Today’s Guest: Keith Elliot Greenberg, rock historian, December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died
Certain days in all of our lives we can’t help but remember.
I was sitting at my desk here in St. Petersburg with “The Today Show” on in the background when the first plane flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
I was in my kitchen in Gainesville, Florida, on March 5, 1982, when my friend Jim Doten called from a pay phone to say he just heard that John Belushi died. Jim was on his way up from Miami for a visit with a cooler full of fresh shrimp and beer to boil them in.
And I was in another Gainesville apartment, 15 months earlier, on December 8, 1980,studying in my bedroom, on December 8, 1980, when one of my roommates, Andy Anderson, opened the door and said, “Hey, your guy died!”
I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. “My guy?”
Tom Seaver died?
For some reason, Andy connected me with John Lennon when the Monday Night Football game that he and our third roommate, Cesar Quintana, was interrupted by Howard Cosell’s announcement that former Beatle John Lennon had been shot outside his home in New York City.
My only connection to John Lennon was that we shared a birthday, October 9. Of course, Lennon was born in 1940; I came along 20 years later.
And my first Beatles album, Meet the Beatles, was actually the second LP my parents bought for me at our neighborhood drug store in Somerset, NJ. The first was The Monkees’ Headquarters. I still have both original discs.
KEITH ELLIOT GREENBERG podcast excerpt: “John Lennon could have lived anywhere in the world. He chose to live in New York… The police officer who was the first on the scene (of the murder) covered the Beatles when they came to Shea Stadium in 1965, not knowing that night, December 8, 1980, that John Lennon would be another part of his story.”
Like most people, I was shocked and horrified that some jackass named Mark David Chapman had taken Lennon away from us. It was incredibly wrong.
Thirty years later, I can’t say I was eager to read a book that might, potentially, glorify Chapman. But that’s not the book that Keith Elliot Greenberg wrote. December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died is an amazing dissection of people and events on that infamous day. It doesn’t justify Chapman’s action but it does explain what was in his head in the days and weeks leading up to the shooting. The detail and depth is remarkable, the kind of history you just can’t put down.
Greenberg brings an interesting background to this project. In addition to writing books and magazine articles for Maxim, The Village Voice and The New York Observer, among others, he’s a producer for “America’s Most Wanted” on Fox.