On the night of December 8, 1980 my son, eight months old at the time, was asleep in his crib, my wife—now ex-wife—was out with a friend and I was...well, I don't recall what I was doing. Maybe working on a script (I don't write much at night these days, but in '80 all-nighters were still commonplace) or just puttering around the apartment. What I do remember is the phone ringing, some time after ten o'clock: It was my friend Karen Berger calling to tell me that John Lennon had been shot. "Is he okay?" I asked. "He's dead," she replied—and it was clear from her tone that she knew it was true, but couldn't digest that awful reality.
I got off the phone, switched on the television—and the global mourning ritual soon began. At first I was taken aback by the public displays of grief. Strange as it sounds, my connection to John Lennon—to his extraordinary life and music—ran so deep that his death felt profoundly personal. It was as if I'd lost one of my dearest friends. I couldn't quite wrap my head around the fact that millions of people around the world had lost one of their dearest friends, as well.
Perhaps it wasn't so strange at all. Lennon lived his life openly, nakedly; raw emotion poured equally into songs and interviews. This was a man who, almost compulsively, shared the deeps of his heart—the highest qualities and the lowest—seemingly without reservation. I'm sure that quality was hard for some people to take, but that's what drew me to Lennon, almost instinctively, from the first time I saw John, Paul, George and Ringo perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. I crave honesty, the raw core of the soul, in art —and John Lennon delivered that in spades, first as a member of the Beatles and then, with even more soul-baring honesty, in his solo career. A career I'd expected to follow for many more years.
"He's dead." Those words still resonate in my mind and heart. Thirty-seven years ago? It feels like thirty-seven minutes.