Imagine Peace


I remember being in the car with my mom driving out to my grandparents house in Rogersville. I had been begging her to let me turn the radio to rock 99 the local rock/pop station. She was a hard sell on it, she only ever listened to KTTS, the local country station that I had grown up with. She never changed the dial. I think to this day their station ident at the top of the hour is buried somewhere deep in my psyche. I know its the first thing I switch to when I know there is bad weather. Some habits are hard to break.
I had not been allowed to really listen to rock or pop music, the music in my parents house was always country western, Easy listening Lawrence Welk tip stuff. As well as what I call 70”s shagging music. See, my stepdad, listened to some seriously different music from the fathers of my classmates. He had Englebert Humperdink, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Julio Iglesias, so on and so forth. He also listened to Abba, and then German Classical composers and Opera.
With the aforementioned being the prevalent music of my childhood, and having just entered 6th grade where being cool suddenly mattered, listening to Wayne and Engelbert was out and the Pop bands of the early 80’s were in. But my first real introduction to that type of music was actually a tape I had been given by my older brother when my mom decided I could listen to that type of music.

( here’s the irony, she censored my music, not my movie watching or book reading, I mean really of the many ways to corrupt a young mind the light pop sounds of the 70’s would have been less damaging then the collected works of Judith Krantz that I took off her book shelf and finished in 3 weeks the summer between my 4th and 5th grade year. Eye opening to say the least )

That first tape had a Best of the Beatles on it, all the older stuff from Sgt. Peppers on. Then the other side was John and Yoko. I would listen to this tape for hours, flipping it over and over. I loved it all and knew each song by heart. I knew the Beatles were famous. I knew that they came from England and that John Lennon was the smart one, Paul the pretty one. I knew they were the coolest of the cool. But that was it really, I had no clue as to the depth with which they had affected society.
But by this time I had started to understand about music and bands and how fame worked. I knew that Elvis was king due to my aunt Tokiko. She loved Elvis in almost a stalker fashion. It was almost disturbing to watch her sitting watching him on T.V. singing or just being interviewed. She would scream and throw herself about. Crying and sobbing like her very heart was breaking. It almost scared me sometimes, the way she would carry on. The day he died they had to put her on heavy duty tranquilizers. She wore black for months, actually now that I think of it, I wanna say a full year. But according to some people, my older brother and cousin mainly, the Beatles, especially John and Paul, were bigger then Elvis. I remember knowing that Elvis did to himsel,f what inevitably killed him, I knew that some other musicians that my older brother liked had done the same things, drugs and alcohol finally taking them out. So it seemed in my mind the way it was to be, if you were famous rock star, you would die from ” drugs and alcohol”.

( I had no idea what the were just knew it was bad and it killed people, remember people I was 12? and it was the late seventies. We didn’t have Dare when I was in school. )

Mom finally acquiesced to my begging and I switched it over to Rock 99. I remember they were playing something like the Bee Gees a very happy uplifting song, I was singing and so was my mom. This was a rare bonding moment for us, I was loving it. All of a sudden, the radio D.J. cuts in his voice is rough like he is trying not to sob. I immediately felt a tightening in my chest that to this day signals an oncoming wave of panic. He stuttered and stammered trying to get the words out. Finally in a huge sob he gasps ” John Lennon has been killed, he is dead. John Lennon is Dead. ” Then in such a twisted show of maudlin irony they played ” Give peace a Chance.” I started crying, I immediately grasped that something very wrong, something discordant with the way the world should be going had taken place.
My mom looked at me and said, ” Oh stop it. He was a long haired drug freak who preached and moaned about peace and sex and other crazy things.”

She pulled a grotesque face and flashed me the peace sign in a very derogatory manner.

When we got to my grandparents house, I told my granny what we had heard on the radio, she allowed that it wasn’t a very nice thing to do to somebody and how sad it would make so many people around the world. I remember going outside while my mom and grandparents talked and drank coffee. Sitting outside in the cold December afternoon, I remember thinking how sad a world we lived in when someone like Lennon who preached about Peace could be killed.
Sitting here so many years later, it still makes me wonder if that was the first of so many little cracks on the bridge between my mother and I. I saw John Lennon as an Inspiration she saw him as a loser and an addict.

This is but one of the many situations that makes me lean more towards nature vs. nurture in my own personal upbringing.




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