as he sang to us at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

And, yes, we sang him “Happy Birthday” for good measure. He returned the favor later in the evening when he launched his six-song encore with The Beatles’ classic ditty “Birthday.”

Sir Paul might be the youngest 77-year-young individual I’ve ever seen. The man can play music. He plays it well. He plays his bass, guitar, mandolin, ukulele and piano with amazing verve and vigor.

I am just blown away by being able to say I’ve seen him perform now three times in my life. No. 1 was at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum in the summer of 1965, when he played for about 30 minutes with The Beatles. No. 2 occurred in 1993 at the Houston Astrodome, when the show went a whole lot longer than it did the first time. No. 3 was just this past week in Arlington.

Paul McCartney — along with John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr — helped raise me when I was a kid. Those of you are about my age know what I mean.

So, I feel a bit closer to Sir Paul on his 77th birthday than I have before. Happy birthday, Paul.

I hope you are “going to a party, party.” 

Sir Paul still packs ’em in

ARLINGTON, Texas — This photograph sets the stage — pun more or less intended — for a comment I want to make about the durability of a certain genre of music.

It looks down on the infield at Globe-Life Park, a baseball stadium where the Texas Rangers play hardball. All those people — tens of thousands of them — gathered Friday night to hear a musician play some music that helped raise a generation of folks … including yours truly.

Sir Paul McCartney returned to Texas and played music for nearly three hours before that rockin’, rollin’ and rollicking crowd.

You know who this fellow is, of course. He once was one-fourth of a band we remember as The Beatles. He still plays his share of Beatles hits, prompting the most spine-tingling sing-alongs one can imagine.

It’s that music that holds up. It is timeless. It is eternal. It will still be on people’s minds and in their hearts long after Sir Paul has left us. Two of his dear friends, John Lennon and George Harrison, already have departed, but Sir Paul took moments to honor them both — again to raucous cheers from the crowd that filled the stadium.

There was a wonderful moment, too, when Sir Paul recognized the difference between fan interest in Beatles songs vs. non-Beatles songs he performs — and last night he performed a healthy share of songs he has recorded since the breakup of the world’s greatest band. He said that when he plays Beatles tunes, fans light up the venue with light from their cell phones; when he plays something else, he said the venues turn into a “black hole.”

What do you suppose happened when he played the next song, which happened to be a non-Beatles tune: The place lit up with cell phone lights. It was, shall we say, fantastic! Of course, Sir Paul thanked us for “proving me wrong.”

It was an amazing evening for those of us old enough to remember hearing that music for the first time. I was a teenager when The Beatles burst on the scene. And for a time Friday night while sitting in the nosebleed section of Globe-Life Park enjoying the evening with one of my sons, I felt young again.

Thank goodness for jumbo-sized screens that allowed us to see what Sir Paul was doing on that faraway stage.

He was transporting us back in time to an era when music meant seemingly everything to us. He packed a large athletic venue with fans — who were of widely varying ages — and treated them to music that will stand the test of time for as long as there are those able to listen to it.

Well done, Sir Paul.

This man’s music still holds up … after all these years!

I saw him once at the very first rock ‘n roll concert I ever attended, in August 1965, at the Portland (Ore.) Memorial Coliseum.

I would see him later, in 1993, at the Houston Astrodome.

In a few days, I’ll be perched in the nose-bleed seats at Globe-Life Park in Arlington, Texas … to hear the music of Sir Paul McCartney.

Fifty-four years ago, Sir Paul was just Paul, part of that band known as The Beatles. Along with John, George and Ringo, the band played all of about 35 minutes, cranked out 10 songs, endured the incessant din of 11,000 screaming fans — not to mention a near riot when a couple hundred girls sought to rush the stage at the playful urging of John Lennon.

Then came the Astrodome show. My wife and I made the drive to Houston from Beaumont, sat in a crowd of about 55,000 fans who came to hear Paul play Beatles songs. Then I had a major life thrill by singing “Hey Jude,” the best song ever recorded, right along with Paul and his band.

The third show I will get to see likely will be packed to the brim with fans. They’ll be a lot of gray hair in the crowd, I can assure you. I am recalling now the time I stood in line in Beaumont to buy tickets for the Astrodome show 26 years ago; the fellow behind me said, “I bet you don’t see this much gray hair at a U-2 concert.”

Here’s the other very strange aspect of Paul’s present-day concerts. Listen to him play 50-year-old songs and then watch teenagers — children! — singing along with him, knowing every word of every golden oldie he cranks out.

So, here we are. My hair is a lot grayer now than it was in 1993. Indeed, so is Sir Paul’s hair. But the boy can still play. He’s how old? Nearly seventy-bleeping-seven?

And yet his music still holds up, It still stands the test of time. It remains immortal. He still packs ’em in. He still puts on a show worth every nickel one wants to pay.

I am not ashamed to admit this, too: I am likely to cry a time or two.

Let’s rock, Sir Paul!

The Beatles’ legacy will live . . . forever!

ALLEN, Texas — So, I walked into a sporting goods store today with my sis and her husband. We made a purchase and walked to the checkout counter.

The young man took one look at my Beatles shirt and said, “Hey, I love your shirt. I am named after one of those guys.”

I looked at his name tag with the name: Lennon.

What in the world? Yes, his dad is a major Beatles fan. So is the young man, who I figure might be 20 years of age.

“Do you know how John Lennon died?” I asked. “Oh yes. I’ve been told all about it. I have read all about it.”

