By the Way

Watching the wheels 36 years after John Lennon was murdered

This 1966 photo shows The Beatles — John Lennon, left, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison — as they leave London on their trip to the U.S. and Canada.
This 1966 photo shows The Beatles — John Lennon, left, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison — as they leave London on their trip to the U.S. and Canada. AP

I’ll always remember Dec. 8, 1980, and thanks to Google, I now know that Dec. 8 was on a Monday of that year. That means “M.A.S.H.” was on TV that night.

But I didn’t see “M.A.S.H.” that night. It was my dad’s birthday and after dinner and birthday cake, we decided to go to Wal-Mart for some reason.

When you grow up in Aberdeen, Mississippi, you go to Wal-Mart with your parents every chance you get. I don’t know why we were going that night. I know it wasn’t to get me a new “Star Wars” action figure as was the case many times when my dad would take me to the store.

He was a kind man and he knew I loved “Star Wars” figures and he would randomly take me to Wal-Mart to get me a Luke Skywalker or a Darth Vader. I mean, they were only $2.78 or less in those days.

But this was two weeks before Christmas, so I know it wasn’t for a toy.

As much as I loved “Star Wars,” I also loved music. This Christmas of 1980 was the year I would get the jumbo Yoda hand puppet and a turntable with The Eagles’ “The Long Run” album. I had a small record player that I used to listen to my 45s. One of those 45s was “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon.

I was a young Beatles fan. I loved Wings and I had a few Beatles 45s that I nabbed from parents. I loved John Lennon, too.

We were coming home from Wal-Mart when DJ “Happy” Butch Luke broke the news on WHKW — John Lennon had been shot and killed outside his apartment in New York.

There was silence in the car. My dad didn’t say a word and neither did I, but I know we both were feeling. Someone had just murdered John Lennon. He was gone. One of The Beatles — the one who sang “All You Need is Love” — had met a violent end.

My appreciation for Lennon and The Beatles would only grow stronger as I grew older. I was even able to snag an interview with Ringo Starr back in 2012.

Epilogue

And then one day, my dad was gone. He died in 2003 at age 56, which is only 10 years older than I am today. On Dec. 8, 2016, today, he would have been 70. Dec. 8 became an especially sad day for me.

But things in life change. On Dec. 8, 2014, my son was born. He, too, likes The Beatles. I’ve spent a lot of time over the two years of his life telling him about his grandfather and John Lennon and how his world is connected to them.

I guess I’ll always be somewhat reflective on Dec. 8.

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