On December 8, 1980, the New England Patriots-Miami Dolphins game was winding down, the end of another Monday Night Football game. Then, Howard Cosell, America’s legendary sportscaster, broke the news to unsuspecting viewers: “An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous, perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival.” Soon enough, more formal news reports followed on the BBC and ABC’s Nightline, and you can still hear what New Yorkers heard on the radio that night (below). The sound file was originally posted by WFMU’s Beware of the Blog, and like Howard says, it puts a lot of things in perspective for us.
A longer montage can be heard here:
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One of the toughest, saddest memories of my life. It was like losing a family member.
What that radio listener says is just … totally apt. To think that society can produce a scumbag like whatever his name is (and yes, I have forgotten it) should give every one of us pause. It’s not that John Lennon was a truly great person in himself; but in his music, he was among the very greatest.
I was watching that game, and the news was unbelievable enough, but to hear it for the first time in that context was just bizarre. I literally sat there and asked myself, “Did he just say what I think he said?” Once it set in, I went to the phone and called my friend, who I knew would be asleep, and he thought I was pulling his chain.
The last thing I heard before I went to sleep on Sunday night was that John Lennon had been killed. The next morning, very early, I tucked my 3 year old into the backseat of my Fiat, with blanket and pillow, because it was extremely cold. I drove off into the fog, which became more dense and dangerous as I drove. On a country road, the next and last thing I saw in front of us was the tail lights of a semi-truck. I knew I was toast, and I reached back with my hand and shouted to my son “stay down.” Fortunately, my car came to a stop, under the semi, at the windshield. Any further and I would have been a gonner. Next thing I knew I’m in the emergency room, face and scalp cut very badly, broken sternum and shoulder blade, and then admitted into the hospital for 5 days. My son was not hurt in the accident, thank God! I was on pain meds for days, and finally on the 4th night I asked for Tylenol instead of Demoral. The next morning the first thing I thought of when I woke up clear headed, for the first time in days, was “Oh my God, John Lennon is dead.” That time in my life was very traumatic, and I will always remember three things from it, John Lennon was killed, although terribly injured, my life was spared, and my son remained unscathed!
I was at Kent State watching Monday Night Football when the news broke. I always wanted to hear my hometown radio stations coverage. Nearly 40 years later I finally get to hear it.