My sis told the young man how we — she and I — attended a Beatles concert in Portland, Ore., in August 1965. “Front-row center seats,” she told him. Lennon wanted to know how we liked it “with all the screaming.” It was a challenge to hear anything, I mentioned.

Sis told him George was her favorite Beatle.

Lennon said his mom wanted to name his brother after Paul McCartney. I wondered: Huh? Well, I suppose he could be called “Mac.” Lennon’s parents ended up naming his sibling something else.

And so . . . I received yet another example of how the music of my generation lives forever. The Beatles’ legacy will live on for as long as human beings are able to listen to music.

I know he’s not the only child — or grandchild — of those who grew up listening to those fellows.

As I reminded young Lennon, “These guys (pointing to the image on my shirt) helped raise me.”

Happy Trails, Part 91

This segment of the “Happy Trails” series perhaps offers you a clue as to what it’s all about. I’ll tell you anyway. I get asked occasionally about retirement and if we have any “bucket list” destinations we want to see before we, um, kick it.

I’ll speak only for myself on this one, because of the two of us — that would be wife and me — I am the one who is most interested in doing a Beatles tour of England.

I know a couple in Amarillo who have done this kind of tour. Mike and Kathy Haynes took a tour of England years ago to visit the places where four young men came of age, got their musical start and eventually changed popular culture … forever and ever!

You know their names: John, Paul, Ringo and George (from left to right in the picture).

When I get asked the bucket list question, I usually say something like going to Australia, which has fascinated me since I was a little boy and my Dad pondered whether to pursue a career opportunity Down Under.

I keep forgetting to mention a tour of The Beatles’ home country! What is the matter with me?

A New York Times article, which one of my sons posted on Twitter — noting that “my dad would love this” — tells how Liz and Ricky Robbins did what my friends Mike and Kathy did.

Read the NY Times piece here.

Hey, I still mourn the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison. I am proud that the Queen knighted Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Richard (Ringo Starr) Starkey.

I still know most of the words to most of the songs The Beatles recorded. Yes, even some of the more obscure tunes. I do quite well answering Beatles questions on “Jeopardy!”

I actually got caught up in that nonsense about Paul being “dead” in 1969. However, I my wife and I were able to see a very much alive Sir Paul perform in The Astrodome in 1993 and we saw Ringo’s “All-Starr Band” show at the Cal Farley Coliseum in Amarillo some years after that.

One more thing: The very first rock ‘n roll concert I ever attended was in August 1965, in my hometown of Portland, Ore., happened to be The Beatles. Mom scored two front-row-center seats for my sister and me.

There you have it. This is my ultimate “bucket list” destination in retirement. I have no worries that I’ll outlive worldwide interest in The Beatles.

I just need to get there. Sooner, rather than later. As I’ve noted many times over the years: Those four lads helped raise me.

Ladies and gentlemen, Sir Ringo, er … Richard

This is some problem to encounter from this day forward.

How does one refer to Ringo Starr, who’s now a knight? You see, The Beatles’ drummer used his real name, Richard Starkey, to receive his knighthood from the British crown.

But to those of us who came of age when Ringo and his bandmates — John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney — were blazing new popular culture trails, he was just Ringo. The goofy Beatle. The shortest one of the four of them. The guy who was cute in a homely sort of way; I mean, the girls seemed to scream more loudly for Ringo than for the other lads. Do I remember that correctly?

Sir Paul McCartney was knighted in 1997. The honor didn’t come to John and George, who died in 1980 and 2001, respectively. To my knowledge, the Brits don’t bestow knighthoods posthumously — which I consider to be a shame.

Still, Sir Ringo, I mean, Sir Richard, has joined Sir Paul among the United Kingdom’s most exalted citizens.

OK, I am not one of Her Majesty the Queen’s subjects. Still, to me Sir Richard will always be just plain Ringo.

What? Ringo turns Double-7?

Ringo Starr has become a metaphor for my old age.

Oh, where has the time gone? You know who this guy is, right? He came into the world with the name Richard Starkey. He grew up in Liverpool, England. He played the drums a bit. Then he joined this band that had just fired its original drummer. They needed someone new to play the sticks for them.

John, Paul and George hired Ringo and, well, as they say: the rest is history.

He was the oldest of his new bandmates by just a few months; he was born July 7, 1940, just ahead of John Lennon, who was born Oct. 9 of that year.

Ringo’s musical imprint — along with that of John, George Harrison and Paul McCartney — became the signature not just for my generation, but for others that have come along since then.

But … not for everyone.

A couple of years ago, when Ringo was turning 75 — which is one of those landmark birthdays — I approached a colleague of mine at the business where I worked part time. I mentioned to her — suffice to say she is a good bit younger than yours truly, let alone Ringo — that it was Ringo’s 75th birthday. Isn’t that cool?

She gave me a blank stare and, as the Good Lord is my solemn witness, she said: Who’s Ringo Starr?

I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the ground. I also am pretty certain that my eyes damn near flew out of my head. How in the name of all that is holy and sacred does this young woman not know anything about Ringo Starr, one-fourth of the band that shaped her parents’ generation?

“Why, I never,” I answered my friend. “Don’t you know that this guy helped raise me?” And he did, too — right along with those three other guys.

If only Ringo would see this blog and know that in that one fleeting instant I had his back. The old drummer is about to turn 77. I hope my former colleague has learned just a little something about this living legend.

She just has to ask her parents.