Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Keith Elliot Greenberg (kegreenberg) Fri 19 Nov 10 08:00
I did a reading in London last night, and the topic of the conspiracy came up. I believe that the John Lennon of 1980 was sedate, a family values guy of sorts, and not the threat that certain powers thought he'd been in the past; indeed, he'd appeared with Ronald Reagan a few years earlier on Monday Night Football. And Chapman is mentally ill. It would be pretty tough for the government to trust him to implement their scheme. Tupac, I understand your comment. But a lot of readers I'm meeting are not Beatles scholars and are learning much of the backstory for the first time. As I've mentioned before, it was a long road for John to end up where he was in 1980, and I felt it was necessary for the reader to travel the same rough patches.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 22 Nov 10 12:43
Keith, how did the audiences and especially the questions differ between your book readings in the USA and in the UK?
Keith Elliot Greenberg (kegreenberg) Mon 22 Nov 10 16:05
Gail, that's an interesting question. I was discussing this last night with my wife. In the UK, I received a number of questions about whether Yoko was popular in New York. I answered affirmatively. She stayed in the city even after her husband was murdered in front of her, proving that she was never a "blow in." Her days as an artist -- long before she met John -- are well-regarded. Her role in creating Strawberry Fields, as well as her charitable work, is appreciated. And, by all accounts, Sean Lennon is a great guy -- so she raised a good kid. The English were also very interested in the New York aspects of the book, asking questions about the city. Interestingly, I was concerned that certain people, particularly in Liverpool, would feel territorial about John Lennon. But everyone was welcoming. I guess there's something about Lennon and/or the Beatles that's unifying.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 23 Nov 10 17:15
Unifying. Of course, that makes sense. I think of "Imagine" when I think of John. That has got to be one of the most optimistic of songs, gently inviting the unity of humanity. Thanks for participating in this conversation, Keith.
Keith Elliot Greenberg (kegreenberg) Tue 23 Nov 10 21:27
Thank you, Gail. I'm enjoying the feedback as everyone reads through the book.
Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Tue 23 Nov 10 21:31
In spite of the temptation to be possesive, the sharingnes of Beatles' songs defers the possesiveness. Although your book has motivated me to write much more many times my words were wiped away so I did not get to write what I was trying to write. Your book reminds me to say only the good about the positive. PEACE! ;-)
Dan Flanery (sunspot) Wed 24 Nov 10 00:18
I was only 12 when he was shot - first semester of Jr. High in Phoenix. I was raised by my dad's mother Christine (who had been "mom" to me virtually my entire life, as she'd raised me since I was 6 months old) and her sister, my great aunt Helen. Mom was 59 when Lennon was assassinated. Helen listened to a bit more in the way of pop music than mom, even though she was about 2 years older - mostly oldies on the radio like Dionne Warwick, but she knew stuff like Rod Stewart's latest hits, too. Mom had been the hipper one back in the day, although she listened to practically no music the entire time I was growing up. She probably didn't care for the longhairs the Beatles became, but back in her 30's she'd become a huge Elvis fan fairly late in life, and she was definitely the most musical of the bunch (she'd learned to play piano by ear when she was a girl). My uncle, who'd just turned 30 himself, had moved out of our home a year or so before, and he'd left behind some of his huge record collection, which I was just beginning to really exploit. I was at the age where you start listening to the radio a lot on your own - the Top 40 countdown and such. I liked oldies a lot, and my uncle's collection was thick with Stax and the Stones, although a bunch of Beatles LPs had been given away to another uncle just as I was starting to sample them. I remember being a bit upset about that. On the radio I gravitated to singer songwriter oldies from the early '70s, Carole King and such. I may have had my own copy of Tapestry by this point, and I think I'd just gotten my own Sears stereo, complete with a record player and a tape deck. Not hifi, but not cheap and plastic like my kiddie Wards record player had been, and it had a great FM stereo radio. Lennon's "(Just Like) Starting Over" was climbing the charts at the end of November and I knew it and I liked it. But I'd never been much of a Beatles fan up until that point - they were still on my to-do list. Mom came into my room and sat down on the bed while I slept, the morning after Lennon died. I don't know why she did that (I never asked before she passed away), what compelled her to gently wake me and tell me the news herself, first thing in the morning. I remember thinking at the time it was odd - she never did anything like that before, and never did anything like it after. It was as if a relative had died. Of course "(Just Like) Starting Over" and Double Fantasy stormed the charts after Lennon's death, and Beatles songs were wall to wall on the radio for months. I loved all the singles from Double Fantasy, and like most folks felt they were eerily appropriate somehow. He'd been away from the charts for far too long, came back completely contemporary and relevant, and was then taken away from us for good. Tribute singles trickled out onto the Top 40 over the next year or two, most of them surprisingly inspired and evocative - "All Those Years Ago", "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)", even Stevie Nicks with her "Edge of Seventeen", although we wouldn't learn what her inspiration was until much later. Flash forward a couple of years and I'm an enormous Beatles fan in high school. Everybody else is spinning Van Halen and I'm listening to Sgt. Pepper's. I've got a couple of Lennon solo records, a smattering of Wings/McCartney efforts, even a Harrison record or two. I've got a poster of Lennon up on the wall, the works. It radically impacted the kind of music I listened to, my standards, my politics, my understanding of (and obsession with) the 1960's, my Anglophilia, all of it. So you know, finding out about his death and finding out about it in the way that I did, and then what happened in music as a reaction to his death has - in an odd way - turned out to be not only one of the most memorable but also one of the most powerful and most positive experiences of my life. Which is just bizarre, given how sad I still feel to this day when I think about how he was cut down, 2 years younger than I am now, but that's how the universe seems to roll. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans . . .
Keith Elliot Greenberg (kegreenberg) Thu 25 Nov 10 10:25
Very powerful story, Dan. And it's consistent with something I've been saying. John Lennon's story did not end with his death. In your case, it was just the beginning. My hope is that, 50 years from now, someone will pick up my book in a library somewhere, and begin listening to Lennon and the Beatles.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 26 Nov 10 04:19
The holiday and my birthday took me away early from saying thank you to Keith and Mike. We have moved on to a new features conversation.
Keith Elliot Greenberg (kegreenberg) Sat 27 Nov 10 06:19
And thank you to everybody. I've enjoyed your feedback, as well as your personal stories.
what another day it takes: (oilers1972) Wed 8 Dec 10 18:35
And now, today is the 30th anniversary.
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