I can still remember what I was doing when I heard that John Lennon had been shot in New York City. I was watching some forgettable western on Brazilian TV when the broadcast was interrupted to inform that Lennon had been the victim of a shooting and that he’d been rushed to the hospital. Moments later, another newsflash came on to confirm that the former Beatle had succumbed to the wounds inflicted on him.
I remember being in shock when I heard about that. Though at twelve years old I was not particularly a Lennon fan, I had grown up listening to my parents’ Beatles albums – mostly the material the band had recorded between Rubber Soul and Let It Be (as far as I can remember, neither of my parents were too fond of earlier material like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or “She Loves You”). Tunes like “Let It Be,” Hey Jude,” “I’ve Got a Feeling” and the entire Sgt. Pepper album were in heavy rotation in my home, alongside records by jazz artists like Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck and Brazilian singers Chico Buarque, Maria Bethania, Elis Regina (another one who left us too soon) and Caetano Veloso.
At the time, his comeback single “(Just Like) Starting Over” was getting moderate rotation on the radio – I noticed and was happy to know that he was back to making music. I was looking forward to hearing the whole Double Fantasy album, and at the time there were rumors going on that the Beatles might reunite for a charity album or concert – even though all of them denied that at the time (those plans were never confirmed even after Lennon’s passing). That year had been sort of a musical awakening for me, and I had been discovering a lot of 50s and 60s rock alongside other kinds of music, and a few years earlier I’d learned to play the clarinet.
I remember being devastated. I kept the radio on at all times that day, and even paid a visit to the local radio station to get fresh updates on the case. Who was this murderer? What were his motivations? How did the other Beatles react? Sure, it was a bit too much for a 12-year-old (going on 13) to think about, but I remember that being my frame of mind at the time.
As the years went by, the Beatles (either solo or in the band) became a huge influence for me. Not only their music, but the sounds made by their predecessors; I began listening to everything that had influenced the Fab Four, and that led me all the way back to bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson and Scott Joplin (to name a few). In my teens I learned to play the guitar and ultimately graduated to the bass, the instrument I still play. I performed with two Beatles tribute bands both in Brazil and the US, and though I now play in a bossa nova band, I still prefer my Hofner ‘Beatle’ bass over the other instruments I own. And thirty years on, most of Lennon’s music still holds well. “Imagine” is one of the most-covered songs in history, and the Beatles are still top-sellers, especially after they finally joined the digital realm via iTunes.
So I guess my teenage obsession with the four Moptops was not all THAT bad, eh?