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December 8: music, not mourning

Tuesday, December 8, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

Hard to believe, but today marks 35 years since the day the music died for a generation of baby boomers.
     John Lennon was gunned down outside his New York apartment on Dec. 8, 1980. The ex-Beatle was 40 years old. His deranged killer remains behind bars.
     Much of America learned of it while watching Monday Night Football. I found out from a radio report while driving home after watching the Seattle Sonics beat San Antonio at the Kingdome.
     Five years later, my lifelong friend Tim persuaded me to join him for what he called “Lennon Night” at Seattle Center. Tim and other fans gathered each Dec. 8 around the International Fountain to play their acoustic guitars, singing Lennon and Beatles songs in tribute to the slain musician.
     It was an admirable sentiment: Rather than wallow in sadness over Lennon’s murder, people gathered to celebrate the man and his music.
     Tim had zero qualms about performing in public. I, on the other hand, had never done so, and I had no desire to play guitar and sing outdoors in front of people.
     But Tim was persuasive. And so I found myself standing alongside the fountain the night of Dec. 8, 1985. Joining us was a guy Tim had met at previous Lennon Nights whose name escapes me. But he knew the songs, knew them in the correct keys, and the three of us meshed nicely, leading sing-a-longs for a handful of other attendees.
     Awhile later, absorbed in the songs and having a surprisingly fun time, a bright light distracted me. I looked up and became amazed. A crowd of 50 or more had gathered … and among them, walking our way, was a KOMO-TV cameraman whose strobe lit us up.
     For a moment I felt mortified. Not just because I suddenly caught stage fright, but because my immediate bosses at the time were ultra-conservative. What if my marketing director, a former Marine Corps colonel, saw me on TV playing long-hair hippy music? Would I fall into disfavor at work?
     But the KOMO crew egged us on, so we played more music. Afterward we drove home to watch and videotape ourselves on the 11 o’clock news. A still clip from my Betamax recording of KOMO News appears here.
     That remains the only time I “performed” (if you can call it that) in public. My good friend Tim is gone now, having died in 1998 far too young, like Lennon, at age 40.
     For me, I choose to celebrate the music each December 8 – John’s and Tim’s.

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Comments on this post

personLynn Imler12/15/2015 04:08 PM
What a heartwarming, fascinating story. Thank you, Jon. Happy Holidays!
personLynn Imler12/15/2015 03:58 PM
What a heartwarming, fascinating story. Thank you, Jon. Happy Holidays!

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