John Lennon celebrating his birthday with Yoko Ono in 1971
Jody celebrated John Lennon’s birthday with a four-hour special, 10/9 from noon to 4 pm. Listen to the full audio at the bottom of this post.
by Jody Denberg
John Lennon was born on October 9th, 80 years ago. For many this is a day to celebrate, and, a day to reflect on the man, the musician, and his message.
I always look forward to celebrating John’s birthday on the airwaves – for decades on October 9th, I have gotten behind the microphone to play the Beatles, solo John, Lennon covers, demos, tributes and rarities, and have often welcomed Austin musicians to pay homage as well. (Austin musicians regularly attended and performed at the annual John Lennon tribute by Stephen Doster & The #9 Orchestra. Alas, the pandemic has nixed that this year)
In this cyberspace, I would like to share a few JL memories, photos and videos.
I am a New Yorker and was one of the millions whose love for John Lennon’s music was awakened when I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964. I saw it on TV, of course, but I could feel New York crackling with Fab energy. I was all of 4 ½ years old at the time but convinced my mom to take me to our local record shop – R&D Records in the Bronx’s Pelham Parkway neighborhood to purchase the 45 RPM vinyl single of “ I Want To Hold Your Hand”. It was the same store where I would continue to buy Beatles singles, albums and cassettes, including the tape of “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” at the end of 1970. I was the rare 11-year-old who walked around with the block playing John’s “primal therapy” musical exorcisms in song, while stopping in the local library to read his two-part related interview in Rolling Stone magazine. John Lennon became my hero, and as I grew older and understood more about his human strengths and weaknesses, that fandom only became stronger.
In 1974, at 15, my friends and I had heard that John Lennon was rumored to be guesting at the second of Elton John’s two November concerts coming up at Madison Square Garden. Although you could buy tickets at remote locations when they went on sale, the word was that tickets bought at the venue box office were for better seats. My buddy and I slept out at the Garden’s midtown location. When we got to the window to ask for Friday night tickets, they were sold-out. We reluctantly bought tickets for the Thursday show – and it was on that Thanksgiving night that John Lennon made the last concert appearance of his life, playing three songs mid-set with “Elton and the boys”. The Garden literally shook, and I knew that I was witnessing what would be one of the best moments of my life. I also now believe that being there for that show – the night John & Yoko began reuniting from their separation – somehow karmically fated me to work with Yoko Ono over many decades (beginning in 1984) on a handful of John Lennon projects that promoted his posthumous releases.
I first reached out to Yoko at the Dakota to share a review of 1980’s “Double Fantasy” that was published in the University Of Texas newspaper The Daily Texan – one of few published before John Lennon’s murder shortly after the album’s release. I followed up over the years with other articles I had written about her work, and in 1984 we got on the phone for the first time to chat for a half-hour conversation that aired on KLBJ-FM.
Over time, we became acquainted, and I first visited Yoko at the Dakota in 1992. I have worked with her there on more than a half-dozen occasions. She has always been forthright when we talked about John and his work as we produced four promotional interview disc/radio shows released by Capitol Records (with audio and filmed footage often used for video press kits as well) between 1998 and 2010. Talking about John Lennon with Yoko Ono remains this fan’s dream come true.
In the slideshow below are some other photos and memories related to John. I never met the man, but as he once claimed in song “I’ve shown you everything/I’ve got nothing to hide.” So I feel as if I know John Lennon. And maybe you feel as if you know John Lennon. If you feel that you do, you do.
More John Lennon Birthday Goodies
Sean Lennon – who shares his father’s birthday and is turning 45 – hosted a BBC radio special last weekend with guests including his half-brother Julian Lennon, Paul McCartney & Elton John: L
Sean also produced a new John Lennon compilation out for his father’s 80th – “Gimme Some Truth” – with amazing new remixes from the original master recordings:
And Friday 10/9 will be The 40th Annual John Lennon Tribute – 80th Birthday Celebration including Patti Smith, Bettye Lavette, Taj Mahal and many others – streaming for free at LennonTribute40.org.